7 Ways to Challenge Yourself Creatively

Hi and welcome back to another week on the Chrissie Murphy Designs blog.  Let me ask you a question?  How often do you challenge yourself creatively? When was the last time you looked at something that you were creating and decided that you needed to up your game?  If it’s been a while, can I encourage you to hang around…. Why?  Well, I’m going to share 7 ways to challenge yourself creatively.  So… go and grab a pen and some paper so you’re good to go with taking notes and let’s get into it.

This week I decided to play around with my Koi Watercolours (oh, how I love them). I wanted to experiment with more of the colours in the palate and have a go at creating another floral piece.

But this time, I decided I would concentrate on developing more detail and form in my flowers and leaves, and I’d try to do this through line work, not watercolour. I can’t say that I’m in love with the end result and I can’t say that I dislike it either, but it was definitely a challenge!

Watercolour Floral
Work in Progress

If I’m honest, I love the way a creative challenge feels in my brain. It seems as though all these untapped areas of my brain fire up when I think about doing some of my creative processes differently, and I love it. Overall, it’s improving my capabilities because nothing is lost (creatively speaking).  It’s all about what I’m gaining. As I’m making decisions about new techniques I could possibly merge with my current skill set, I am ultimately growing as an artist.

So today I thought I’d share the love and show you 7 ways to challenge yourself creatively.

1. Use a different colour of ink.

You would be aware that I have been using a lot of blue ink in my work of late, instead of the traditional black. In case you missed it, you can read all about my motivations for ink change here.  But…. the more I use it, the more I’m preferencing blue ink over black. And this has been really unexpected!

Close up of Watercolour and Ink Florals on Canson Watercolour Paper

The blue is not as harsh as black and it seems to compliment other colours really well .  And it has given a complete different look to my work. You could experiment with a blue too, or a sepia coloured pen or even a green.  Ultimately, the choice is yours. So if you’re up for a challenge, try working in a different coloured ink.

2. Create shadows and depth with contrasting colour.

So I’m assuming (forgive me) that if you read my blog, you might be working in mediums similar to me. I’m also assuming you naturally create shadow and depth in your work, using graphite pencil or grey markers? Well, if you do, try using a contrasting colour instead. Let’s say you’ve just coloured a square shape in red pencil, and you’re ready to add some dimension through applying shadow.  Well, try using a green pencil (contrasting colour) to apply the shadow.

A contrasting colour (or complimenting colour) sits opposite the main colour you’re working in, on the colour wheel. So let’s say you’re working in orange, your contrasting colour would be blue, and so on. By using contrasting colours for shading, your work will take on a slightly different look.

Contrast shading

This is a zoomed in image of a tile I once worked on. You can see how I’ve used green to apply some shading around the shapes coloured in orange and red. It’s not as intense as graphite or as precise as a grey marker, but it does generate good contrast.

I’d also suggest checking out the coloured artwork of Eni Oken as she shades in contrasting colours a lot, and it’s magnificent! Why not give it a go, try using colour to add the depth and shadow you need to your next piece.

3. Deliberately choose alternative colours.

By this I mean, go against your natural inclination for colour. For example, if you’re creating a floral piece, don’t colour the leaves green!  Go for something like pink and blue instead. Choose a colour that’s not naturally associated with what it is your colouring. Once you’ve settled on the colours you want to work in, begin playing around with blending different shades of them. This will cause you to look more deeply at the form of what it is you’re colouring.  This can be challenging to outwork, but this post is all about being challenged!

4. Find ways to add more detail.

If you’re working on a zentangle tile using circles or triangles (for example) explore different ways you can add more details to the shapes. Can you shade them and give them dimension? Can you add more patterns, ie; add patterns to patterns? Can you add more line decoration in the form of dots and dashes? Can you overlay a pattern to a solid block of colour?

One of my favourite things to do when I see work that blows me away, is to zoom in on it and see what’s really going on. Aim for that! Pack so much detail in to what you create that others can’t help themselves, they just have to zoom in and see what you’re doing.

5. Undertake a 100 day project.

If there is a skill that you want to learn or something you want to try to improve at, think about committing to a 100 day project.

Illuminated lettering coloured pencil ink gold

In 2016, I did a 100 Day Lettering Project and it was one of the best things I ever did to challenge myself creatively. There are a zillion sorts of 100 day projects out there.  Hop onto Instagram and search hashtags of “100 days” – see what pops up and commit to something.

If you commit to working on a skill every day and are prepared to step out of your comfort zone, I guarantee you that by the end of 100 days, you will have a sense of achievement like you’ve never felt before.  You will have improved significantly at whatever you were concentrating on. It’s a big one, but the rewards are so worth it! I know you can do it!!

6. Use different mediums.

If you are someone who works predominantly in one sort of medium, try adding other mediums to what you’re creating. For example, if you work in coloured pencils, try preparing a background in pastels or watercolour to work on.

Mediums ink coloured pencil watercolour markers acrylics

Yes, mixed media is a thing, explore it, hop online and have a look at what artists are doing in the mixed media community. Start including some acrylics in your work, or alcohol markers, the list of things to try is endless. Learning and exploring a new medium will fire up those creative brain neurones and you’ll be having fun at the same time.

7. Bring an element of realism into a component of your work.

This will be more challenging than some of the other ideas, and it will require some additional time to research and study your subject. If you’re drawing includes food or gemstones, leaves or flowers (for example), challenge yourself to bring one element of that drawing to life.

Study the subject and really look at the different components that you could accentuate and be more accurate with. If you’re doing a floral piece, maybe work on bringing the berries to life. Can you add more highlighting to one area of the berry? Zoom in on your reference photo, see how the colours blend with each other and try to replicate it. How is light hitting the berry? Is there more than one colour in the berry? Pay attention to the little things and see how you can bring more of them into your work.

Quote by Chrissie Murphy Designs on Detail in a drawing

Soooo that’s been 7 ways to challenge yourself creatively…

There’s a few ideas to get that beautiful creative brain of yours firing. I can’t wait to see what you create.  But wait…. I have more….  In next week’s blog post, I will be sharing my very first Artist Interview.  If you are looking for more inspiration on how to challenge yourself creatively, I’m telling you now, you do not want to miss this next post!

Want to be more Expressive?

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Until next time, listen to your heart and sharpen your coloured pencils. A masterpiece awaits!

Bless you my friend

Chrissie xx

2 thoughts on “7 Ways to Challenge Yourself Creatively

    1. Thank you, thanks so much for stopping by as well. I hope there’s been something that’s helped you in today’s post.

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