“Magical Zebra” © Digital Collage by Jamila Tazewell – Available on 11:11

It is ironic that my favorite thing to do in the whole world — create stuff — is also something I avoid quite expertly. The resistance to jumping in to the creative flow is real! I have successfully avoided writing this blog post for over a month two months and have been thinking about it all day before finally making myself sit here as the summer light fades through the window. Sure it is writers block – but I also experience this same dance with everything I make. I love collaging so much that I have made an 11 year career out of it, yet I still feel like hiding out before almost every creative session. There is a fear that if I sit down this time, nothing will come, the magic won’t happen. The creative flow is something I can summon but not control. Real creativity is always a co-creation with the universe. When I am “in the flow” I am tapped into something greater than myself that is literally flowing through me. It is a sensitive, very meditative process. It is you showing up for You! A spark really happens when we just show up. So thats why you just have to start.

Just starting sounds easy enough. Deadlines are great for this but sometimes you don’t have that luxury. So what then? Here are some of the ways I go about opening up the inspiration flow. The first two suggestions are universal and the last three may be the most relevant to visual artists and specifically collage art.

1. Create the space

Depending on your location and resources, this can mean many things. But most important and first – turn off social media, email and your cell phone, and don’t turn them back on until you have logged some time with your art. Then figure out where your ‘power spot’ is in your studio, home or wherever you are. This is as simple as just realizing that you really like a certain chair next to a certain window – that you feel good there. Then figure out what you need to feel really solid and ready. If it is too dark where you are, get some more light. If its too messy, clean it up (within reason! Don’t delay your art making to chase after perfection!) This is about creating a space that supports your creativity, and it is not about being rigid.  So figure it out to the best of your ability and do it fast! You have art to make and there is always room for more improvements later!

2. Sound

We have explored here how sound is a physical force that moves energy. Well it can also move you into the “zone” ! I have always been a lover of all kinds of music, but it is in the last 8 or so years that I have really started to understand how different music creates different energy states in the body and mind. This is a fun area to experiment in. Let what you are trying to express dictate what kind of music you play. For me it’s all about the mantra music these days. I love the pure high vibration of mantra – I feel like the intelligence that is carried in that sound current really opens up the flow in the most beautiful way. Just go with what works for you- what excites you – what music makes you feel alive? Play that.

3. List making

Ok so you have a space and you have some music. Now you have a lot of thoughts in your head to face. My solution is to make lists. I make a list of topics that inspire me and I also have my work / errands lists close by too. I write down the work related stuff as it comes in to my head, to be dealt with later. I love writing lists of what inspires me because I get to remind myself of all the elements I can then put in to my work.

4. Image gathering

Once I have my lists, I then go on imagery hunts. I look for old and obscure images as these are usually copyright free and I love them the most, so win win. My favorite places to look for imagery are thrift stores – old encyclopedias are the best – and the picture file sections of public libraries. Online I like to look at Wikipedia and The Commons section of Flickr. I like to search with words that are even remotely related to my topics of interest. I find that I get pulled down many rabbit holes but as long as I am finding images that excite me, it is worth the time. I save all the images in a folder I usually name for the season and year it is. Thats the best way I’ve found to remember where to find it later but if someone has a better way to organize imagery archives, please let me know!

5. Letting colors lead

Once I have a good amount of raw materials to work with I like to look at all of my inspiration in the folders at once. I then open those files that I am most excited about, and I start putting images and elements together that speak to each other. For me this means that the colors go well together and sometimes the meanings of the images do too. I very much let the colors lead me, especially in the beginning of creating a collage. At this point I am usually in the zone and the ideas are popping like popcorn. I love this part so much! I hate even stopping to eat when I am in the flow like this and I really love to eat …


So there you have it. I hope these suggestions help you to just. do. it. already. I am convinced that starting is the hardest part. So just go jump in, you’ll be so glad you did. HAVE FUN. Let me know how it goes.

“Magical Elephant 2” © Jamila Tazewell – Available on 11:11