May 31, 2012


Thirty years ago, my friend, Paul Grecian, wanted to be a photographer.  He pored over photography magazines, spent hours in the dark room and gave photographs as gifts.

Today, I'm proud to say my friend Paul IS a full-time photographer.  He creates amazing images and sells them at art shows and festivals, galleries and to a variety of publications. 

Paul Grecian, Photographer

 Today, Paul shares 6-1/2 tips about how to stay creative, PLUS 6-1/2 images he created that go with each tip, PLUS the biggest prize I've given away on the blog.  And you, dear reader, get to choose which prize you'd like if you win!  (Scroll to the end for giveaway details.)

You can find Paul Grecian online at his blog and can view and purchase his images at his site


I don’t always have the luxury to be creative when the mood strikes. As a full-time artist, I have to prepare for shows, gallery exhibits, fulfill phone and email orders, attend meetings and a litany of other obligations that keep me away from my camera. So when time permits, I need to be able to facilitate the creative process. Here then are my 6-½ ways to keep the creative process flowing.
1.     Do Something Comfortable: I often find that I am at my most creative when I am comfortable. Oh yes, I do like my comfort! The advantage of being comfortable is that my mind is on my work and not on how hungry I am, how cold it is, how much this sweater itches! For this reason I often create my best work when I am somewhere familiar, working when the weather is not too hot, not too frigid, and with equipment that I know better than the back of my hand (not that I’ve really studied the back of my hand so much).  Being comfortable concentrates my awareness on the elements within a scene that visually are exciting me most.

 2.     Do Something Uncomfortable: Sometimes however, being comfortable doesn’t stir the creativity pot. When this happens, I reach for a rarely used lens, apply a new method to my image making, place myself in a new environment, or try working with a new subject. Exploring new terrain literally or figuratively means experiencing new feelings and allowing responses to them to come through in the work I create. Being too uncomfortable can be inhibiting to creativity, so a balance is needed.  I do find though that being cold when working on a winter scene focuses my mind on how to convey a sense of cold in an image. The uncertainty of exploring a new location often generates in me a sense of wonder that can be missing in locations I know too well. Working with a subject or in a style that feels awkward can generate new ideas even if not resulting in great new work.

 3.     Read…….well, anything really: Other than physically being in the field where my work is actually created, nothing generates more creative fruit for me than a good read (along with a cup of joe). Whether it’s the latest issue of a favorite magazine, a biographical sketch of an artist, a blog entry, or something totally outside my normal reading fare (there’s this girl named Olivia Bean I’m reading about….), the vicarious experiences and pictures that author’s paint for me always make me reach for a notepad (or my ipad these days).  

 4.     Explore something within: When I am at a loss for where to go, creatively speaking, searching within can bring me to a place that generates new ideas. What I especially like about generating new directions this way is that it feels the most authentic to who I am. Recently, I have begun to explore the “collector” side of my personality. For several summers I worked at a museum in Philadelphia where I was exposed to awesome and historically important natural history collections. When I was younger I collected rocks, shells, and other items like acorns, and pine cones. I still have a collection of such items and use them to spur on the making of new images.

 5.     Keep it simple, just create: Putting too much pressure on creativity can act like a lead weight on the process. At such times I feel it helps to just create. I allow myself to explore a subject without thought to purpose or outcome. On a recent rainy day, I found myself fixated on a leaf that had fallen on my car windshield (worry not, I wasn’t driving at the time). From within the car I began to visualize an image of the leaf along with the geometry of the raindrops and a diffused background. I attached an appropriate lens to my camera and allowed myself to just be in the moment and create for no reason other than to create.

 6.     Hang around creative people: I am very fortunate to be involved with groups of people who are actively creating in a variety of ways. These talented, sharing, artists, craftsmen, writers, and musicians find unique ways to express themselves and always ignite my own creative fire. I have found it inspiring to be around people who work with my chosen medium of photography, but even moreso to be around those who work in mediums other than my own. Regardless of medium, there are so many overlapping aspects to the creative process. I can learn and be motivated by those who work with wood, glass, clay, paint, words, musical notes or pixels. 

 6 ½. Mow the lawn:  Okay, so this is a bit of a metaphor for “whatever works for you.” There is however something about the droning, white-noise, monotonous sound of my lawnmower that is conducive to my thought process. Maybe it’s also the repetitive almost meditative back and forth walking behind the machine that allows me to contemplate new projects, the solution to  a problem with a newly printed piece or deciding on my next marketing move. Whatever it is, it works for me and makes the chore of mowing the lawn (sneezing and all) more bearable.

THE BIG GIVEAWAY: One person will win a 7"x10" print (11"x14" final size after matting) of any of the images that appears on this blog post.  (Value of giveaway:  $47, plus shipping.)

To enter the giveaway . . .

1.  Click the "follow" button at the right.
2.  Leave a comment about how you stay creative.

A winner will be chosen at random and announced Tuesday, June 5th.  (I want to win this one!)

Thanks so much, Paul!


Dalaney & Hannah said...

I followed you! I'm in law school, so I craft to stay in touch with the right sided of my brain. Legal cases can be draining to any creativity!!

Janeen Mason said...

I get my best ideas when I'm immersed in water... In California I understand they call this reverse negativity ionization...or some such thing...Here in Florida we call it a shower.

Anonymous said...

It might seem counter-intuitive, but when I need a creative burst I copy something. I might re-type several paragraphs (even an entire chapter) from a favorite book, or copy a drawing or painting that catches my eye. Something about creating without needing to also INVENT is like a muscle warm up. Afterward, my own project flows.

Nicole Matthesen said...

For me its about braking up the routine. I get inspired when I change it up by going to local events, talking to different kinds of people, or even immersing myself in nature, which helps me to basically go out of my comfort zone. The way I see it is - the view becomes clearer the further around the bend you journey.

D.E. Malone said...

I work on mixed media collages when I'm not writing. It's something I can spend 15-30 minutes working on when I need a break but still feel like creating.

Amy Goldman Koss said...

The pictures are fab!

Robyn Campbell said...

I ride my horse, Mr. Ed. We have several horses, but he's my favorite. And he inspires me. Also, I critique a famous picture book. That really gets my productivity going. *Waves*

Robyn Campbell said...

P.S. I followed you! :-)

Laura Fournier said...

Enjoyed the post and the lovely photos. Creative ideas come to me when I am driving.

Gail Shepherd said...

Paul's "lawnmower" reminded me of Lin Oliver's advice to take lots of showers. (I see Janeen has the same idea). For me, nothing stimulates creativity like a trip to the art museum. When I was little we practically lived at the Philly art museum (I still remember us kids weren't allowed in to see Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" -- they kept it behind a curtain. which is actually hilarious if you know the picture.) Anyway, anything that requires genre-jumping is always a creative spur.

Jen Swanson said...

Wow! Awesome pictures. Where do I get my creative burst? Everywhere! I'm constantly looking for new ideas and keeping my eyes and ears open when my teenagers are around. It would probably embarrass them to know they are just fonts of creative information. :) Also, when I'm stuck on something, it helps if I go on a walk - preferably on the beach. Or sit somewhere quiet. (which again is hard with 3 teenagers in your house). Thanks for this lovely interview Donna.

Maryann said...

I always seem to get creative when I go to sleep. My brain wakes up and I have to get out of bed and write down my thoughts. Trying to decipher what I wrote down the next morning is also a very creative process. For once I would just like to get some sleep!

Your work is amazing. love the dewdrop reflection.

David Lopez said...

1. Finish this sentence: "What if..."
2. Natural beauty - get your ass outdoors (love that Acadia pic).
3. Visit a museum and get your game on. If Cy Twombly can do it, so can you.
4. Live music. Go see Wilco.
5. A new recipe - stuff some dates w crumbled blue cheese, wrap in prosciutto, grill 3 minutes.
6. Spying on my kids. They must be the funniest, weirdest people in the world.
7. Any musical biopic: Ray, Walk the Line, Coal Miner's Daughter, The Tommy Dorsey Story, et al.

Mirka Breen said...

Stunningly beautiful images from Paul.
Now I’m going out to do something comfortable ASAP. Tip #1 looks good to me!

Anonymous said...

I'm a follower of your blog.

I get some of my best ideas when I'm doing the dishes. My muse doesn't like housework. : )

Those are all wonderful tips. All of Paul's pictures are beautiful.

Meg Brown said...

I'm a stalker...I mean a follower. :) The pictures are amazing!

Is it wrong that I get creative when I'm around other creative people? I steal ideas from them (with their knowledge) but it often sparks my own creativity. That and running, but probably because I want to think about anything that will make the time go faster. Haha.

Maggie Knapp said...

Wake up early. Have a cup of coffee. Move the table over by the window with good light. Get out my box of interesting papers and stamps. Think about who I'm creating something for. Collage!
Your pictures are inspiring.

JLT said...

Staying creative, for me, means being okay with letting things simmer in the back burner of the brain. I crafted a novel idea at the 2011 SCBWI winter conference, and didn't actually start writing the novel until spring of 2012. Letting the idea percolate in the brain gave me a lot more to work with when I finally started writing THAT novel. Writing doesn't always equal butt in chair - sometimes it's daydreaming, thinking, musing, getting used to the extra voices in the head. :)

JKW said...

I follow.
I am involved in a lot of creative projects and on-line challenges. Designing and making cloth dolls and drawing/sketching/painting ACEO cards both lead to writing short stories; crocheting dragons and owls, photography of everything; and of course reading-reading-reading -- all the while my writing is processing in my head. When the story I am writing comes to me I have to be at the computer (if I'm out, I have a tape recorder or pencil and paper) and write write write.
My ideas come from everywhere I am because I've learned to focus, focus, focus on the moment.

Riley Roam said...

I think one of the best ways to be creative is to NOT have something, and then figure out what to do about it! Some of my best ideas come from thinking out of the box when I'm trying to solve a problem. When I was a kid, I was famous for my creative ways of wrapping birthday presents...wallpaper, blown-up balloons that you had to pop to get to the gift, Sean Cassidy posters...the truth is, if we ever had wrapping paper and scotch tape in my house, I would have just used that! But this kind of thinking stretches your creative muscles and teaches you how to use your imagination!!!

Kathryn Lay said...

Often I get my best creative ideas while sitting outside watching naturee. Sometimes its just having lunch in my car while sitting at a park, listning to the cardinals. Sometimes its sitting in my backyard on my swing in the early morning when the mockingbirds seem to compete. I also get ideas when listening to music at my computer. Sometims it's instrumental, or wild and exciting Irish or Celtic rock. I guess when my senses are stimulated, the ideas push their way in.

Anonymous said...

Love the photos and love the creativity ideas from everyone! For me, creativity comes with letting go and taking risks. Mostly I try to explore new places and break the routine, get out of my head and look at things from a different angle or perspective. Oddly enough, playing guitar or taking photos can keep my hands busy and free my mind.
Thanks for the wonderful post, Donna.
Yours, Pat Shannon

Kathy Rupff said...

If I'm dealing with a lot at one time or am 'stuck' on an issue, I find writing about it helps me a lot.... which thus frees me up to focus on my creative stuff!
Donna, thanks so much for introducing us to Paul, his work and his blog. AWESOME!!!!