The Simplest Things

simple art ideas

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:

At the Nature Spells Book Retreat last week, one of the things we discussed was the power of making space for the simplest things. We think our ideas need to be grand, or complicated, in order to be good enough. But it’s not true.

I think we don’t take the simplest ideas, marks, and themes seriously. We let these ideas fall by the wayside and bemoan the fact that we don’t feel “inspired.” The universe is handing us creative gold, we just can’t see it.

These ideas pop up in the middle of a walk, talking to your partner, or while boiling water for pasta. They are ideas you can explore in short moments in your journal, and on small bits of paper. Unlike some of the grander ideas, the simplest ideas bend and turn to fit into the in between moments of our lives.

The simplest ideas are ideas you can develop in the time you have, instead of the time you wish you had. Instead of waiting for a day when you have an hour, two, or three to spare, what if you indulged those ideas in the moment? At the end of the day, you may find it’s hard to resist spending another 10 or 15 minutes to see what emerges. And often, these 10 or 15 minutes will turn into 30 or 45, and you’ll realize the things you thought couldn’t wait for you to make a bit of art, can.

The simplest things give us permission to focus on our art practice, to make it a priority. They give us a non-threatening starting point. They stave off creative block, excuses, and keep us in the flow of making.

What would happen if you indulged the ideas you deemed too simple? Made space, not for what you think belongs, but what belongs in you?

Let the simple ideas speak. Let the white space speak. See what treasures lurk when you just do the simplest things.

Join the Mindful Art Studio Community for more creative inspiration!

5 Simple Art Prompts

  1. Brainstorm a list of 15 simple ideas, no matter how silly, even if they don’t seem good enough in some way. Do this every day for a week without repeating your ideas. Don’t worry about whether or not they are good enough, or realistic, just start listing your simple art ideas. The practice of writing your simple ideas down will help you pay attention when they bubble up from the imagination.
  2. Make a simplest thing journal. On each page, give yourself permission to do the simplest thing, whatever that means, even if it’s a dot. Do this every day for 14 days, a month, or a year. See what transforms for you.
  3. Give yourself an assignment for a week of “wasting” paper on a simple idea. Spend 10 minutes a day. Your only goal is to practice creating with the simplest ideas.
  4. Allow the white of the page to play a starring role in your work. Work small in a big space. Play with placing your object in a corner, the center, or on top. See what the empty space has to say. Journal about it, and see how that influences the next simple page you make.
  5. Collage your simple ideas. Draw on loose bits of drawing paper, and keep them in an open box or bowl on your desk. When you build up a small cache, collage with your simple drawings. You may find that layered together they are more than the sum of their parts. (My work in this post is an example.)

How do the simplest ideas work for you? Tell me about it in the comments.

Creatively Yours,

Amy

22 Comments

  1. Corinne Calder

    Thank you.
    We really can do simple.
    Strangely how we easily complicate so much in our lives.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Oh gosh, Corinne, don’t I know it?! I’m happy this spoke to you. Happy creating! xo

      Reply
      • Bonnie

        I love simple but my mind just keeps going and going and then I’ve lost simple! This has given me something to think about. As always… Thank you Amy.

        Reply
        • Amy Maricle

          Hi Bonnie: Oh, I love this comment because I know you aren’t alone. I wonder how you will invite the idea of simple in…I’m so curious! Please update when you experiment if that feels okay.
          Cheers!

          Reply
    • Thomas Marino

      I’m hoping to do this. I’m very blocked

      Reply
      • Amy Maricle

        Hope it helps! Baby creative steps are steps indeed.xo

        Reply
  2. Lori

    I sometimes just draw lines. I sometimes illustrate my breath, with left to right for the inhale, a short vertical for the pause in between, right to left for the exhale, and another vertical for the pause before the next inhale. Or vice versa.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Oh yes, Lori. I love drawing with the breath; it’s such a wonderful technique. Thanks for bringing it in the conversation here.
      XO

      Reply
  3. Janice Robinson

    Well thought out and well stated. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      I’m so happy it speaks to you Janice! xo

      Reply
  4. Sandy Skinner

    Something to really put to the test when I’m facing the page. Love the idea of just starting in a corner or small area of the paper and leaving lots of space around it for other explorations.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Hey Sandy – what you suggest is a bit different and a great idea! Also, what if one small thing was ALL that inhabited the page? What would all the white space have to say? Lots of different ways to explore simple. Happy creating! XO

      Reply
  5. Heather Albrecht

    Reading this fills me with the feelings I remember as a child playing on my own – held, easeful, joyous. I started prompt #3 today and loved both the process & early outcome. Thanks for the simple nudge Amy🙏🏻

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Heather!

      It’s amazing how a very simple prompt can take us so far, isn’t it? I’m SO happy to read your beautiful sentiments – feeling as you did playing as a child – “held, easeful, joyous.” Oh that’s a gift. Thank you for that.
      Keep us updated on what emerges, I’m so very curious.

      xo

      Reply
  6. Suzie Amelia Kline

    What wonderful ideas and considered ponderings you are sharing with us! I love this idea, especially after an exceptionally challenging week, and less art because of it. I’m thinking about finding that little journal just for the simplest things!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Hi Suzie Amelia:
      Oh I’m so keen to see the simplest things journal. It’s so fun. Cheers!

      Reply
  7. Lisa Walding

    Hi, Amy! For those of us with a very noisy, busy monkey brain (hopping all over the place), this technique is SO VERY calming and grounding. It also helps in self-loathing as when you actually are finally doing something that you’ve thought about doing, it gives you a great sense of validation. Thank you! ~Lisa from Texas

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Lisa! Oh I know lots about monkey brain! HA! Yes, I think it gives that quick win that proves that we CAN do it. I’m so happy it helped! xo

      Reply
  8. Anne O'Connor

    Amy, After you finish the Hidden Life of Trees, I recommend Underland by Robert MacFarlane. That will open up another layer of inspiration! Thank you for what you are doing to bring peace and creativity to us> Anne

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      I just love him! Thanks for the push. It’s on order. Happy creating Anne! xo

      Reply
  9. Iris Keasberry

    Just when I thought to practise with art journaling within a set of time, like 5 minutes; go! On a very small piece of paper. As the opposite of slow drawing 😅 You mention it in this blog post! There must be something in the air, I think. Love synchronicity!

    I use the small paper strips – that I for instance had cut from A4 art images to make it fit into my journal – for making some simple marks. Just for fun. Just some experiments. Just to relax a bit. Just to mindfully fill in some spare time in between.

    I didn’t know what to do with them and they were wandering on my desk. But now I have read your blog I will put them in a glass jarr and maybe they will end up in an art journal or x-book one day.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      Hey Iris – What fun! Enjoy those small bits of wonder! xo

      Reply

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