Don’t get us wrong. We love art supplies.
The smell of a new box of crayons, the swoosh of a sharp pencil on paper, that feeling when you first swipe a wet brush across a pristine watercolor oval…
But sometimes — lots of times — creative inspiration strikes at a time or place when we don’t have access to many art or music supplies. THAT’s when our years of working with some of the most resilient people we know — the young artists we meet in the hospital — comes into play. For the last couple decades, we’ve been learning from them how to adapt and be creative in even the hardest, weirdest, most boring of circumstances.
Right now, lots of us are facing things that are hard, weird, and boring. Which means maybe we could all use this list! For those times when inspiration hits your body and you just gotta let it out, here are four of our favorite creative activities that don’t require any planning, prep, or special materials.
Found object/ Nature Mandalas
Got a drawer full of socks? A box of Legos? Some loose change?
How about a park or garden nearby?
You can use any or all of these things to make a mandala. A mandala is a sacred symbol representing wholeness in Hinduism and Buddhism. In Sanskrit, mandala means “circle” or “center.”
Every mandala has a center point, around which objects, shapes, or designs are arranged. The circular shape, with no beginning and no end, reinforces a connection to ourselves and to the world around us.
Over on a Videos page, Arts For Life teacher Betsey has a great video about making nature mandalas. Nature mandalas are made from natural things you collect from outside. You can use the pointers and techniques Betsey gives you to create your own mandala using natural materials, or whatever you’ve found around your home.
Here are some examples of other different kinds of mandalas using everyday objects.
Black Out Poetry
This activity reminds us that you can find poetry in even the most mundane places, if you just change the way you’re looking.
You’ll need a pencil, a dark marker, and an old book, magazine, or newspaper. Whatever readingmaterial you use, make sure it’s ok to turn it into art; once you mark on it, it can never return to its original state.
-Choose a page or section of text from the magazine, book, or newspaper.
-Scan the page and look for an “anchor” word or phrase. Often it will just ‘jump out’ at you. This word or phrase will act as the central theme around which the rest of your poem will form.
-With this anchor in mind, read through the text. Use a pencil to circle words and phrases that resonate.
-When you reach the end of the text, go back through and see how the words and phrases you circled might fit together. Erase the circles on the ones that don’t quite fit.
-Use a dark marker to mark through all the text except for the words and phrases you circled. If you like, you can decorate the rest of the page, or copy your poem over on a different sheet of paper.
There you have it! You’ve transformed something regular and everyday into a creative masterpiece!
Music with Spoons and Jugs
You don’t need an instrument to make music! In fact sometimes all you need is a bottle from the recycling or a pair of old beat-up plastic spoons. Arts For Life music teacher Marty shows us all about it two different Virtual Studios videos:
Blind Contour Portraits
This is maybe our most favorite drawing activity in the whole wide world. Why? Because it pauses the part of your brain that is attached to the way things should look, and in doing so, not only reveals inherent creativity, but also unleashes sheer joy. We’ve made blind contour drawings with kids, adults, teenagers, healthcare workers, college students, donors, and board members, and it never fails to result in uproarious laughter. All you need are a couple of people (or yourself and a mirror), a pen or pencil, and a piece of paper.
- With pen in hand and paper in front of you, sit across from a partner.
- Decide who will draw first. Set a timer for 2 minutes.
- Once the timer is going, and it’s your turn to draw, without looking at your paper: Imagine your eye is following a teeny tiny ant crawling all along the contours of your partner’s head and face. Make your pencil trace the line of the ant’s travels.
- The MOST important thing is to NOT LOOK at your paper until time is up. (Seriously: NO PEEKING!)
- Pull your pencil from the paper immediately when the timer goes off.
Chances are, your portrait will have misplaced facial features, crazy hair, or a disembodied ear or two…but we also bet that there is something undeniably unique and personal about it.
Take turns drawing and sitting…and we dare you not to laugh!