Make Creativity Your Day Job!

Your Childhood = Your Inspiration

Critters by Leah Jay
Image courtesy of Leah Jay

Note: This is a guest post by illustrator Leah Jay.

Need a creative shot in the arm? Just ask your six year old self for ideas! Many artists already use images from their subconscious that were planted there in childhood. A few simple steps can help you engage in dialogue with your ‘inner child’, and get some new artistic inspiration.

  1. Look through old photos. If you have some photo albums around, flip through them and see what you looked like. Say hello to your second grade self, relive your friends and activities. Remember those Christmas morning snapshots? Check out the toys you got for Christmas. Did you love some of them more than others? Do you miss them? Why?
  2. Search through attics or basements. Some parents save their kids’ art work and school papers: if yours did, you’re lucky because these collections can be full of treasures! Your earliest drawings might show characters, people, or ideas you can revisit today.
  3. Ask a relative for a chat. If your parents are still around, or an older brother or sister or close relative, they can tell you stories about your childhood you haven’t yet heard. What about that time you walked home in the rain by yourself and got lost? Or the big birthday party surprise? How about your first word or your first favorite food? Sometimes these things never make it into the photo albums, but can reveal some new scenes to illustrate.

By revisiting my childhood, I remembered the game of Pretend. It’s hard to recall this state of mind as an adult, but that picture of your stuffed elephant may remind you of a day when you talked to it, and it talked back. Maybe an invisible friend filled that empty chair at your tea party.

Those creatures were once as real to you as your little brother. If you’re like me, you know they all had names, personalities, and adventures with you. These imaginative play or pretend play sessions are now lauded by psychologists as important and even necessary to the development of social skills and creativity.

Those were the days when your imagination was accessible right at the surface. Those days were magical. And while some might have had happy, colorful childhoods, bringing up events from your early life might be scary, painful and dark. Images you gather can carry some unexpected power… don’t be afraid to use what you find. And if you find things you’d rather leave behind, that’s perfectly okay. You’ll know what to use… just take the best and leave the rest.

What is most powerful and moving always comes from within you, and from your own life experiences. Don’t forget your early days on this earth – when things might have never been clearer.

About Leah Jay

Leah Jay is an aspiring children’s book illustrator who still loves her stuffed animals. She is represented by Kaleid Gallery in San Jose, California.

6 Comments on Your Childhood = Your Inspiration

  1. kathryn says:

    animals were my greatest interest in my childhood…my bedroom resembled a pet shop more than a place to sleep! Now a days I still have lots of pets and my art is all about animals and nature!

    • Leah Jay says:

      Same here, Kathryn! Animals and nature – as a kid I pretended to be some sort of forest or jungle creature, so naturally those animals were my familiar friends.

  2. meg says:

    Though my parents were quite conservative, they didn’t show it when raising me and my siblings with regards to letting our imaginations run wild. I thank them for who I am today!

  3. ashar says:

    I was recently stuck in a very deep hole; I had no muse, inspiration or direction. In short I had lost my way. What did it for me was doodling; it has taken me to new places of creativity. I am now fully infused and working flat out

  4. When I was little, I had a room covered in rainbows. I’d fall asleep while looking at the different colors and imagining trees sprouting up at the ends. I don’t think I really grew up… or out of that! I still have dreams about what to paint next and can’t help but overload each piece with bright and textured color. It took me some time to realize that it was okay to use such bright colors in each piece.

    This article is spot on. Without the freedom of reaching into imagination and back into childhood, so much would be lost to me.

    • Leah Jay says:

      Thanks Rachel I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. My room was really bright when I was little as well. Bright yellow plaid! — I still think yellow is one of my favorite colors to use. Hooray for bright color – if it’s your thing, I say go for it.

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