Creating Outside the Box

As I’m sure many people are aware, to create art one does not necessarily need traditional tools. My whole life, I put myself in this artistic box and only let myself create what I thought I was ‘allowed’ or ‘expected’ to create. I have been a creative person for as long as I can remember, and my love for drawing stemmed from creating characters that I could project myself onto, and oftentimes, they were ways to help me explore the imaginary worlds I fell in love with through reading and other forms of media. But because I grew up with a specific way of expressing myself and I allowed others to view my art so casually, I found that I started to create art that I thought was expected of me rather than allowing myself to grow as an artist. 

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the characters I created, but I was always creating with the fear that someone would ask to see my sketchbook (and I was, and still am, disastrous at saying no to people). It wasn’t that I was creating ‘strange’ art, I just felt very insecure and wanted people’s approval, so I limited myself and my creativity. I mainly sketched with pencil and pen, and although I went through a watercolor phase, I stuck to creating content that was similar to what I had been creating with my pencils and pens.

Then, in 11th grade, my art teacher said that we would be working on a life sized pop art project. I struggled with that for two reasons. One, I hate the feeling of cardboard- I would honestly be happy if it never existed. Yes, that is a weird reason to hate a project, but the other reason made me just as un-excited- I never really dabbled with a three-dimensional medium aside from playdough that I played with as a toddler (so I can’t say that it exactly counts). Aside from a short, week-long revelation that I had autonomy and that I could create literally whatever my heart desired, I never really created art outside of the typical art stuff I boxed myself into. This project, as I have already mentioned multiple times, is still ongoing, however it is one of the reasons that I grew more adventurous with my art. 

After the pop art project construction began, I grew more courageous and used my art to express myself blatantly, instead of muddling around with character design and giving the character a few of my traits. In fact, there were some pieces I created that ended up being too emotional for me to submit to art competitions. 

The moral of the story is that after allowing myself to paint with unconventional objects and trying to create more things that I was not used to, I grew more happy and expressive with my art. I don’t think that, without beginning that pop art project or the encouragement of my professors at Marywood, I would have had the courage to create some of the things I did. For example, my Painting I class learned about Outsider art, and I don’t think that I would have felt as adventurous or experimental had I been a few years younger due to my insecurities. 

vanessa mancuso

Now, I’m allowing myself to do things that I probably should have discovered when I was younger, such as using cotton balls to create a galaxy sort of effect, or attempting to experiment with brush pens and thick line art (I watched a lot of anime when I was in middle school and convinced myself only art with thin, non-exaggerated line art was beautiful). I’ve also tried creating jewelry with shrink-y plastic, and no amount of research has prepared me for the soul-crushing moment when the plastic folds in on itself and becomes useless (as you may have guessed, I don’t have a heat gun).

I suppose that many people have found this revelation at an earlier stage in their life, but I think that I would still like to document this because maybe it’ll help someone else see that at the very least, it is wise to have a sketchbook away from prying eyes (to encourage unfiltered/un-pressured creativity), and one to show others that is more filtered, because that honestly helped me discover other types of art I enjoyed creating (while also being able to create art in public and around family).

3 thoughts on “Creating Outside the Box

    1. I agree that it is very rewarding! I especially love to go into old sketchbooks and elaborate on older ideas- I love seeing how my art and creative process has improved.

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