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Drawing Warm-Up Techniques to Enhance Creativity and Flow

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC


Often it can be intimidating to sit in front of a blank sheet of canvas or paper and sit with the expectation that creativity and art making will happen instantaneously. This can occur in various arenas of our lives, such as when we are tasked with completing a project for school or work. In an art therapy session, it can also be overwhelming to think of how to start or what themes to bring into the session.


The goal of creative warm-up activities are to help aid in promoting creativity while relieving the immediate pressure to unearth all of this energy at once. Creative warm-up activities allow us to ground in the moment with a set task, which helps in reducing that initial anxiety. These warm-up activities can vary in the amount of time one spends on the task and the type of materials used. For this blog post, we will primarily focus on drawing warm-up techniques that can be used in a variety of settings and for the purpose of enhancing centeredness and creativity.


To complete these warm-up activities, it is recommended that you collect your materials ahead of time so that you can transition from the warm-up activity to a more goal-directed activity. Remember that your goal-directed activity might be to draw for a certain amount of time, engage in an art therapy session with the intention of exploring emotions or to study for an exam the next day. In the warm-up activity, we are setting our intentions for our time and committing to engaging in the task at hand, without distractions. For these activities, one will need multiple sheets of paper and a writing utensil- consider pencils, pens, markers, oil pastels, chalk pastels, etc.


Try these different warm-up activities to increase your creative flow:


1. Dual Hand Drawing- Mirroring

Pick up a marker with each hand (consider holding two different colors) and place the tips of both markers towards the top-middle of the page. Begin to draw with both markers in a symmetrical, mirror fashion- both hands will begin to dance around the page. Remember, both hands are moving together. Consider that when your right hand moves towards the middle, your left hand will also move towards the middle. Pay attention to which hand wants to lead and allow yourself to slow down as needed.


2. Dual Hand Drawing- Spontaneous


Pick up a marker with each hand and place the tips of the markers wherever you like on the page. Allow both hands to move the markers spontaneously and allow them to move without restriction. No need for your hands to be moving in the same direction as they are meant to dance around the page. Pay attention to which hand is leading and allow each one to take turns in holding your attention.


3. Single-Line Contour Drawing


Pick an object in your environment, such as a bowl of fruit, your coffee table or maybe a tree in front of your window. Begin with the goal of keeping your drawing utensil on the page without lifting it up until your drawing is complete. Allow yourself to start wherever you like on the page and begin with the intention to draw the contour or outline of the object you are drawing.


4. Non-dominant hand Self-Portrait


You can use a mirror, phone or tablet for this activity along with a sheet of paper and a drawing utensil. The goal for this activity is to create a drawing of your face using your non-dominant hand. No need to over analyze what the image is turning into as you go as the goal is not to create a realistic replication of your own image. The goal is to just focus on the activity at hand and experiencing what it feels like to use your non-dominant hand to draw yourself. You can also try this as a contour line drawing, in which you do not lift your drawing utensil from the paper.


5. Speed Drawing


For this warm-up activity, your goal will be to complete a drawing in an allotted amount of time- 60 seconds, 30 seconds and 15 seconds. First, give yourself 60 seconds to create a drawing of an object in your environment, such as a shoe, a lamp, a table or a chair. Your intention for this 60 second drawing is not to pressure yourself into creating a realistic version of the object, but to engage in a fun and grounding activity to help you focus in on the moment. Your goal is to capture the essence of the object. Repeat this process, giving yourself 30 seconds and then 15 seconds and allow yourself to notice what you focused on in each drawing, what elements you thought were important and what you decided to leave out as you were given less time.


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