Exercising Outdoors and Creativity

In this blog post, I'm going to discuss how my art is directly connected to, and improved by, taking part in exercise. As Henry Thoreau said "me thinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow".

inspired by the landscape

As the owner of Max the Patterdale Terrier, I walk him every day. Walking through the landscape of Perthshire everyday has a huge impact on me. We are extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful area. Many, many of my pieces of art have been influenced by the sights I have seen for walking or cycling. I often use the camera on my mobile phone as a sketchbook. It is really useful to have this reference material available.

Using mobile phone as sketchbook

Important Preparatory Stage

Taking time to exercise helps to set the scene for the whole household to undertake a creative activity.  Max is happy to sit in his chair contentedly  if he has had his walk. Estelle is much happier joining me in creating artwork together if she has used up her physical energy. Meeting their physical needs is essential -  and I can only acquire the peaceful state of mind required for being creative once I know this has been done.  This kingfisher fabric was inspired by a kingfisher we all saw together walking along Quarry Mill - stunning!

Kingfisher Fabric

Exercise for Insights

Exercise is crucial in providing perspective when creating a piece of art. Often I can take a piece of art to a certain stage before I need to take a break. Then, if I do my yoga DVD in the garden or take Max to the ballpark, the next step becomes apparent to me. Jon Levy discusses the process of taking a walk outside and how this can often lead to moments of insight. He describes this as ‘mind wandering’. Being outside is an important element of those insights, as it provides the setting to trigger the state of mind wandering.  After a mind wander thinking about my woodpecker fabric, I suddenly realised that a grey background with orange berries would work beautifully together!

Woodpecker and Orange Berries

Red Bull for the Brain

In his book Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall describes nature as ‘Red Bull for the brain’. He refers to research which describes the fact that simple and brief interactions with nature can produce marked increases in cognitive control. I first started running when I was studying for an MSc in my 20s. I discovered that the process of running was not only essential in reducing my anxiety levels, but it also helped me to process make sense of all the new information and knowledge I was being exposed to. I continue to see the benefits of exercising in the natural environment every day in terms of it assisting me with my creative ideas.  It was while out on a walk that I realised I needed to use extreme perspective to make my Canadian Geese Statement Print work for example. 

Canadian Geese Artwork

Exercise Provides the Opportunity to be Creative

Finally, I often use my daily walks to write. With the advent of new technology, and in particular Google Docs, I am able to write my blog posts while I on a dog walk in a beautiful, natural, quiet environment. Google Docs is a relatively new discovery for me, but since I started using it, I am finding that it has really enhanced my ability to write. I enjoy walking up the hill, finding a nice sunny spot, and writing a blog article by dictating it into my phone. I find  the walk has helps sort my ideas out, so that I am able to dictate the article straight off. The dogs also it as there are many, many rabbit burrows where I write/dictate - and Estelle likes to hunt for fairies!

Walking for Creativity

What about you?  Have you seen a link between exercising outdoors and your creativity?

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