Creativity matters – now more than ever

Anya Nikolaeva is a BA (Hons) Liberal Studies (Art History) student and Liberal Arts Student Council President. Here, she offers some tips for unleashing our creativity in quarantine.

This article is part of our new series, Regent's Review: thoughts, research and academic discussion on the rapidly unfolding pandemic.

Everyone is creative. Many of us have often found ourselves resorting to drawing when we’re bored – be it in lectures or meetings. It’s hard to avoid uncontrollable scribbles when we switch off from what is going on outside. We tend to go into our own thoughts and look inside our minds for more interesting things to think of whilst doodling.

Perhaps this type of situation can be projected onto a bigger picture of what is going on in the world right now. The whole quarantine thing has left everyone very limited resources for entertainment and indoor activities, which may become boring even after a week of home isolation. 

Instead of looking at quarantine as something preventing us from living a full life (which it undoubtedly is, but this point of view is mildly depressing), try to think of it as a time for self-reflection and development. Think of it as a boring lecture, during which you have time to think while you draw. You can continue to let your creativity go and nourish the drawing process (you don’t have to be good at it to express yourself), or try other means of creative expression. Such activities will allow you to have some time off and look into yourself, maybe think about stuff that has been dwelling on you for a while and figure it out, or you can use it as a meditative time, switching your mind off completely and just letting your subconscious express itself (similar to some surrealists).

You don’t have to overanalyse your work if you don’t want to. If it brings you emotional relief from stress and slows you down for a bit, it has done its job. Don’t focus on it ‘looking good’, just let yourself be free, that way this technique can be a very productive way of spending time in quarantine.

Of course, some people strongly object to the idea of drawing or creative expression as a whole. For you, I can suggest learning more about an artwork you liked or read about a piece of art that has confused you. It may come as a surprise, but our reactions to other people’s art can tell us a lot about ourselves: we are often drawn to artists who had the same emotional mindset as we do. On the other hand, artwork that we don’t like can point out and trigger emotions and memories that we had trouble dealing with. 

Surrealism can tell you a lot about yourself. A very interesting art exercise is to look up surrealist artworks and find three pieces: one you really like, one that confuses you, and one you are not sure about.

For all three, read an explanation of their contents and contexts and try to reflect on them yourself. What made you like or dislike them? Our subconscious and instant reactions can often tell us more than we realise.

Yayoi Kusama – a recent personal discovery – has illuminated the art world with her deep emotional reflections. She brings to life all the things that I was talking about earlier: using art as a therapeutic, meditative and self-reflective tool, and something to help others see inside their own minds. 

I truly hope that you will be able to find and try something new during this interesting time in our lives. Quarantine does not mean that our lives have to stop. Our daily routines change, but instead of mourning the ‘normal’ life (that we will inevitably return to at some point), use it as an opportunity to do things that you would have never had time for in your normal life.

Stay safe and be creative!

This article was originally published by Regent's Student Union.