How to keep artistically inspired indoors - and what are the benefits?

Idle hands and an idle mind during lockdown? Maybe it's time to make some art!

There's been an explosion of creativity since the people of Britain were forced to spend most of their time indoors.


For one thing, the planning and management of Zoom meetings, classes, and live streams for music concerts or shows has required no small amount of innovation. And some people have even started getting their fingers - literally - back in the paint.


For many of us there’s been a long stretch of empty hour after empty hour, which has set our thoughts revolving around that increasingly loud question: ‘what can I do with this time?’


First of all, take off some pressure.


Try to accept that you don’t need to be doing anything.


Just because you’ve got a lot more free time on your hands than usual that doesn’t mean you should be using it productively. How about using it unproductively?


That’s probably a scary thought, right? But one thing that might be just as scary is the overwhelming pressure to do something productive, just because you have the time.

A girl dances to music in the living room with headphones on.
Music and dancing are great escapes - especially bad dancing. Photo by Wix.

Engage with and write down your ideas as they come - in a Notes app, the good old fashioned way with a paper journal and pen, or whichever way suits you best - but remember to relax and enjoy the simple things.


Eating good food, playing games, talking a walk, or talking with someone you’re close with on the phone. None of this is a waste of time. It's usually not productive, but it is important for us.


Now that's addressed, let's talk about getting started.


You've got your ideas and creative visions for things you want to make. Great!


But if you’ve ever set out on a creative project before, you may be familiar with the psychological struggles that can surface when the brain enters creative-mode. One of these struggles is creative anxiety (which does exactly what it says on the tin).


Chris Wigmore, Co-Director and Founder of the Soft Touch Arts charity, spoke with us to explore the many benefits of making art and how to start yourself off. Chris and the rest of the Soft Touch Arts team help engage young people who are struggling with life challenges, getting them involved in creative projects.


First, the benefits...


‘As someone who works in the arts,' says Chris, 'I understand and see first-hand the benefits of giving people opportunities to be creative, express themselves and have fun making art - be it music, film, fashion, writing, or cooking.


‘Making things and working with others helps people find a sense of well-being and satisfaction, which all contributes to learning skills for life: how to work with other people, how to communicate ideas, and most importantly how to express feelings. This massively improves self-belief and confidence.’

Making art doesn't have to be a solo thing. Team up with a friend! Photo by Wix

This singular effect that making art has on our mental wellbeing holds more significance than ever today.


Perhaps you're isolating because someone in your family tested positive for Covid? Perhaps you're furloughed and also have kids to look after?


But while they’re scrolling on their devices, home learning or gaming, what can you do if you want to get more creative?


Start small at the beginning if you're feeling daunted.


‘Look around you,’ urges Chris, ‘see what you have to hand, and get creating! Instead of throwing an old t-shirt away, help save the planet and create something new. Throw some left over emulsion paint onto it and see how it turns out, you might be surprised.'

A sewing machine with colourful fabrics.
Just imagine all the fabrics out there you can use. Photo by Wix

Maybe you have a pile of wood collecting dust in your garage you could build something out of? Even the soil or sand in your garden can be used to make your own paints. Here's a stimulating video on how to make earth pigments for painting.


Or your creative endeavour for the day could just be making a mixtape of your favourite songs. Organising your work notes into neat sections labelled and highlighted with dashing colours to inject your work days with a bit of excitement.

'Some people don’t think they’re any good at art,' Chris says. 'But actually we’re all creative every day without knowing it.


‘Choosing colours we'd like to decorate our homes with, putting ingredients together to cook a meal and altering it slightly because something might be missing from our cupboards.


'And particularly relevant today, taking photos of ourselves, our friends and our daily routines to share on social media. All of these things involve creative thinking and some sense of satisfaction at the end.’


Making art isn’t just filling a six by six foot canvas with a gloomy scene from Hamlet; and it’s not just dabbling with a paintbrush on a mug either. It can be anything you feel like making - or, in other words, anything that helps you to express yourself.

'Once you start creating, you’ll be surprised how quickly the time goes as you get involved in the process,' Chris says. 'Worries slip away and you lose yourself in the moment.’


Persevere. Always persevere.

A notebook lies open, with pages filled with writing. A pen sits across the page.
Notebook scribbling.. a.k.a. drafting. Photo by Aaron Burden

Perseverance is your greatest tool for staying creative.


When things go wrong, or well but not as well as you'd expected, the ability to get up and shake yourself off and try again is invaluable.


Everyone's way of keeping creative is different. Some people like to have deadlines; some hate these and try to keep their creativity a deadline-free zone. Others like to use a mixture, trying different techniques and approaches for each project.


The key is to experiment, and push yourself (just not too hard).


If something isn't working or you're just not feeling the motivation to persevere, trying a different approach is a good idea.


Keep an eye out for local art charities.


Here in Leicester we have multiple charities and organisations to contact and visit, where you can meet experts and likeminded people who want to have fun making art too.


[Leicester related picture]


Leicester Art Zone - uniting a variety of artists in the area to promote each other, generate new opportunities and encourage collaboration.

Website: https://www.leicesterartzone.com

Email: contact@leicesterartzone.org, tel: 07460929902


Attenborough Arts Centre - offers performance, courses, workshops, contemporary art exhibitions, activities for children and families etc.

Website: https://attenborougharts.com

Email: arts-centre@le.ac.uk, tel: 0116 252 2455


BrightSparks - community of mental health service users and volunteers who use the arts to promote positive images of mental health and wellbeing.

Website: https://www.brightsparksarts.uk

Email: Tim.Sayers@leicspart.nhs.uk, tel: 07795475806


Sound Cafe - supporting homeless people to develop feelings of well-being, confidence and self-esteem by enabling them to take part in creative activities.

Website: https://soundcafe.org.uk

Email: soundcafeleics@gmail.com, tel: 0116 255 5921


A lot of these charities encourage collaboration and while this might be restricted to Zoom calls and sharing files through email for now, there's no underestimating the power of having other people invested in a creative project with you. Even if you're all working solo but are giving each other feedback once a week, this really feeds motivation.


And a final tip from Chris.


There have definitely been some spikes in the time people spend watching TV per day now. But how about fitting something educational and insightful in?

'Watch Grayson's Art Club on BBC 4,' advises Chris. 'It's so interesting to see what people create at home in response to the themes he sets each week. And there are some truly heartwarming and inspirational stories of how making art benefits people and makes them happy.'


What's more, 'Grayson breaks down the barriers of art being an elite thing that we see on the walls in galleries and museums.' It's a safe space for you to learn and be inspired.


Share your lockdown creations with us, whatever they are, as long as you loved making them! Tag us on social media with #crossproductionsltd, we'd be thrilled to see what you've been making!

Gemma Knight is a DMU graduate working as an editorial associate intern with Niche Magazine. She’s had work published in Braunstone Life and left university with first-class honours. Along with editing and proofreading experience for Cross Productions’ clientele, she writes pieces for Niche and the new She Inspires magazine.