Originally this post was called “on painting upside down”. It occurred to me to write this as I had turned a painting upside down, and realised it was much easier to work that way sometimes. I then realised that I like doing many things upside down and it has so many benefits. So bear with me while I explain this slightly odd side to myself and my work.
I should start with explaining why I sometimes turn my paintings on their head. I sometimes do it to make nice dribbles that travel upwards but soon find that if I carry on painting with the whole thing the wrong way up, I can paint in a freeer, looser way and I am always more pleased with the results. I have realised that in doing this, I switch off my left brain a bit more. I switch off the bit of my brain that tries too hard to make something turn out “what it should look like”. I also seems to see new ways of doing this, new colours that might work, or make compositional changes that work better.
In other areas I also seem to often do things the wrong way round, deliberately. Articles or pieces of written work are another good example. Starting with the end, and working from the end or the middle outwards allows for things to flow a bit better. Often I will write odd bits here and there and just join them up at the end. That works as well. Often I know how I want it to turn out in the end, but I can’t figure out how to get there and if I spend too much time worrying about the how, I never start or I start and quickly loose the will to live.
Creativity is non linear – it doesn’t happen easily in a straightforward way. When I “got” this, things became a lot easier. I imagine that some types of processes like technical drawing or some watercolour techniques (something I will never be able to do) are very linear, but this is not the sort of creativity I am talking out. These are techniques we use to achieve “something”, an outcome. It’s creating the “something” that I am talking about. Not just in painting or craft, but creativity in our daily lives, how we approach problems, come up with ideas etc.
The thing about working upside down, is that you let go of the technical, left brain stuff which urges you to do it in a certain way. Doing it upside down means you get a very different perspective, one which often leads you to new ideas and triggers interesting creative detours.
You can achieve a similar approach by drawing with your left hand (if right handed normally) Betty Edwards used this approach in her classic, “Drawing on the right side of the brain” (but its a bit tricky writing articles with your other hand, so working back to front is a better way). I coached a lady recently who suddenly said “I know what I need to do now! I need to write the book backwards, starting with the ending, as I know what that is!)
Here’s another way you can use this:
If you are trying to complete something or draw something or make something (icing a cupcake springs to mind) but keep making the same mistake or keep doing it wrong over and over. Turn it upside down, inside out, swop hands, close your eyes even, just something which helps you to switch of the pattern you have created in your brain, which means you keep repeating the same mistake.
One of my favourite coaching questions, when people are trying to generate ideas or different ways forward, is to ask:
“If you turn this on its head, what new options could you create?” OR
“If we turned this on its head, what new perspectives might be seen?”
This seems to give people permission to look at things differently and let go of the “right” way of doing things and detach from their current approach which might not be serving them well. It also assumes that there are lots of other ways of doing things, which makes you have to seek out some new options. Such a great question.
But “turning it on its head” can be helpful for many stuck situations, not just painting, writing and creating stuff. At home, if you have a decorating project which is not moving forward quickly enough, ask yourself those questions and see what comes up. Or maybe you have a difficult task or project at work that could do with some fresh thinking. Turn it on its head.
Oh and if the item is too big, you could always do a hand stand!