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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author

In art practice “Don’t be afraid to do the same thing repeatedly…”

Collage of Woman

“One artwork is the inspiration for another.” Shaun McNiff

Digital and handmade collages by Gina Greenlee.

Female portrait line drawing by

Aaron Nieradka and Jenny Heid.

“Imaginative expressions will often start with the simple repetition of a familiar theme,” writes Shaun McNiff in his book, Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go “…the child might draw the same boat over and over again, but every time its environment will be different, and the boat itself will change. The repeated image emanates different qualities every time one is made…The familiar image regenerates itself with each new creation.”

Collage with Woman

Outline illustration of woman with eyes shut

“Make a drawing, painting, or clay figure in response to an existing art object, one that you made or a piece created by another artist,” writes McNiff. (I’ve done that here with the female portrait line drawing by Aaron Nieradka and Jenny Heid. They are founders of the blog, Everyday is a Holiday.)

Collage of Woman

“When you find something that you like, repeat it in another picture and build upon it…and then make yet another in response to the one you just completed,” continues McNiff.

Collages of women

Woman Collage

“Keep making artworks in response to the ones immediately preceding them. Watch how one grows from the other and generates a sequence of variations both subtle and overt.”

“Art activities focused on repetition tend to increase our awareness of variation,” writes McNiff in Trust the Process. “I have also found that repetitive expressions tend to liberate me from the self-imposed pressure to be ‘creative’ and ‘innovative.’ The creative imagination requires a certain abandon and disregard for results, which often paradoxically generates the most useful outcomes.”

Collage of Woman

“The assumption that creativity always involves the invention of something new may be one of the most prevailing obstacles to creative expression,” says McNiff. “In my teaching I emphasize authentic and sincere expression rather than invention…Try approaching creation with attitudes of repetition rather than invention. When we stop trying to make something new, we see how each expression invariably distinguishes itself from the ones before it.”

In his book, Chihuly 365 Days, renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly writes about his process: “I sort of conceive the next piece as the team is finishing the last one, or sometimes I’m one ahead depending upon my state of mind. My preference is to come up with the next form right after they’ve finished the last one. I really draw my inspiration from the making of the glass.”

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Several collages with a woman

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Dubbed the “granddaddy of the creative arts therapies,” Shaun McNiff, PhD has had a seminal influence on the areas of creativity enhancement, the arts and healing, and art-based research worldwide.

Trust The Process Book Cover

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The line drawing (female portrait) around which I experiment with digital and analog collage is from the book, Mixed Media Masterpieces with Jenny & Aaron: Create Incredible Art Journals and Handmade Mixed Media Treasures with Two Master Crafters by Aaron Nieradka and Jenny Heid.


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