Try This Fun Andy Goldsworthy Inspired Creativity Exercise

Editors note: The following Andy Goldsworthy inspired creativity exercise for designers (as well as creatives of all walks of life) is excerpted from Jim Krause’s D30: Exercises for Designers, available from HOW Books September 19, 2013.

Going for the Goldsworthy

Ever hear of Andy Goldsworthy? Have you seen the Rivers and Tides? It is a documentary made in 2001 that features Mr. Goldsworthy’s outdoor sculptures and on-site visual arrangements made from things like twigs, branches, leaves, rocks and icicles. If you haven’t seen it, consider watching—or at least looking online for photos of this artist’s meticulously crafted works—in preparation for this creativity exercise. Hopefully, this investigation will ignite a strong impulse to grab a coat, a lunch (and possibly a friend) for a spontaneous and creatively themed outdoor excursion.

Your Own Goldsworthy Style Outting

A lunch, appropriate clothing and a camera are all you’ll need for this Goldsworthy inspired activity. For your work area, choose an interesting urban or natural environment where you’ll be able to gather things like rocks, sticks or leaves. And consider bringing a friend with you—someone with a kindred yearning to create a spontaneous work of art.

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What follows is a play-by-play of a Goldsorthy-like outdoor endeavor. Use this narrative to give you ideas for a similar project of your own.

  1. A beach, empty of everything except for rocks and refuse: the perfect canvas for an environmental sculpture.
  2. A small steel plate is carried from the water’s edge for use as the creation’s centerpiece. Two white-and-black speckled rocks sit on top of the plate: A decision has been made to collect and use this kind of rock for the creative work that will follow.
  3. The collecting continues until a significant pile of speckled stones has been found and transported to the work area.
  4. After spending a few minutes pondering the possibilities, it is decided to arrange the stones in a linear path that will contrast with the naturally random arrangement of rocks on which it will sit. The assemblage begins to take shape.
  5. The final result is just one of an infinite number of on-site dimensional creations that could have been built in this place on this day. What to do next? Snap some pictures, of course. The photos taken of artful assemblages like this will remain long after the tide, wind and rain gradually return the building blocks of your creation to their natural state of beautiful disorder.

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No matter what objects you use for your on-site creation, and no matter how you choose to arrange your outdoor sculpture, put everything you know about design, composition, art and conveyances into play as you incorporate each item into your improvisational work of art.

The beach is a great place to go for this kind of creative work/play. So is a forest, a desert, a field, a vacant parking lot, an empty playground or your backyard. Not only is this a great “planned” creative exercise, it’s also something you can do on a whim when you find yourself in a right place at a right time.

Environmental sculptures don’t have to be created outdoors. What about spending a rainy afternoon inside creating dimensional compositions from household items?

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An enjoyable afternoon was spent combining espresso cups and coffee beans (both whole and ground, and both brewed and unbrewed) for these visual assemblages. The arrangements seen here were created on a kitchen countertop and photographed using natural light.


jimK_d30For more fun and inspiring creativity exercises check out D30: Exercises for Designers by Jim Krause, currently available for preorder at MyDesignShop.

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