Morning Pages

Morning Page

My partner, Sarah, and others speak highly of morning pages, a concept invented some years ago by creativity guru Julia Cameron. It involves producing a prescribed number of pages of stream-of-consciousness writing first thing every day. I’d often wondered if the same concept could be applied to drawing.

Last weekend I had a couple of clear hours to paint, and I was determined to finish another troublesome little oil painting that had been sitting on the easel for a couple of weeks. I decided to start by filling an A4 sheet of paper with morning pages style sketches (above). This differs from the usual loosening-up exercises in a number of ways: the drawings must come from the imagination (even if I did fall back on chilli peppers more than once!); the pen should keep moving – no over-refining or fine detail; there should be no attempt to produce ‘showable’ results (I wasn’t intending to include them here at that stage).

I found the exercise supremely liberating. It didn’t matter what I drew or how well I drew it: the only goal was to fill the page. At the end of it I felt in a creative frame of mind and my hand had been moving in a drawing way rather than, say, a making coffee way or tidying the weekend newspapers way. After a short piece of displacement activity (slapping gesso on a couple of panels in the garage) I was able to confront the nectarine painting without the usual period of self-doubt and indeed managed to finish it (apart from some minor adjustments, when it dries, to the shadow on the tablecloth):

Nectarine blog

Nectarine (15cms x 15cms oil on board 2015)

I’m sure it’s only a variation on practices that full-time artists use constantly, but I’m eager to try it again and also see if it works for those times when nothing goes right.

15 thoughts on “Morning Pages

  1. Nice piece Michael. I can’t comment on your post as the technology defeats me, here, abroad with my phone.

    I’d heard of the morning pages approach moons ago, but never got round to using it.

    As with your description, presumably one keeps pen to paper and keeps going, no editing…

    I’ve started writing a bit more recently. A bit of prose here, a poem there. It’s been wholly affirming thing. Like, gulp, finding a bit of me that got lost.

    I notice that, as I passed 50, i want to express myself more.

    Was it like this for you? Rob


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rob. I’ve never used morning pages for writing (but Sarah finds it very liberating) but I believe the idea is to keep writing with no thought to sense, structure, grammar or style. A way of clearing the decks. With drawing it was more to get myself in the right frame of mind for creativity and to have done something ‘freestyle’ before concentrating on the painting. The two links in the post might tell you more.
      And yes, someone with your imagination should certainly be writing!


  2. Ello Michael, made me think about warming up to play music – most pro musicians (and the serious hobbyist) do odd and quite unmusical exercises to get the fingers/brain/consciousness in gear….or you set aside time to play ‘old favourites’ badly…soundcheck type of idea which for live is essential so you can work out how to hear yourself and others in what is a new ‘environment’. No great revelation in any of this other than ‘diving in’ cold is never a good idea …a life lesson perchance? Ian

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I use them when I need that flow again. I was listening a documentary about the American poet William Stafford who rose at 4am each morning to write, he wrote a poem every day of his adult life. He created a structure; writing the date and the place, his name and a little aphorism or thought on the page, which seemed to bring him into the now. Many of those poems were unedited fragments, some became his best work. I don’t find such an austere dedicated to dawn writing works for me, but it inspired me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Michael, thank you very much for your taking the time to evaluate my works, for your “like” on my “Finally, I’d reached the top of a hill overlooking a small, familiar village that glowed with warmth”. Your thoughts and comments are appreciated. Please allow me to reciprocate best compliments and wishes for your great artwork. I loved “Morning Pages”. With kind regards. Edoardo Dispenza

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This sounds great…I’ve been doing morning pages on and off for a few years, and a sort of visual diary occasionally before I start Proper Drawing, but I’ve never tried just filling a page like that. I’ll try it today – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: A Quince’s Tale | A Certain Line

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