29 February 2012

Author Richard Lyall

When did you last have fun? Do something for the joy of it? I hope it wasn't too long ago.

It's often said that adults have forgotten how to play - the pressures and cares of life can squeeze it out of us. For many years I've been working and playing with creative art and music technology, and on this journey I've discovered many things, including the importance of play and having fun.

What if you took just five or ten minutes a day to play? Not to produce a great masterpiece, but to unwind, de-stress, and enjoy yourself. A little oasis of play where there's no pressure to be productive, useful, or measure the quality of the results. There's enough of that in the rest of life.

Let me introduce a couple of computer art tools that might inject a little fun into your daily routine. Both are available for free, for Windows and Mac. And you're reading this webpage, so you probably have basic computer skills. That's all you need:

  • ArtRage is a digital painting tool (yes it really looks and acts like paint!)
  • Google Sketchup is a 3D drawing tool that you can use to build, well, anything

So here's my challenge to you: download and install them form the links above (look for the Artrage 2 Starter Edition), and see what you can do in ten minutes. Here is what I randomly came up with (see related media).

This really can be just for fun, and that's fine. But wait a second, let's explore some more. If you start by having fun, where could it end up? I've learned along the way that daily activities often have a hidden life that isn't immediately obvious. No-one has all the good ideas, and every human being is capable of immense creativity, so why not let your ideas loose? All kinds of unexpected connections can be made.

For example, last spring I helped run a workshop at a conference called Spring Harvest. I had shown how Google Sketchup could be used as a storytelling tool, to portray a story from different camera angles. Afterwards a lady came up to me, quite excited. She works for a mental health trust, and could see how this approach might help people in therapy view their circumstances another way, to help find a way forward. That conversation is ongoing.

So, like Neo in the final scene of The Matrix I'm not writing this to tell you how the story ends, but how it begins. I can't predict what you might create with these tools - but I can help get you started. I'm simply sowing a seed, and watching to see what grows.

Time to download and start playing! And then why not share your masterpiece? Go on, be bold. Facebook it. Blog it. Share them in the comments below. Show your kids how to do it (or maybe they'll show you). Pass on what you've learned. Maybe organise a digital painting competition at an after school club. Or use Google Sketchup to design a community garden on a plot of waste ground. Who knows what latent creativity you might unleash in you and those around you?

And someone may ask you, how did you get into all this, and you will reply, "we were just having fun, honest!"