Though the phrase bright ideas is meant to refer to clever ones it’s more often used to mean the opposite. As in, “hmmmm, yeah Joe, that’s one way to do it. Anyone else got any bright ideas.” In this case, poor Joe’s idea has actually been determined stupid and whoever said this is using the phrase to warn others to avoid his failure and submit a better one. Over the years in brainstorming sessions for my various day job projects, people have often started each meeting with, “Keep ’em coming. There are no bad ideas.” This is meant to avoid editing out ideas too soon. In theory, it’s a good one, and manages to flood a white board with lots of words, but goes nowhere unless someone is willing to truly judge them. The truth is, there are bad ideas and perfectly stupid ones, but the key is looking for the hidden gems of truth that might be waiting inside each of them. Little notions that when put together in a different order form something entirely new and clever. For me, this is where the magic happens. Taking a series of bizarre and odd notions and knitting them back together into something that makes a heck of a lot of sense.
I’ve been a Creative Director for over 20 years now, mostly because I don’t really know how to do anything else professionally. While I have a myriad of various skills, when you mash them all together, there’s no other job they create. It’s been my job throughout my career to discover, develop, and nourish bright ideas from inception to their final ultimate birth. And it’s also why when I attend family gatherings of my more rurally-inclined extended family, my job is distilled down to, “he works with computers.” In truth, it’s perfectly impossible to truly explain what I do each day. I observe and listen and watch and wait for an idea to appear. I then pounce on it, nudge it next to another idea, and point at the resulting casserole declaring, “there’s the solution.” When I spent time in a corporate environment, this always required some sort of PowerPoint show to get the idea across and tell the story. Often with animation and music to help lure them in. The resulting epiphany can often produce awe in the audience, even though I’m simply restating their ideas, remastered in a combination that finally makes sense.
I have ideas of my own, of course, but for me it’s always been more fun to help the ideas of others come to fruition. Perhaps that’s why this site is primarily focused on other artists rather than myself. I think the best ideas are the ones that bump into one another. They’re never quite complete on their own, but can become extraordinary when combined with bits and notions from others. Our Doodlewash Club is an example. I had a notion to build a community and then the community arrived and made it what it needed to be. I didn’t build the sidewalks until I saw the path the people themselves created. My advice in all of this is that when you have a notion of something you’d like to do, you should tell anyone who will listen and listen to what they have to say about it. Don’t take the sage advice at face value, but let it blend with all the other advice you receive. That cocktail of creation that forms in your mind is the very path you should pursue. It might be a little fuzzy at first, but after time it will reveal itself. And if you ever find yourself struggling, simply turn and ask whatever group might be near you, “Does anyone else have any bright ideas?”
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Da Vinci Yellow, Benzimida Orange, Quinacridone Red, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book.
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!