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Notes & Advice 12: Tapping Into The Creative Flow

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

Last week at an educational event for tattooers called the Paradise Tattoo Gathering, I spoke about the flow of creative energy, which is something that all creators and visual artists quite obviously need and depend on.

tattooist and painter Nick Baxter teaching about creative flow states for artists

I believe it's a universal force that we can tap into by opening up our awareness and observational skills through artistic training. The act of focusing our minds on practicing a task like life drawing or painting–a task that requires us to continually drop our preconceived notions of reality (ego) and observe with unbiased intensity and clarity–is what opens up the energetic channel within us that receives this universal force.

tattooer and painter Nick Baxter diagram illustrating the flow of energy for an artist

Researchers have called this a "flow state." And for tattooers, drawing/painting/working in other mediums is an incredible way to not only strengthen that artistic flow state but make it easier to access whenever you need it.

Excellent, creative, innovative artwork or tattoos don’t happen in a vacuum. This creative energy needs to be allowed into our life/mind by how we're living and being, and then filtered down into our painting or tattooing practice, or whatever artistic medium is at hand.

For example, it's very difficult to declare, "I'm going to be creative and come up with a brilliant image or idea, right here and now!" and then just make that happen on command.

What is far more realistic or more often the case is that we lose ourselves in the training, in the practice, in the task of learning and developing our skills free from heavy expectations, and in this free and loose state of action or doing, ideas start to occur to us. Iterations and variations on a theme or technique evolve naturally, bringing us to an eventual solution to a visual problem and gifting us the creative ideas or innovations. We get to claim credit for them, and rightfully so as the products of our hard work and dedication, but on a more esoteric level, it's the universal flow of energy (life!) doing us a favor behind the scenes with a wink and a nod.

tattooer and painter Nick Baxter diagram illustrating the flow of energy for an artist or tattooer

The process described here has been the driving force in my life, and the driving force behind my entire tattoo career. It's something I’ve taught in my “Holistic Approach” tattoo seminar for years, and something I remind myself of constantly in my painting practice as well as tattooing.

If you're a tattooer or visual artist searching for your unique, authentic voice or battling the ole artist's block, try thinking about this concept and apply it wherever you can, I think you'll be pleased with the results!

poster for tattoo education event paradise tattoo gathering 2023

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