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How are you exercising your "Designer Muscles?"

It's kind of a weird thought, isn't it? When you're working- lighting shows, architecture, events, and anything else you can get your hands on - you're exercising your "designer muscles." You know, that creative part of your brain that says "OMG, it's 3am, I'm in a dark theatre, but I just came up with the coolest look out of thin air!"

Everyone has it, and it can either hug you with its artistic flow at the toughest of moments or it can bite you and leave the teethmarks of designer's block at the worst time. It happens to everyone.

This conversation came up a few weekends ago when I was camping with some non lighting industry pals - what do you do to keep up your "chops" when not actively engaged in artistic creation? A good portion of people who read Live Design Online and the Live Design print publication are seasoned, established professionals who can come up with mind-bending looks from a post-lunch burp, and that is outstanding. But what kinds of activities do you engage in off the clock to keep your artiste skills honed to a razor's edge? Do you look at art books? Do you stare at sunsets (my favorite) and try to imagine how you'd recreate the glory that exists in the sky? Are you an avid starer at the iTunes visualization engine?

Researching is one of the most important tools that a designer must possess; we can all fight about what an "original artistic thought" can be and what it can't be, but the only way to really participate in that argument is to train yourself to be able to manipulate what your brain remembers and how it remembers it. Many designers do this by filling their memories with beautiful pictures of art, atmospheric lighting conditions, random memories of car headlights in a hazy summer night, and other small pieces of beauty that exist everywhere. You have to pretty much live in a cave to not have exposure to any kind of natural beauty - and even then you can stare at the fire dancing all around your cave walls!

How do you keep yourself inspired? What kinds of activities do you participate in to keep your brain fresh as a designer? I'm really interested - post a comment below!

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