Daily creativity: Gretchen talks about Illuminate 365

It helps me to just stop in that moment and be grateful or aware that the sun is shining – Gretchen Miller

As an artist with my own daily creativity practice, and a coach who helps people overcome creative blocks and make change in their lives, I know the value of having a project or theme to help structure creative work. I like to speak with other people about their daily creativity practice or projects to create inspiring stories for my clients and readers. This interview is with US based art therapist Gretchen Miller about her ‘Illuminate’ project for 2016 – taking daily photos that celebrate light. 

You’ve completed three 365 x daily art projects – one  year for the past three years. Can you share what you’re working on as an art project for 2016? 

Usually its not until the week before the year comes to an end that the idea for what I want to do next comes to me. This year I was thinking about light, around hope and inspiration and the concept that no matter where you are there is the same sun we are all under, same thing with the moon.  No matter where we’re at or what we’re doing we’re all underneath this same bright being. This gave me comfort in some way. In 2012 I was taking photos related to light fairly regularly and I kind of wanted to get back into that. There’s a lot of things going on in the world, a lot of distress, theres a lot of really hard things – so the sense of light being like hope, a sense of comfort and inspiration through the images.

So I knew I wanted to do something about light but I really didn’t know specifically until the last week of December. I wanted to do something more digital, using apps and photos entirely. Which is a switch from making stuff by hand with collage – switching into using my fingers in a different way. So it’s ‘Illuminate 365’ – which doesn’t have to necessarily be about light, it can be about revealing, or clarity or inspiration, those concepts as well. I’m kind of interested to see where it will go.

So how are you finding it so far?

This morning as I was coming to work the sun through the door was just kind of like blinding me. And I mean it’s crazy cold here but at least its super sunny and I just got my camera out. And actually that felt weirder than bringing out my art materials, because I just stopped and took a real spontaneous photo. So just being more mindful. In taking the photos I become more aware of the surroundings and the light.

And it also balances out some of the downside of social media. Like I was just reading about the pros and cons of social media, what the benefits are and some of the challenges are. One of the criticisms is that people are too involved and engrossed in their phones and that they’re missing out on the here and now. Like they’re too busy trying to record the first steps of their child instead of really just witnessing that. In some ways I think this project helps me pay attention, pause, but in a different way to sitting down and doing the art using the gluestick and scissors. It helps me to just stop in that moment and be grateful or aware that the sun is shining because it’s crazy cold outside and I’m trying to get in to get warm but at the same time to be aware that ‘yeah the sun is shining still’ and capturing that moment and taking it in.

I don’t really try to get the perfect image, I try to get a decent one that I can do something with!

From the images I’ve seen two far of your Illumate project this year is that you are often taking they’re often photos of everyday objects and places that people wouldn’t necessarily see the beauty in. 

Yeah I’ve been thinking about all the different ways that light presents itself, aside from like the sun. Like this week just looking up, at the fluorescent lights, which I mean I’m not normally a huge fan of floursencent lighting at work, but just taking a quick picture and then filtering that through some blue tones, I was like ‘oh I like that’. It was kind of energising, it kind of had a plaid sort of design to it, I just really liked it a lot, and I’m interested to see what that can connect to as the images start to accumulate together.

There’s different ways of seeing how ‘illuminate’ or ‘illumination’ can present itself.

Are you keeping this years collection? 

Yes I need a little photo album to store them in, but I’m also posting them to Instagram. And I’ll be posting them quarterly in my blog, sharing them altogether, so it’ll be accessible to whoever.

What do you hope to change or influence with your work?

Hope is a big theme  for me, inspiring that within myself and others. I guess what I most want to do is help bring that to light for people, and I think this process and social media can really help with that a lot.


If you are interested in daily creativity you might also like this interview with Gretchen on her Creative Deed 365 project, or this interview with Nancy Lautenbach about her 365 Body project.

My interview with Gretchen on her career in trauma informed art therapy is here.

Keep up with images from this project at Gretchen’s blog.


About the interviewee:

GretchenPhotoGretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ACTP is a Cleveland based Registered Board Certified Art Therapist, TLC Advanced Certified Trauma Practitioner, and Adjunct Faculty for Ursuline College’s Counseling and Art Therapy Program. Her clinical work includes working with at-risk children, adolescents, and adults. Gretchen enjoys finding inspiration, creating positive energy, and discovering transformation by working in mixed media, collage, altered art, art journaling, as well as organizing art exchanges and creative collaborations. Her online art making community, 6 Degrees of Creativity unites concepts of social networking, connecting, collaboration, and creativity into an engaged global community of artists spreading creative goodness. She also serves as Community Organizer for the Art Therapy Alliance, a network dedicated to promoting art therapy, the work of art therapists, and build community through social media. You can learn more about Gretchen’s art, projects, and creative interests on her blog Creativity in Motion.

About the author:

Jadephoto Jade Herriman, BSc, MSocSci, DipTAT is a Sydney-based transpersonal art therapist, Barbara Sher coach and facilitator. She works with clients to help bring more creativity into their lives, plan for their professional development, manage big life change and go after their dreams. She works with groups, individuals and online to deliver workshops and help support people work towards their dreams. She is pleased to be presenting a full program of art therapy, creativity and coaching workshops in 2016 including a series of Women’s Wellbeing groups and teaching art for self care at this year’s Art is You Mixed Media Road show in Sydney. She brings a playful, flexible and creative approach to serious issues, and draws on many years of experience working in organisations in project management, policy and research roles to bring practical solutions to her clients. To work together one on one or find out more about future workshops contact her HERE.

3 thoughts on “Daily creativity: Gretchen talks about Illuminate 365”

  1. “sense of light”… in “practice”; this is an aspiration in itself from Gretchen, for art as well as everyday. I’m assessing the same aspect in the garden and the idea of recording with instagram is worth a try. I’ve been using phone for photos of same spots in fav county park on what is blooming where. Please Jade, do an interview/quick question of artists on How the Organize all their images!…

    1. Thanks Nona Makes! Yes Instagram and other formats can be a great tool for observing subtle changes and beauty in the world around us. Great idea for a post about how to organise images, thanks. I’ll get back to you on that one 🙂

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