Creative Practice: Visual Riffing


In this episode of Your Creative Spirit, Flora introduces the concept of visual riffing.

This is a simple exercise to loosen up and invite more spontaneous and unique ways of creating, while working with a meaningful image.

I designed this exercise because I often see people getting stuck in routines and habits when it comes to imagery and motifs in their creative practices. To combat these habits and expand our visual language, this exercise invites you to explore new marks, images, and shapes within a simple “container.”

You can do this anywhere, anytime, and with any material. Word on the street is that kids love to riff too.

Materials Needed

  • A piece of paper
  • A pen or mark-making device of your choice
  • Optional: Any mixed media art supplies you feel inspired to work with


Using your pen or chosen implement, divide your paper into equal-ish sized squares. (This does not have to be precise.) You simply want to create a number of squares to work inside of.

Choose a simple shape that feels meaningful to you like a circle, triangle, leaf, heart, wave, eye, etc. Draw this shape in each box.

Next, visually “riff” on each shape by adding design elements, colors, marks, and additional shapes to transform each box into its own unique image and mini composition. You are welcome to make each box as detailed or as simple as you like.

Flora Bowley in her art studio

Flora Bowley is a painter, creative pioneer and author of two books, Brave Intuitive Painting and Creative Revolution.  Her soulful approach to the creative process has inspired thousands of people to pick up a paintbrush for the first time. Flora lives and creates in Portland, OR.

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