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Creativity for Henna Artists 101


Whether you are a beginning artist, or an experienced one I think we all hit a point where we feel like all we are doing is reproducing the same designs, either our own or those in design books or that we find online.  They might have variations, but they all FEEL the SAME.  They might even be excellent quality, but you simply don't want to do them anymore and it feels stagnant.

This is your signal that you're ready to move on, to expand. It's kind of a dreary place to be, so who would want to hang around?

hand henna designhand henna gold coast

They both look essentially the same. I feel like I've done millions of these. 

All photos following in this post are 'on-the-job' shots from extremely busy events, so you can see how I change it up when I'm actually working. 


These are not terrible designs

Ok, they might not be the best, but they're not awful. Yours might even be really good ones, but if you're feeling an absence of mojo it can be very de-motivating.


Here are some strategies that work for me. 


Examine Your Henna Elements

Are you using the same ones all the time? Lets look at the examples above. Flower, paisley (that teardrop shape), dots along a line, humpies.*  All the same. There are some minor differences, one has little leaves while the other does not, but the major elements are the same. Here is a paisley, just for fun!

henna paisley

*humpies is a technical term for the mmmmmmm

Lets take out one or two of the crutches I've been leaning on.  Keeping a similar overall structure, being 'thing in the middle with lines out the sides and floofy parts heading up and down'  I'm going to take out the flower.  I still need a shape in that spot to anchor the floofy bits to if I want this design to have a bit more body. Here I've decided to just use the semicircle that the flower would have provided... It instantly changed the feel of the design, and the sides flowed better in a different direction. Note that the paisleys still made their way in there. and there are still humpies. I also decided to not use the dots along the line, strictly adding them only as accents.

hand henna

Amazing how much difference eliminating one or two 'crutch' elements can make. 


Creative Henna - Start Your Henna Design Somewhere different

Becoming mindful of what you are doing when you work is invaluable.  Watch yourself... are you always starting in the same place on the hand/body?  Do you always begin with the same element?
When I am getting tired and lazy at a long event, I can find myself doing this.  I will start in the middle of every hand, and use a round element.  A flower, or a circle usually.

It's like always turning the same corner when you get in the car. Your brain will go on autopilot and it will be hard to break out and you'll end up the same places you always go. 

The idea of breaking out of a rut, is to go a place you haven't been. Start with a line diagonally across the body part you are working on, if your rut is a round element in the middle.  Move to the opposite side if you are always starting your journey on the same side.  You get the idea. Examine yourself, then deliberately break away from your patterns. 

hand henna design

I deliberately used the same elements, but started in a different place.

Instead of working from a round element in the middle, I started it on the side. One change, big difference.



Get Inspired! Look At Artists Whose Style Differs From Yours. 

They might not even be henna artists, but if you're really struggling, it's probably a good place to start. Find someone on Instagram who does very different work to you, who doesn't use the same layouts, or you use few of the same elements. 

Pick one new element or motif and use it. Play with it. Throw it right in there at the beginning, and see where it takes you. 

Examine their layouts.  Summarize it in your head, like my very professional layout brief above.  'wide band filled with bold elements with structured symmetrical bits going up and down on the outside' for example I got from Catherine Lent's most recent post on Instagram at the time of writing this (@catherinelentdesign).   Or 'filling the edge of the body part with random organic bits, dense with detail, wide in the middle and tapering off to the ends' is another, typical of Penny AlZayer (@thehennafaerie).  Create a dialogue with yourself as you look at artworks.  Try one! Not actually copying their design, but using elements you are comfortable within the layout you've just described. Also visit @jason_alan_henna for a third artist. These wonderful people are all very very different from each other in their styles and approaches as henna artists. 


Look Around You. Henna. Design. Ideas. Are. Everywhere.

Textiles, ceramic ware, jewlery. Inspiration is literally all around you. Architecture... anything. Right now I'm looking out my study window at the path leading to my front door, and I can see that while most of the zinnias are within the garden boundary, one is spilling out over onto the path.

zinnias in a garden 

What I am seeing here is - 'textured firm structure with organic elements flowing over the edges'.  It has given me some clues as to a layout, and elements.


mock up of henna design

I grabbed my acrylic practice sheet and did an unfortunate freehand hand template with henna paste.  This has the textured structure (the band with the crosshatched fill) and the flowing organic elements that flow over the edges. I used the first image as a springboard for this idea. It is rough, yes! But I like the idea.


Comment Below if you have further ideas
How Do You Break Out Of a Henna Creative Rut?

comment below!


I really hope that this has given you, the henna artist some food for thought, and some techniques to try to break out of the rut you may feel you're in. 



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