Well a creative challenge is one phrase for last week, ‘complete road block’, might be another. There comes a time in every artist’s life when you question your everything. Your work; competency, subject matter, style, value, worth in both a monetary and emotional context, even your ‘raison d’être. Well it’s been one of those weeks for me.
Some call it ‘the dark night of the soul’ and keep digging, while others rush off to the doctor and get something to make the mental and emotional pain go away. Others check them selves into a psychiatric facility and still others hit their drug of choice. The Moon – Tarot card is symbolic of this journey.
When you hit this pit or mountain in your road, what will you do? Cry a lot, soul search, write, walk, pace the floor at night – I’ve done all of the above this week. It seems that from time to time, in my experience, this is what the creative journey requires. We have to stop and reassess. sometimes our core foundations have been undermined. My big question word this week was all about Value.
Something I learnt this week is that when you are working through a creative challenge of this magnitude, it is impossible to gain clarity when your life is cluttered with your past perceptions. Yes we are at this point today built on our past, however we can choose something different. What is needed is perspective and distance. It’s not all about putting brush to canvas or pen to paper.
Why am I telling you all this. Because part of my conclusions this week are that I have to make more time somehow for my creative process. Something has to go. Here are the decisions I made. I am sharing with you so that if you find yourself in this place one day, my experience and insights may help you in your journey.
To cut back my blog posts to 1 day a week again and change the nature of the blog to some extent. I am going to only post on Thursdays from now on and all posts will be about the creative journey of the artist – my self or others as information comes to hand. I may miss some weeks – or not. For 5 years now I have blogged every week and I thank those of you who are regular readers for coming to listen to my words. I trust there have been some insights for you along the way.
I have totally cleared my studio of all works – wow what a different energy there is in there now – it’s literally a blank canvas, ready for when I am ready to begin again.
I need to take some time out to really work through on an emotional and mental level, exactly where I’m going. Meditate, breathe, walk, do artist dates and morning pages. To help me with this I’m walking with Julia Cameron using her creative recovery books to help me. She has so much insight – the mentor every artist needs, whether you are in a block or not. I highly recommend her work.
Creative blocks – childhood events that can cause them
So let me tell you what put me off art at a very young age, the thing that formed one of my major creative blocks. You might think I took a shine to painting from the time I could manage to hold a paint brush.
Sadly, this was not the case for me. When I was around eight I remember sitting in class one day. We had been asked to draw a portrait., which I had nearly finished doing. In fact I was feeling quite proud of that fledgling art work. The little artist in me was alive and well for about twenty minutes. Until the teacher arrived at my desk.
The picture above pretty much embodies the feeling I got from the nun looking over my shoulder as she came around the room. She stopped and remarked on everyone’s work. However when she got to me she just stopped and said nothing. Standing there for several moments before moving on. Well my little artist felt the world crashing down in a deafening silence. I felt like I’d done the worst picture in the room, it being so bad that it wasn’t worthy of any kind of comment – good or bad.
It was a long time before I tried drawing and painting again. However there were two fundamental lessons I finally learnt from this incident…..
One, that we can give any meaning we like to an event and that you can therefore go back and change your perception about that event.
Two, that at that time I began a pattern of needing others approval to feel good about myself. At the time I felt judged and found wanting. Lack of self-worth and self-criticism crept in, two terrible twins of resistance that followed in many areas of my life and certainly on the creative path.
However shining a light into this memory, helped me understand my error and grieve for my little artist self, which in turn enabled me to move on and begin feeling proud of my work.
This week’s question:Have you gone back and mined your childhood for information about your blocks yet?
Look For Thursday’s Post: A different kind of abstraction
This is one of the best kept secrets in the world I think. Well the technique deals with any emotion really, but in this case we are addressing getting rid of your fear.
Did you know that the best thing to do when you are experiencing fear of something is to actually go into the feeling of the fear and just ‘be’ with that feeling until it peaks and dissipates. The odd thing is, that if you actually allow yourself to experience your fear in this way, you will no longer have the fear. It’s like it burns itself out. Fear itself can’t hurt you.
Like any other ’emotion’ fear is just a form of energy in motion. This is why ‘they’ say to feel the fear and do the thing anyway. If you observe little children, they experience their emotions immediately. We are the ones who teach them to push them down, bottle them up and not feel them. The problem with this is that we get so good at it, we then have difficulty even figuring out what we are feeling.
Now all this becomes important when trying to understand what your fears are in relation to unfolding your creativity. Unless you know what you are specifically afraid of, how can you bring it back, feel it and let it go so you are free to move on and open up your creative box? No one can tell you this. You have to figure it out for your self and the answers will more than likely be found in your child hood.
For example it took me a long time to figure out that a very big fear around my creativity came from a child hood experience I had……. to be continued in the next post.
This weeks question:Can you access the childhood fear that is keeping you stuck?
Look For Thursday’s Post: Developing an abstract painting
Next Monday’s Post: Childhood causes for creative blocks
This is a topic I have revisited many times over the life of the Blog. However today I want to focus on something that you may have discounted as being of little value in terms of helping you to move creatively. This is, considering exploring a new medium.
Like all other artists, I too have had my periods of being creatively blocked. Some of these periods have lasted a short time maybe a day or two and others have lasted to some degree or other over a period of years. What do you do when the joy goes out of creating? How do you find that lost spark again.
I have been stuck in the blocks backwater for some time. Well I was until recently, and I want to share with you how I got myself out of it. My main medium for many years now has been Oils. I love Oils, and everything about them, so I never really considered changing to do anything else. However I have spent the last many months not doing a great deal at all. There are a couple of half finished paintings hanging around the studio that seemed like a good idea at the time, yet now I just can’t muster up the enthusiasm to get them finished. And of course every time I go in there, they stare at me accusingly as if to say, ‘Well get on with it. Why haven’t you finished us?’ All of which is very disconcerting and makes me hightail it out of there as fast as I can!
Thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that there were several reasons for my stuckness – and here they are –
I had got to the end of my inspiration for that subject matter and painting technique, which I had played with through several paintings. This goes for both these unfinished paintings even though they are vastly different in subject and technique.
I was struggling to find time to actually get into the studio in the last 10 months due to a life style change – suddenly an instant family appeared with a new partner and my 7yr old granddaughter also becoming a permnant fixture in my life.
I had lost touch with my creative spark and had reached the point of wondering if it would ever return.
So what took me out of it in the end?
During a visit to the NSW Art Gallery, I found and bought a book on watercolours by Shirley Trevena which I really loved.
I began teaching some new watercolour students and decided to redo all my watercolour sample exercises for them, which I had originally done years ago.
As I played around with my student’s exercises I began to appreciate and study Shirley’s book a lot more intently. I was drawn to her work because of the brilliant colour and wonderfully loose painting style she has along with a great gift for stunning compositions. Also I began appreciating the subtlety of colour layering which can be achieved relatively quickly with watercolours, compared to oils. Layering has appeared in my work in many different forms over the years, so I was suddenly excited again, to be exploring this new aspect of something that has always fascinated me.
The other thing that worked for me with this is that I have a space in my office now with my watercolours permanently set up and I can just fit in a brush stroke or two whenever I get the chance. It makes it so much easier for me to create.
As you can see it was not any one thing that created this shift, but a series of events that led me to find my way again. I was drawn to Shirley’s book, but if I hadn’t bought it this sequence of events might have either never happened, or taken much longer. It is interesting because at the time I bought the book I was really thinking it would be good for some of my more advanced students and the furthest thing from my mind was for me to explore watercolour painting further.
Still Life – After Shirley Trevena
Also don’t be afraid to copy the work of artists you admire, as I have here. Assimilate their techniques and the things you love about their work and then begin applying them to your own original compositions. Copying ‘The Masters’ is a time honoured tradition in the art world. All our learning is built on the shoulders of the artists that have gone before us. Use what they know as there is much we can learn from them.
In conclusion, I would suggest that you follow those inner urges, like my visit to the art gallery bookshop because you never know where it’s going to lead you. The creative journey is not a straightforward one, it involves many twists and turns and what we sometimes think are blind alleys, miraculously turn out to be fascinatingly fortuitous event in the end.
This Weeks Question: If you are feeling blocked, what is some small sideways step that you might take in order to still be moving forward on your creative journey?
So as I was saying – Creativity is a partnership. Why do people buy paintings?
Well generally people don’t buy oil paintings or other art works if they don’t like them or have some kind of connection with them. They will however, generally buy for different reasons, such as –
they just love the work
it’s a present for someone else
the work goes with their decor
it’s an investment
The first two of these reasons both have an emotional attachment to them, the second is more about creating an environment – the art work says something about who they are, implying status or ‘coolness’ perhaps. However paintings chosen for decor are often chosen by an interior designer and its the look of the whole that is more important. The last reason is purely financial really, although if one has enough money like Alan Bond you might be lucky enough to be able to afford Van Gogh’s Irises. Although actually even though he
Van Gogh's Irises
bought the painting for US$ 53.9 million dollars he didn’t have enough money to pay for it. Damn!!! And he had to sell it again.
However if someone chooses your work because they love it – it means you have something in common, even if its liking the same kind of colours. It is your job to befriend the people who buy your art.
As with any new friendship, trust needs to be built. So offer them something for nothing. People love to get gifts, tho maybe not 20 off topic ebooks. LOL !!
Produce something that you keep just to give to people who have bought your work. You might offer different things for different price points. Keep these items special, don’t sell them, so that the only way anyone can get them is if they buy your work. People love to not only get something special but to feel that they have a closer connection with the artist. For those people who feel that creativity is an esoteric mystery this gives them a way in to share in that world.
So yes, how can I be kind to myself? Here are some thoughts to help you become unstuck
For the immediate present – forget about your own creative journey and go out and look at what others are doing
Visit galleries, museums, art shows
Go to the theatre or take in a movie – an art house movie can often times be really inspiring – here is an excerpt one of my favourites from the movie Veronique.
The marionette is exquisite – when seen on the big screen this scene is absolutely arresting.
You will be amazed at what a fresh point of view can do for a stuck creative. I speak from a recent experience of wading through the Sarah of creative deficiency. In my case this lasted for a considerable period of time – to the point where I became convinced that I wasn’t really creative at all and that to consider myself an artist was pretty much BS. I went into a complete denial of my own creativity.
This was ultimately a painful experience because in denying my creativity I was so far out of sync with who I really am that everything else started falling apart as well. Take it from me – DON’T GO THERE!!!
So what really helped me through this was going to see other artists work. This gave me new ideas and it only took a couple of ideas to get me thinking along a new direction I might take my own work
My BIGGEST MISTAKE was waiting way too long to go and do this.
So be encouraged. We never actually loose our creativity – we simply bury it or let it wither by default.