Artist Block – Don’t Worry, Its OK; It Happens
Part Of Artistic Growth.
Experiencing a bout of “Artist Block”? It’s OK, it happens to many of us and even some of the greats so there is no reason to quit!
I hope by sharing with you that this is a perfectly normal, of not frustrating, part of artistic growth, then you and I can get through the dry spell with our creative minds intact.
Maybe You’re Immune.
OK. First before I get too carried away I’d like to say this: maybe you won’t have this problem of artist’s block. Its not a foregone conclusion or inevitable. Maybe you’ll groove through your artist’s life without experiencing “artist’s block” or a period of diminished productivity. Perhaps your artistic process or natural inclination prevents this problem. If so, ride the creative wave and have enjoy the experiencence!
Not So For Me.
Or, perhaps you are like me. From time to time, I have a dip in productivity and nothing seems right. It happens and its frustrating. Which reminds me, I ought to define what I mean by artist’s block.
Artist Block Defined.
I looked up the definition of “artist block” on line, naturally. The “Urban Dictionary” defines it as follows:
“Also known as an ‘art block’, a usually random occurrence in which one loses inspiration and motivation to draw.” By MonElisa, September 15, 2007
Not So Random – Feelings of Inadequacy.
For me, its probably not so random. If I were honest with myself, I might look to feelings as the source of the block. I can be plagued by feelings of “not being good enough”, “I should be better”, “there is too much to learn”, etc.
Or Avoidance and Perfection Dramas.
Another problem for me is work avoidance and there is usually a cause. Usually its because, well, drawing is hard pretty much all of the time. Perfection is an additional issue that causes work delays for me. You know, the attitude that if its not perfect then its not worth doing. Killer attitude that one don’t you think? Nothing like making it nearly impossible to succeed.
So, I am working through a slow period. I’m having trouble completing paintings. I tease and chastise myself about having commitment issues. The problem is that I commit to a course of action for about 30 seconds until doubt comes in. When I think about it, I realize I’m looking for the “one true path” – a sort of perfection that doesn’t exist.
The question for me becomes what to do about the artist block?
Even Picasso Was Blocked – At Least Once**.
Before I move on answering the question about what to do, I’d like to share an antidote with you. Did you know that even prolific painters, such as Picasso, have periods we might call artists block? I was surprised when I read about Picasso having a crisis and not being able to paint. The way he worked himself out of it was by writing.
Working My Way To The Other Side.
As I am working myself out of my artistic slump, I find the fact that Picasso also struggled re-assuring. Though my inner drama queen was kinda hoping I was the only one who ever suffered in this way. Darn…its so common.
So, now that I’m among friends, what to do? The artist block problem needs to solve itself.
On anything, on everything but just work! Its our job as artists to get on with our work even if it doesn’t seem to measure up to whatever expectations we impose on ourselves. Oh my! Doesn’t that statement say something about my current work situation?
Lets see; note to self: work without judgement; just work and work a lot! I’m thinking that ought to be a good personal mantra.
Draw and Paint Anything & Everything.
For me, that means drawing and painting daily. It doesn’t matter if the results are creative or good. What is important is practicing, discovering and learning. And, yes, the results matter too because they can be learned from and lead to starting again. And again, and tomorrow, again some more!
Perhaps there may be some other things you and I can do to get past the block. I would imagine the source of the block may hold the key to breaking through to productivity again. For example, sometimes my paintings take forever and a day to complete. The process can be tedious and it can be hard to maintain interest. What if I tried starting and completing a painting in one session, for example? It would shake things up and get me out of my comfort (and sometimes boring) zone.
Picasso had artist block at least once so we’re in good company. And, he got over it and was prolific.
Recognizing that artist block is normal can be step one to overcoming the block. Next is understanding what part of the process is the stumbling block.
I’m laughing at myself because I started this particular blog post about a month ago. Do you suppose my artist block has creeped into my writing as well? Could be.
Today, I had a thought and last week I had another thought. Maybe I’ll talk about what motivates us to draw especially since motivation or lack thereof can influence artist block.
Or, maybe I’ll write more about things to do to get over artist block. I think its nice to have some ideas to work on in the near future.
Feel Free To Share.
What about you? Please feel free to comment about your own situation. Have you ever had to deal with artist block and how did you feel?
About the Paintings.
The two paintings were done back in 2011. They were color and design studies based on a drawing done from imagination. The person and cat could be anyone, though I think it captures how I feel sometimes. I’m thinking about those quiet contemplation or “space out” moments over a morning cup of coffee with a favorite cat.
Selected Related Articles.
*Artist Block, Urban Dictionary
** Picasso, Master of the New Idea. Marie-Laure Bernadac and Paula Du Bouchet, 1993; Discoveries – Harry N. Abrams Inc, Publishers. New York. English Edition. Page 91.
Art & Fear; Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making. David Bayles & Ted Orland. 1993. The Image Continuum Press Edition. Santa Cruz CA & Eugene OR.
“Advice From Artists On How to Overcome Creative Block, Handle Criticism, and Nature Your Sense of Self Worth”, by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings Website, 2014
Art Blocked? The Anatomy of Art Block, by zack-sr on DevianArt, December 15, 2007
10 Things To Do In The Studio When “Art” Isn’t Happening, by Re’ St. Peter; Painted Hill Studio, August 28, 2017