There are times in any pursuit of creativity where you will reach a hump, bump, or road block. Everyone is familiar with the term writer’s block, defined as “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown.” This type of block is not limited to writing, however, and can be equally frustrating in art. I recently experienced a miniature “painter’s block,” which came as a surprise considering the large volume of art I had been producing just before. Over a period of about two months I completed 14 separate pieces of art, including paintings and pencil drawings. I was on a roll and felt unstoppable.
When I began my most recent painting I was extremely excited about it (next week I will tell you why!). Once I started the painting, however, I immediately began to struggle. It wasn’t the technique that I was struggling with. It certainly is a complex painting, but nothing I felt particularly intimidated by. No, instead it was the motivation that proved to be my biggest struggle. Despite being on a roll over the weeks before, I couldn’t seem to get anywhere with this particular painting. I sat down several times only to paint for less than an hour at a time. Normally I can easily sit down for hours, and it is not uncommon for me to paint all day. In these short painting sessions I would only get through a few square inches of the painting, and the lack of progress compounded my resistance to continuing. Most days I didn’t even pick up the paint brush. On my drive home from work every day I would psyche
myself up for painting, and then I would get home and fail to act. I would see the painting leaning against the wall in the evening and just feel that I wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, so why even start. I went a full 17 days without touching it at all.
Happily, I can tell you that this painting is now finished, but it took me a couple different approaches to get over this short lived but genuine painter’s block.
1) Appreciating Other Artist’s Work: When I knew I just wasn’t going to pick up the paint brush, I tried to at least stay in touch with art by exploring the world of art on the internet. I looked up material recommendations, perused artist blogs, scanned through other peoples work on etsy and pinterest, and, as I mentioned in last week’s watched blog post, watched many artists’ tutorials. This approach definitely kept me connected to art during this time, but I realized after about two weeks that it really was not getting me past my own personal block.
2) Forced Painting Sessions: As I already mentioned, I did sit down a few times during this time and forced myself to paint. Unfortunately, these were mostly unsuccessful. I was so unmotivated by the painting I was working on, I really struggled with spending more than a few minutes working on it at a time and easily responded to distractions. Still, I think just touching the painting was important, because it meant I wasn’t giving up, despite having no inspiration.
3) Doing Art Every Day: Finally I decided I needed a new approach. I needed to work on other art, without putting this painting away (mostly because it was taped to my only art board and I don’t like to tape a painting twice). I decided to join a daily art challenge facebook group. I bought a small sketchbook and started doing daily prompts. I share these small quick sketches with other artists for comments and comment on their contributions in return. Though I try to spend only about 30 minutes on a prompt, it gets the pencil or brush into my hand every day. I was amazed how much more motivated I was to work on my big piece after doing a small little sketch. Perhaps it is just seeing a piece through start to finish, even if it is no masterpiece, or perhaps it is simply getting into the art mood, but I am only happy with my decision to start these daily prompts.
I believe that every approach I took to overcome the painters block did something for me, but it was the doing art every day that really did the trick. It only took me a few days of doing these prompts for me to surge out of my artist block and finish my troublesome painting. I also think these daily prompts will give me a great platform to try new skills and techniques without committing to a large piece and large chunk of time. I highly recommend this to any artist. In the end I will have a fun little sketchbook to flip through, showing a timeline of work, and if I am lucky, a progression of skill.