I am starting this as an ongoing piece of writing which I hope you will all join in with.
My intention is to incorporate comments that appeal to me … sorry, not everything, as it is my Writing and I choose :) I will, of course use the names of those who make the comments; I am not into plagiarism :)
I get distracted easily and one of those distractions is Redbubble. Another distraction is, “let’s make myself a cup of tea and check my emails”.
Yesterday, sitting inside my parked car by the riverside I finished a drawing I’d been struggling with. No distractions … it worked. It also helps to sit in the passenger seat, to provide more room for the drawing.
Now, down to inspiration. I am inspired by many things, but will often hit periods when I muse for hours over what to draw/paint. That is artist’s block :(
Sometimes I look through my portfolio of work and see if there are any subjects I haven’t tackled for a while. Other times (we all play to the gallery occasionally) I look at my favouritings and see what people like.
I have been known to simply start drawing, without much idea of what exactly I plan to draw.
Redbubble artrist Paul Compton observes wisely that “inspiration comes from viewing things in a different light. Something I love to do is to view an object or situation on the street or in my home etc as if it were an artwork already. Eg, an empty chair on the other side of the room – if I were viewing this as an artwork it could be an existential symbol or I could imagine it once having an owner who is no longer around or I could imagine the chair displaced in a less likely place etc.”
Paul uses these imaginings as the seeds for artworks. He is inspired by objects and spaces but also finds inspiration and escape in music so music is always playing when he draws. I agree with Paul on this, as I too always have music playing while I work.
Clearly, there are as many ways of conquering artist’s block as there are artists. Paul Ramnora finds it helpful to draw images straight from the TV screen, or to draw abstract forms as (like myself) he likes the freedom that it gives him.
Coppertrees finds fractals inspiring and also likes to work with wire and clay so that her hands can inspire her brain.
Like many of us, Linda Callaghan often freezes at the sight of a clean white sheet of paper. Linda drew my attention to the fact that there are times when it is wiser to avoid frustration by simply not forcing the issue … her patience is often rewarded by a flow of ideas when the time is right. Kaitlin Beckett (Firedrake) agrees with this and thinks there is often a time when we should walk away and have a coffee and some toast to avoid frustration. Kaitlin also recognises the value of preparation and has often found that gessoing canvases can help her to dream up some possibilities. She finds that visiting art shops always gets her excited too.
I agree with Kaitlin regarding art shops and I also find that when I really can’t think of anything to draw, rather than sweating over it, a half hour reading one of my many art instruction books or artists’ biographies can prove inspiring.
Like Kaitlin, Biddumy finds the preparation ritual to be helpful and mixes some paint, crayons or pastels, then lets them move across the paper/canvas.
For me, preparation of a picture always involves working in pencil before using any paint or ink. It is a crucial part of creating any work and I am aware that my pencil marks are like the foundations of a building or the skeleton of a living body – on those marks rests the future success of my picture. Once I start painting or inking in, mistakes become more difficult to eradicate, or in the case of inking, almost impossible at times. I try to leave the pencilled drawing alone for a while and stare at it occasionally, looking for faults that I can alter easily with an eraser. Sometimes I need to walk away for a while and return with fresh eyes.
I feel reassured that many artists think that walking away from the artwork in times of frustration is a good thing to do. I often spend time day-dreaming and going for walks when my creativity is blocked. sometimes we need to take time out to get back to our roots; to rediscover what it was that made us want to be artists in the first place.
Moonlake is another who likes taking walks She likes to “take in signs, colours, the air and of course nature” and believes that “if you push and push you will just become more and more frustrated, let the world wash over you see strokes and angles in all things, eventually you will get inspiration and back on track”.
Luke Brannon agrees with the concept of going for a walk but, like Paul Ramnora, sensibly adds that we should make sure to carry a pen and paper in case an idea should germinate.
Paul Compton feels that, “walking away from your artwork clears your mind and also lets you return to it with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective”.
My good Redbubble friend LTScribble described an artist’s walk so beautifully that I going to quote her words here in their entirety:
" I have started hiking around six miles a day and since then my interest in art has come rushing back and I do feel more creative and I am more prolific. When I go for my long walks/hikes I observe the sky, noticing that it’s just not blue or gray but has other colors splashing through it …. I see how a gnarled up tree can be so beautiful when it’s twisted and deformed …. or even leaves floating down the glassy reflections of a slow moving river …. we artists have a unique perspective and tend to notice what most don’t and when we show them what we see…..well maybe that’s why long walks are so good for artist’s block …."
Eldon Ward intentionally finds a distraction: looking to RedBubble for inspiration; heading for a pub; or otherwise ‘trying to hit my “reset” button. Either approach may help: Focusing on being blocked never does’.
FeeBeeDee cleverly tweaked my title from, “ARTIST’S BLOCK AND HOW NOT TO GET DISTRACTED" into “HOW DO I GET DISTRACTED FROM MY ARTIST’S BLOCK.” She feels that “the pulling and pushing, the entering and disentangling of oneself from one’s work, is the energy that keeps it vital. It keeps it current, and vibrant”.
Helene Ruiz vascillates between stewing over one painting to multi-tasking as she frantically works on eighteen to twenty canvases at a time, darting from one to the other in a creative whirlwind. I know what she means, as I have tried working on three drawings at a time and it is a good experience.
I often find a challenge helps me to work better. I recently challenged myself to creating ten abstract drawings based on the string art techniques of Linmarie (Redbubble) and it was a very exciting time for me, I have to admit.
Joanne Jackson experiences times when she feels compelled to sit before a blank white piece of paper and stare at it until she sees the first line she is meant to draw. She feels it is as though something wants to be expressed and she is just the tool to trace that expression onto paper. Liz O’Connor often feels the same way and she will meditate on her blank sheet until an idea turns up. Like Joanne and Liz, I’ve experienced that too.
Wugleyglew (presumably not her real name) suggests that “artist’s block is bliss compared to the opposite…a debilitating syndrome that deprives the sufferer from the ability to stop” …. interesting suggestion Wugleglew.
I smiled at Bunny Clarke’s philosophy; she suggested that even our muses need vacations. You might very well be right Bunny.
Homeartist made the delightful observation that wine can provide inspiration and if it doesn’t, well, we can always dip our brush in it and start painting. I personally suffer from anxiety and sometimes a glass of wine relaxes me and helps me to draw. Another thing no-one seems to have mentioned yet is music. I find that listening to music helps me to get lost in my art and time just whizzes past. It has to be music that relaxes me and inspires me though. Among my favourite bands/singers for drawing to are The Incredible String Band, Leonard Cohen, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Katherine Jenkins, The Doors, Chopin, Erik Sate and many others. I also like listening to recorded plays, such as Under Milk wood by Dylan Thomas.
Julie-Ann Vellios wisely observes that our state of mind is the key. She is right of course … I have found that when I believe I can draw – I can … and when I doubt my ability I find it hard to get started.
Yes, attitude is everything. We need to really WANT to create art; it can’t be half-hearted or mechanical. True art comes from the soul. Art that doesn’t have any love or personal pleasure involved in its creation can be stale and lifeless. Sometimes even poor technique and lack of accuracy can be excused if the pictures have love and energy in them.
Mando 13 says it all here: “Capture endless moments of your pleasure in appreciating life in your ART. Learn to love where you are and where you are at! And if you can’t learn to love, learn to listen."
John Dicandia, a highly imaginative artist, tells me that whatever excites him during the day gets him drawing or painting. He finds that while he is actually drawing, ideas spring from his subconscious almost like there is a third person involved in the process. He needs to be Inspired enough and never writes or draw when he is half-hearted. I can understand that; enthusiasm or the lack of it often shines through a drawing or painting and can be discerned by the perceptive viewer, so we should never create anything while we are feeling half-hearted.
Mike Paget echoes this when he says that his creative ideas ebb and flow like biorhythms. He often finds too that ideas come to him in the middle of the night. Our daughter sometimes uses dreams as inspiration for pictures and like Mike I have found myself waking in the middle of the night with an idea for a new picture.
They do say that every cloud has a silver lining and although Christina Rodriguez sometimes suffers from insomnia, she uses the night to reflect on the day’s events and feelings and often uses those reflections as inspiration for her artwork.
Mike Paget quoted his father as saying, ’if you think a job is too difficult, just do it, and then wonder how you did it afterwards!’ This might work for many artists.
When Barb Callahan gets blocked in one form of creativity, she simply moves on to another.
For AngelArtiste, the encouragement of nice friends helps her to get out of the pit and paint something. This is a very important point that Angela has made. The great poet John Donne (1572-1631) wrote:
“No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were …”
Each one of us is a part of Redbubble and the world-wide art community. Many seek to split us into groups, graded by snobs who feel superior to others. True, we each have our own level of understanding and ability, but that does not make us lesser artists; just working at a different level and expressing different feelings and environments, which in itself is inspiring, as we need to understand others. How better to do that than to look at their efforts at self-expression.
Although we use art as self-expression, we also need companionship – someone to bounce ideas off and to learn from. We can help each other and a site like Redbubble provides a golden opportunity for this. I don’t believe in copying other people’s art, as that is not expressing myself, merely plagiarising others. I do believe we can encourage each other, as I (along with those who are contributing) am trying to do with this article.
We can share techniques and make each other aware of new exciting artists. Creating an artistic atmosphere can inspire us to create more work ourselves, so we can add to the collection of art that is Redbubble. Remember, if all the artists, photographers and writers left Redbubble tomorrow, there would be no Redbubble, so it is we who are keeping it alive with our enthusiasm and sharing.
I mentioned creating an artistic atmosphere. It also helps to create our own individual artistic environments. I appreciate that many of us cannot do that, for want of space. We can still create rituals that place us in the mood for drawing and painting. For example, I have an old dressing gown that I wear when painting (I am messy). When I wear it, I feel obliged to paint :)
We can try to have our own art corner, even if it is a table in the dining room, or an old armchair tucked in a corner somewhere. As I mentioned earlier, I find my car to be a good environment for distraction-free drawing, although I wouldn’t recommend painting in it :)
Cindy Schnackel tells me she loves solitude and doesn’t work as well when anyone’s around. She concentrates so deeply that “any disruption is almost physically painful, like someone throwing a firecracker into the room”.
Sometimes we don’t have time during the day to draw and paint, so we could try Cindy’s tip of using a natural daylight lamp at night.
Sometimes of course, a little hard work is needed and (courtesy of Maree Clarkson) here is a good quote from Thomas Carlyle, Scottish Historian and Essayist, leading figure in the Victorian era. 1795-1881:
“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom!”
Of course, this writing is not aimed at people who draw and paint for their livelihood; they can’t choose what they draw, as they are usually commissioned. I am addressing those who draw for their own pleasure and hopefully the pleasure of others who may choose to purchase.
There now – I have started this writing … give me some feedback and I will try to expand on it; maybe your ideas might spark off a few more of my own.
Remember – this is about artist’s block and methods of keeping concentrated on the task – any side-tracking onto other topics will not be included.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SAY IF I HAVE MISQUOTED ANYONE AND I WILL ALTER MY WORDS.