October 4, 2010

Creative block anyone?

Today I've realized that I have a painting to mail on monday and I haven't started to work on it, not even sketches, not drafting of ideas, no nothing, and it's not the only project I have on hold, I'm in the middle of a creative block, it's gotten me thinking.

Have you ever been through a creative block? I bet you have, I'm almost sure every artist - in fact every person who creates at some kind of level - goes through blocks, not only that, I'm sure creative blocks happen to every artist AND in cycles, and when they come back home the routine is always the same, a little bit of anguish, some frustration, self-doubt... sounds familiar?

Also soon after the block has made itself comfortable in your mind there comes Procrastination taking advantage of your weakness and adding to the burden. In fact yesterday I was listening to an interesting speech by John Cleese where he stated the importance of setting boundaries of space and time when you are creating, I thought that would be the key, but sadly procrastination seems to sneak beyond those boundaries easily.

Procrastination is such a peculiar beast, you can't paint, you can't draw, in fact you can't even think of any interesting ideas, and suddenly you are creating a mental list of things that you need to do at that very moment, like deciding the kind of shelves you should get to stock those cluttered supplies that are distracting you right now, or merging that image in photoshop, and now that photoshop comes to mind you realize that what you should be doing is putting up that jpg for the rollover menu of your web's sidebar, which reminds you the web page... you should be working on it which means you probably should be studying some more chapters of that php and mysql course, or finishing the design of some buttons and since you're already on the computer you should catch up on emails, write a blog post about creative blocks, check your social networks and... You see the pattern, the list soon becomes endless, not that you are gonna do any of those things anyway, procrastination brings them to mind just to get you in a loop of a big pile of NOTHING.

Another funny thing about this kind of situation is relying on the Mood, I'm sure that you're familiar with this too, the mood is a trickster, I know I can get a good enough painting to mail on monday, one I can be proud of, IF I'm in the right mood, that amazing state of mind where you pick the brush and time no longer exists, it's just you and the images and your own world, but hey, what if I can't get in the right mood??? gosh, I could not make the dead line, and there it comes again, a panic attack in the rising!

Since we all go through this once in a while we all have painter friends who go through it too and we all have shared with them some tips to get over a creative block. Sure you all have some tricks that you use and that you recommend to other painters who are going through a block, I do, what I usually recommend to my friends when they go through a creative block is:

1) Search for inspiration on your favorite art books, music, nature etc. More than "search" is a "enjoy" them so eventually ideas start to flow.
2) Doodle, no matter what it is, it doesn't have to be anything, just pick up paper and pencil and throw lines around, on a daily basis, because what looks like inspiration is really the result of habit.

Now, it's easier to say it than to do it, since I have 6 days to have a finished painting I've taken my sketchbook with me today and have forced myself to try some rough sketches, nothing has worked, the little ideas I've gotten seem poor and unoriginal, then I've decided to simplify it even more and just try thumbs, really rough masses of white, gray and black just to see if something worthed to be developed further, the result has been a pile of failures, my own advices are totally logical and still doesn't seem to work at all when I try them!!! Does this happen to you too? I really hope it's not only me, does everybody have troubles attempting to use their own advices? in fact, does everybody follow their own advices? I'm really curious about this, 'cos some little devilish side of me thinks not everyone does, I mean I don't always do and I'm the person I trust more! I'm really really curious about your thoughts on this.

After thinking about all this situation during half of the day I'd say that when everything seems to fail... it's not really failing, those failed doodles and unoriginal thumbs are really just another step of the trip towards the final piece. Next time I'll approach them, with fresh eyes, I'm sure one or maybe some of those bad thumbs will be the base that - after moving things around, quitting an element, adding some other or puling a concept - will lead me to a good first stage of the painting. And maybe if I can force myself to repeat these 2 tips for overcoming a creative block I'll be able to get in another kind of recurring cycle all artists go through too, the one where all kind of ideas for amazing paintings comes to your mind one after another :).

What are your tips for overcoming a creative block? even the craziest ones would be of help. Do you always follow your own advices or find yourselves using advices from others instead the ones that you think of? Procrastination anyone? Also when you're on a super creative state do you just make as many paintings as you can or you record all the ideas you get in some way? sketches? notes? just trust that if you won't remember the idea it wasn't good enough? Food for thinking...


RHCarpenter said...

Teresa, I know just what you're in right now - maybe look back over your work the past year or two - see what you have that you want to work on more or add to or change and go for that? Colors - just put down some colors on the paper and see where that leads you. Maybe put the colors down, walk away, come back tomorrow and see if anything arises. Hmmm...doodling, looking at art magazines or watching art DVDs...any of these things can spark something. Maybe pick up the color you like the least - then play with that color until it's surrounded by beautiful colors, in that way you make the block the ugly color and push it down with beautiful colors (your imagination, creativity, humor, etc.) Go to sleep thinking, tonight I'm going to have a colorful dream and then I'll paint that.

Pat said...

If I come to a point where I don't know what to paint or where to start, I get a quarter sheet of paper, some paints out and some salt.
I make random mixes and pour them on the wet paper ( no brushes) Then I throw the salt on the paper and walk away while it dries.
When I come back and brush the salt off, it makes interesting shapes and I can see many things, and my curiosity is awake once more. Then I can paint with brushes again :)

Irina said...

I go to art shop, just browsing there increases my creativity. Or watch the painters' blogs until I feel that I have to take the brush myself.
But you know, I am not a professional, and painting is hobby for me, so maybe it is different for you.
Also my mantra helps: I am not perfect, I have different states of mind and body in different times.

Teresa Palomar Lois said...

I've just realized I've a horribly small amount of paintings from this year Rhonda :( but that idea of yours of embodying the block as an ugly color and getting it surrounded and overpowered by gorgeous ones sounds terrific, I so wanna try something like that now! thanks for the sugestion, I'm stealing it from you right now!

Pat, thansk for the sugestion, that's something I've never ever tried during an artistic block, just creating something textured and abstract and see if it talks in any way to me, worths a try, lucky me, I've just compromised to do a card in case I wasn't too tight with my time/painting already so I guess this is a relatively fast method to get multiple posible final works.

That mantra sounds like it can take a lot of pressure off your shoulders Irina, I'm writing it down and sticking it to my wall along with some other I have for motivation, thanks for sharing it, your're a doll!

Deb Léger said...

HI Teresa! I could write a book on writer's block, I'm sure! This past year has been baaaaaaaaad for me, creative-block-wise. My best way to get painting is to clean up my painting table and go through my art supplies. Then I start itching to use this and that, as I'm putting them away. That always helps me. Watching painting dvd's always grabs my interest, too. Did you ever watch the show, Work of Art - the Next Great Artist? Watching that really helped me, listening to the thoughts of the contestants, etc.

I also found in this past year that I should write down the reasons/excuses I use to not paint, the things that bother me about making art, etc. As I write them down, I also write my reasoning. This helps because next time I use that excuse, I can make sense of it better and work past it. Does that make sense?

Hope you get past the block really soon Teresa. Don't let it drag. YOu mentioned to Rhonda that you had a small amount of paintings from this last year. I think I have one or two. We can't let this happen. We should start a challenge or something. Maybe go to Painting Friends and paint together there - all of us.

Teresa Palomar Lois said...

I know how slow has it been for you in the painting area this year :( and I'm glad you're back at it with a passion! I've never ever tried sorting my materials to get my creativity flowing, interesting idea indeed, now will it work if I follow the " go through art supplies" and skip the "clean up"? gotta try, and hell, cleaning up and organizing this den wouldn't harm either, right? Thanks for the tip Deb. The writing part I already do, is one of the themes I usually rumble about in my personal journal lol, so yes, it makes total sense.

I used to stop creating during these slow periods of time unless I had some piece of work compromised but now my way of thinking has changed, if I can force myself to rely on craft when I have a compromise why shouldn't I force myself ALWAYS even if I'm not inspired? that's mainly why I'm looking for tricks to go off this block periods asap, I can rely on craft but hey, the less time through the slump the better, right? I second that "don't let it drag" you mentioned, it's not good for us at all, and I'm completely up for a challenge, loved the YOP years ago, improved my skills and vision and passion too, so anytime Deb! Are you at Painting Friends? I haven't been so active in there during the past month so I must have missed a lot of things, it's a good idea, we must talk about this in depth :)

Sadami said...

Dear Teresa,
Thank you for visiting my blog. Lovely art works! How interesting artist and energetic lady you are!! Regarding the unproductive time, I do put aside a brush, relax, meet friends, being involved and use different channels fully. Ooops, excuse me, if I chatted too much. But hope it could be some idea for you.
Kind regards, Sadami

Teresa Palomar Lois said...

Sadami, hi! and welcome! I found your blog this morning and fell in love instantly so you can expect me there often ^_^

I also appreciate your suggestions, and nope, you haven't talked too much, in fact it's never considered too much chatting around here in my den, I looove chatting so feel at home!