I recently fell into a 3-week funk with my art. After an all-systems-go period of creativity I seemed to fall into a fear paralysis. I’m not sure what triggered it…. my need for perfection and the pressure that places on me? My dislike of the ‘ugly’ stages of a painting? My impatience of wet paint and overworking to the point of muddiness as a result? Take your pick!
All I know is, 3 weeks before that I was in the creative zone, and after that I struggled to even go into my studio.
So I reached out to a group I’m a member of and asked for their help. I’m not really comfortable exposing my vulnerable self like that but I’m starting to get concerned about this fear. I made a decision at the start of this year that 2018 is the year I take my art seriously and give it the time I give my other profession as a chiropractor. 2018 is the year I start creating art again, set up my online shop to sell prints, launch my membership programme for those wanting to start getting creative. I don’t have time for fear blocks!
The longer it went on the deeper it got. I’d start to make all sorts of excuses as to why I couldn’t go into the studio. I’m too tired. I need to rest after a busy clinic. I’ve got to write my GDPR policies (yawn!). There’s laundry to do. My tendonitis is playing up. Blah blah blah. Excuses excuses.
I have an accountability group for my other endeavours so I realised I need one for my art too. And this group is fantastic – always there with support when a member needs it and an abundance of kind words to help overcome frustration and despondence.
So I took my turn and posted a request for help. Within minutes I started getting thought-provoking questions about my situation and a few pointers to help me get up into the studio without placing any pressure on myself. The group reminded me of the importance of play, experimentation, trying things out without any expectation on the outcome. They reminded me that it’s easy to get sucked into a piece and spend way too long on it, pushing until the paint gets muddy and the energy and freshness gets buried. They assured me that they have similar struggles with creative blocks – even the most accomplished ones who I follow and admire.
All of this was a great opportunity to learn about how I respond to self-imposed pressure and why I create it in the first place. As I worked though my creative funk, I realised that minimising is invaluable, especially when things start to get overcomplicated.
So I minimised: I limited my palette and set a timer for short sessions of focus and when that timer went off I walked away for the day. Even with short bursts I found that I’d start to enter that frustration stage, so to counter that I’d switch from the main piece to a sketch book, or a second piece alongside. Change the focus, change the energy, break the cycle of muddy paint and frustration.
I realised that a lot of my frustration and subsequent disappointment came about because I am extremely impatient! Waiting for the paint to dry so it can be overpainted? Nightmare!
I used to work in oils in my previous painting life. Now I wonder how I coped with the weeks of drying time required! Then I realised – I always had at least 2 or 3 paintings on the go at any one time and I travelled to my studio for just 2 half day sessions a week – so the time was limited and therefore focused.
It was when I was chatting to an artist friend over coffee one day that I made the connection. It only took me 8 years….. oh well!
So the point is, for me, having shorter sessions in my studio leads to more focused work and I need to have more than one piece on the go.
As a result of that I’ve fixed more hanging hooks to my wall so I can hang pieces to dry as soon as I have covered them in a layer of paint. They go on the wall, the next piece is on the table to be worked on. Then that goes on the wall, and the next piece is on the table. And this goes on. I currently have 5 pieces on my wall and another on the easel. None are finished, but by spending a little time on a range of pieces I’m finding I don’t get caught up in that wet paint/muddy colour/lost design frustration.
I hope that helps and has given you some food for thought if you recognise any of this in yourself.
If you like what I do, please support me!
© Natalie Day 2018