How to cope with artists block.
I know that many of you during this Covid crisis are suffering from the inability to create any artwork at all. If you are, please know that you are not alone. I haven’t produced any work myself for weeks now.
So, I too need to put aside all the sadness around me and take my own advice. Firstly though, I totally understand how it feels to be in this position. I love making artwork, good or bad, so I know how frustrating it is to feel that you are incapable of doing something you love. The first thing to understand is that, regardless of how you are feeling right now, you are still an artist and nothing can change that. ‘It’ is still in there in you. Remember that you can only have artist’s block if you are an artist. QED. Don’t allow yourself to believe that because you can’t get back into the proper mindset right now, you will never be able to do it again. That is just silly, so turn off those voices in your head.
If you have been able to make art in the past, why do you think that you will not be able to make it again. In the famous words of Spock, this is illogical. I haven’t been skiing for years now, but I still know how to. I haven’t been swimming for decades, but I still know how to, so again turn those negative voices in your head to zero. Ignore them. You can still do this.
Once you have turned the voices off remind yourself that this is temporary, as is the Covid crisis. Granted things won’t be the same again, but with all your skill still in you, chances are that what you create next will be far better than what you were doing before.
So the more important question is, what can you do to get out of this slump?
And there are a few things. As with so much in life, what stops us from moving forward is fear. Fear is responsible for people failing to achieve all sorts of goals on a daily basis. Fear of what people might think about you, say about you, laugh at you about. As a result, it starts to define where we go in life. What we can achieve.
As a creative you have no doubt been in this position before and you came through it. Remember that you did and that, having done it before, you can do it again. If this is the first time it has happened to you let me promise you that you will get through this. As scary as it feels, you will be fine.
My father was a university lecturer and a student came to him one day, really upset because she felt unable to make the large paintings she was becoming known for. She had lost the ability to produce and she was scared. My father told her to get a sketch book and a pencil and go and draw everything around her, at home, in the coffee shop, on the bus etc. She went back to my father a few weeks later and thanked him. Taking the time away from her huge, colourful paintings to produce small black and white sketches, reminded her that she had the skills to move forward and she was then happily producing even better work than she had before she felt that she had become blocked. So you could try just working in your sketchbook.
Right now it is worth finding an art form completely different to what you normally do and just give it a go. In trying something different you will have no expectations for the outcome and you can totally immerse yourself in the process of making art. This is a lovely way to remind yourself that you haven’t lost the ability to be creative.
Another way to trick your mind is to write about yourself. Find a beautiful pen and some quality paper (because you’re worth it) and write about your art, how you felt when you produced it (whether both good or bad) and remind yourself that you still have the ability to be creative. Be kind to yourself.
If that gentle approach isn’t for you and you need a kick up the rear, then remind yourself of this. To have been productive as an artist you had to create. This is true of any artist, whichever field you are working in and whoever you are making it for e.g. a graphic designer working to a company brief; a painter preparing for exhibitions; producing commissions for private clients etc. In order to produce the final outcome, you had to show up and do the work.
So, do that now. Get up, show up and start doing the work. It doesn’t matter if the first few pieces are rubbish, keep going and your mind will remember how you do what you do. It’s called muscle memory and it works the same for artists as for athletes. Obviously, to be creative you need to have a fertile mind. Fortunately, there are so many opportunities to gain inspiration out there at the moment. You can simply spend time on YouTube discovering other artists producing work to inspire you back to you former working ability but in the end, you just have to be determined to do the work.
In last week’s blog, I wrote about structuring your time during the Covid crisis, so forgive me if this sounds like more of the same, but you need to set yourself a daily routine even if that means you only have 30 minutes per day. Build that into your day and don’t let anyone else get in the way of it. If you can set up a space which can be left untouched when you are not able to work, all the better.
Setting yourself clear, short-term time targets will enable you to feel that you are still in control. If, like me, you have more people in your house during lock down and you are finding that disruptive, figure out a time to work when they are all otherwise engaged or asleep. However, if you are painting in lamplight do make sure you have a daylight bulb in the lamp otherwise when you look at the work the next day you will be disappointed. Believe me, I have. Don’t do it.
My current play piece where I am painting onto baking paper and then transferring that to the canvas, mono-print style. It will no doubt change again but I have made a start. 🙂