Keeping the Flow

It would be great if I could sit down and paint everyday. In a perfect world I could crank out watercolour paintings just by sitting at the easel or desk and doing it, but life gets in the way. The phone rings, the laundry piles up, a friend needs our attention.. or we have to go to our day job. Other times a blank sheet or canvas has a way of being really intimidating. Some days the ideas don’t come easy, or the pencil or brush just will not obey the vision in one’s mind.

I’ve struggled with this.. sometimes the mojo just isn’t there.

The solution I’ve come up with is to change it up. If I’ve been working in watercolour—I’ll do an acrylic piece. If I’ve been doing a of tight realism I’ll switch to something looser, put my detail brushes away and just work with a huge brush. If I’ve been working 2D for a long time I’ll set it aside and make a piece of jewellery… if I’ve been making large pieces I’ll try my hand at miniatures… or work on my website.

Sometimes I need to get out of the studio altogether and ‘fill the well’. For me, walking in nature is the best.. or even taking my camera and shooting some urban photography.

Sometimes I need to rest. Watch a movie. Take the pressure off.

“I’ve found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness….For me, it’s been liberating to put myself in the mind of a fictitious six year-old each day, and rediscover my own curiosity. I’ve been amazed at how one ideas leads to others if I allow my mind to play and wander.”
~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

Learning to be gentle with ones self, change it up, take the pressure off, try new things. These are the techniques I have found work when nothing else does.

Do you have any ‘go to’ things for when nothing else is working?

Shaking It Up

I’ve been working a lot in watercolour the past year or so and felt I was getting into a rut. I had done some miniature paintings on the side in acrylic, with these tiny little canvasses I had lying around…
REALLY TINY!

acrylic painting of a crystal bowl of grapes
2 x 2″ miniature painting in acrylic. Grapes and Crystal

So, I thought I would stretch myself a bit and tackle some larger pieces. The process for acrylic is opposite what it is for watercolour. Instead of painting light to dark, you go from dark to light. It’s a different way of approaching a painting and makes me SEE the subjects in a new way. This has brought me back to my formal training and all of a sudden I’m thinking up new ideas for paintings!

“It’s good as an artist to always remember to see things in a new, weird way.” 
~Tim Burton

Using (or trying) different materials is a great way to infuse new life into your art practice, to see things from a new point of view, and to jump start creativity when you feel blocked.

How to you get out of a rut, or a block?

The Myth of Talent

Almost every day I hear things like this: “Wow, I wish I could draw like you, you are so lucky to have been born with talent”, “You have so much talent, I can’t even draw a stick figure”, and “I wish I had your talent”, and many variations of these sentiments.

It’s baloney.

It’s true that I’ve always doodled and sketched and coloured (what kid doesn’t?), and I’ve always looked at the world in wonder, but I did not come out of the womb with a pencil in my hand. Some of my early drawings are downright awful.

Really, truly dreadful. There are mountains of paper somewhere with my failed artworks on them.

What I did do was keep trying, and learning. Drawing, or painting or sculpting, whatever, are skills. They take hard work and persistence and a willingness to fail. Oh yes, fail—horribly. Over and over.

It’s a Lie

There’s a myth, a LIE, that creativity and artistic skill is something one is born with. It’s not true – though I believe some artists have remained silent because it makes the process somewhat mysterious, and therefore maybe more valuable? I think it does the opposite. I think that this myth devalues artists because a lot of people believe that the work we produce takes no effort… sort of like it’s magic or something. Or, that it isn’t ‘work’ at all.

This could not be farther from the truth. The worst effect of this belief is that many people give up on any creative urges they have.

Everyone is Creative

Everyone is creative, it’s a basic human trait. We are resourceful beings, problem solvers, and that is the basis for creativity. Some people are creative with cooking, or running a household, or dancing, music or how they parent, some have the urge to make things. All of these are creative endeavours. Anyone can learn the skills to draw or paint, or sculpt. If they want to—it’s not something you are born with.

I am amazed by how often people put themselves down, or compare themselves to others.

Don’t Buy Into It

Don’t buy into the myth, keep working at it. It’s not magic—it’s the willingness to be awful before you get better. It’s the willingness to learn a new skill. It’s about accepting that your vision is valuable, and how you express yourself is unique. It’s really about being your own best friend, and not your own worst critic.

Have you believed talent is something ‘others’ have or were born with? How has this myth held you back from doing what you want? Have you overcome it, how? Share in the comments…