How many times does an artist stare down at that blank piece of paper thinking “What on earth do I paint – Where do I put my first mark?” More often than you would imagine! It happens to all creative people actually, from visual artists, designers, poets, through to musicians and writers.
When this situation arises, you are in the grip of creative block. When you wrack your brains to come up with ideas but just can’t seem to. There may be contributing factors to this state, such as tiredness, depression, environmental, physiological or psychological issues. On the other hand you could just be experiencing a period of simple low creativity.
When this happens there are a few things you can do to restore your creativity levels at will, however what you must not do is worry or fret about it. If the worst comes to the worse and you don’t seem to be able to produce any work, simply regard the period as a ‘holiday’ or a rest. Your creativity level WILL rise again. In the meantime, utilise the time spent not creating to do positive things anyway.
Research other artists’ work. Visit galleries or surf the net and see what other people are doing. Join artists’ chat rooms or visit message boards or forums where you can exchange ideas and views with other artists. Just talking to other creative people can give you a real buzz! You might even make some new friends in the process.
Spend the time you are not actually producing art, by increasing your marketing efforts. Send postcards to galleries, research upcoming local art fairs or events where you could possibly take a booth to sell your art. Have some leaflets or brochures printed up all about yourself and your work. Take a couple of days out of your schedule and do a local neighbourhood leaflet drop.
Update your website or online portfolio. You may think it’s already perfect but it’s not often that things can’t be improved or sharpened in some way. Update your artist’s statement; put new ‘zing’ into your descriptions.
If you really can’t face doing anything concerning your own artwork, visit the theatre, go to a pop concert, browse local museums. Go to a restaurant or coffee bar with friends and have a (non art related) natter.
Use the time to take a complete break, if this is what works best for you. You will instinctively know when the time is right to ‘go back’ to your art. When this happens there are lots of techniques you can use to get back into the swing of high creativity.
Once you are ready to start working again you will know it instinctively. All artists go through periods of ‘creative block’ – it’s normal, but after one such episode there are ways of stimulating ideas and getting the creative juices flowing again.
Visit your local library and take out books that cover materials, techniques and subjects that are not familiar to you. If you are a watercolour artist, why not try oils for once? If you paint large acrylic abstracts, would it be possible to try soft pastels on a smaller scale? What results could you achieve by doing something completely different to what you’re used to?
What about trying collage or mixed media work? Take photos of your neighbourhood, family or friends. Local places of interest, the countryside, the seashore, the city. Manipulate your photos on your PC and print out as digital art. Use the images, either natural or manipulated as collage pieces. It is so therapeutic cutting pieces and sticking them down. Use a range of materials to finish your work.
Instead of going straight back to paintings or drawings on normal scale, why not create some miniature pieces? How about greetings cards? White card ‘blanks’ are very easy to source. How delighted family, friends or customers would be to own an unique hand painted card.
Try drawing for once instead of painting, if that’s your usual medium, or vice versa. Fill a sketchbook with small quick sketches. You could even time yourself. Three or five minutes maximum for each sketch.
When you’re ready to go full size again, try loosening up your technique, by again setting a time limit for each piece of work you create. With a deadline to meet, you will speed up and loosen up. Try not to be precious with your art. Be quick and bold – see what happens.
Paint upside down. Start a new piece, then half way through turn the paper or canvas round 90 degrees. This is a great technique for abstracts. Use new colours – let them flow into each other. Splatter colours onto the wet surface. If you like, you could turn the work once more to finish. What a great way to create ‘happy accidents’.
Paint or draw to music. Use only your emotion to make marks on the surface of your support. Play your favourite rock, pop or classical music, let the melodies and rhythms wash over you, influencing how your artwork evolves. I often paint to ‘Smile’ by Brian Wilson …. and boy do I get inspired!
What about painting left handed if you’re a right-hander and vice versa. Trying to do a representational work with your weakest side will produce art that is still yours, but will have a completely different edge to it. Challenging and great fun to do … if you have the discipline!
Finally, once you get back into full flow, remind yourself of all the artwork you have created successfully. How appreciated you are by your customers. Read their testimonials. Feel that glow again, when you realise that your creativity block was only temporary and that there are fans out there just waiting for you to release some wonderful new artwork into the arena.
Gail Miller is a professional artist whose artwork is a visual feast of colour and fun. Her fascination with bold colours and fluid, expressive shapes and line are evident in funky abstracts, sinuous nudes, vibrant still life paintings and lively townscapes. Visit her website at http://www.gailmiller.com