As many of you probably already know, Carol Marine started the very successful Daily Paintworks. Part of it has a section called ArtBytes which are tutorials in very small pieces on various topics. I recently submitted to one on Artists Blocks. click here to read mine along with a few other artists. I also included mine right here.
Mini Blocks and Major Blocks
I get mini blocks that last a couple of hours and also get major ones that can last weeks or months (all feel like infinity). When I feel it in my head, there are certain immediate tricks that I resort to. When I feel it in my bones (just a dead, tired feeling), I know it’s a major block and I rely on other methods to get myself out of it.
First thing is to recognize what’s happening. This can be the most difficult part. I can spend a week not knowing that I haven’t been painting, but doing chores instead. I was spending too much time avoiding the work that needs to be done to get back to work!
Once I find myself thinking, “I’m just not interested in painting anymore.” “There’s nothing left to paint.” “Everyone else is so much better.” I know I’m facing a major block!
The next thing to recognize is that it’s ok. It’s natural to be tired. It’s how the artistic process works. You let out, then you need to fill up. Sounds like breathing!
I have found some things that will help this healing process along:
•Go for a massage. (I put this first, cause it’s my favorite!)
•Go for acupuncture. (This gets the energy unblocked just like a massage.)
•Take a short trip. (The older I get, the less I do this one.)
•Take a workshop. (Ditto.)
•Watch a DVD (I like to keep one on hand to watch for the first time when I’m feeling blocked.)
•Read a technique book. (You could read one of mine! :) Watercolor Harmony or Oil Painting Harmony.
*Read an inspirational book or one on being blocked- lots of good ones out there. I recommend The Artist’s Way.)
While I’m doing this I tell myself that I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else. We are all on our own trip. When I was about to teach my first workshop and was very nervous, the workshop coordinator gently told me that I was simply teaching my way of doing art. No one was going to say I did it the wrong way. The same is true of painting. This took away all the self-judging and allowed me to be myself.
If I don’t have that tired to the bone feeling, I use a different strategy to counteract a mini-block. You could use these tricks when you feel like you’re having a mini-block;
•Keep your check book near your work table so you can have a reason for sitting at the place where you do your painting. You’re there because you need to write a check to so and so, but then you might find your mind wandering to your work! And then, before you know it, you’ll be painting!
•Break it down! By that I mean, don’t think that you have to do a masterpiece. (I don’t even like to think it has to be a good painting. For me, the best frame of mind is when I’m thinking, I want to be a better painter; I’m going to try this today.)
•Give yourself a small task to finish. For me, it’s usually this; “Joyce, just set up the still life.” or even smaller is, “ Just go out and get a good looking onion to paint!
•Write yourself a permission slip saying that you have time to do something for yourself. You can be specific or very general. Mine usually say, “ I give Joyce Washor permission to spend the entire day painting her still life in either watercolor or oil without having to have a finished product at the end of the day”. We all need playtime and sometimes we even have to give ourselves permission to be an artist. So be it! This permission slip can be from your parents, teacher, spiritual leader or spouse! I’ve used them all! The idea is that you are allowed to be yourself without any commitments. (Wouldn’t it be great to be able to work this way all the time?) I see this as the best vacation ever! Then sign the slip using “the authority’s” name.You are now officially free to paint!
I once told my therapist that I’m glad I wrote a book so that I’d be able to read it when I can’t remember how to paint. He said that he knew I wouldn’t be able to forget even if I wanted to! (I’m still glad I can refer to my books if I ever need to; how’s that for knowing it’s inevitable that I will experience another major block!) Of course, the thing to know is that you will always get back to painting. It’s just hard to remember when we are trying to get back to who we are!