Around the Block

You know how we all have those patches where we just cannot get moving.  It seems to apply to nearly everything, not just art and it happens to me more than I’d care to mention.  The desire is there!  The ideas are there!  The gear is there!  But not the impetus to actually start!

(The images in this Studio News are details from my latest paintings for an exhibition.)

At its worst it seems as though I will never paint again.  That might be an overstatement, but, honestly I’ve wondered at times whether my art has in fact run its race.  But then I think, “Nah, it’s been a lifelong interest!  It wouldn’t just up and leave me!  Would it?  What would replace it?  What would I do instead?”

My usual tack during these periods, apart from feeling in urgent need of help, is to nibble desperately at the edges of anything arty:  planning, reading, tidying the studio, looking at my sketchbooks, going to art activities, looking for inspiration in one of my art books and even doing housework type jobs that, in “better” times, would never be a priority!  Oh, and sometimes, in desperation, I ask Mr Google for ideas!  You might ask whether those things work and my immediate answer would be “No”.  Maybe something might help briefly, but these things don’t get me back to that exciting “I haven’t got enough time for art” space.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about why I’m having to push myself so much art-wise and why the good times just seem to come and go as they choose?  I know I’m not the only one who has this problem and it seems to me that following advice from others isn’t always the answer.  Us artistic types are distinctly peculiar individuals!  We’re all moved by different things.

As it happens, this week I’ve been following a series of daily sessions from “Art is Magic” by Galia Alena and other creators.  The series is based around “creative blocks” and what you might do about them.  So far, three days in, there are a couple of things that have resonated with me.

Galia talks about creative cycles/stages.  Although I knew things always seem to somehow “come right” I hadn’t thought about the possibility that the bane of my artistic life might actually be part of the creative cycle.  That would mean it probably wont go away! “But, I need to control it.”  That’s what we do in this day and age isn’t it?  Grab the problem by the horns and send it packing!  All well and good if it works!  But, how often should one have to repeat that blooming process?

It’s occurred to me that some study I’ve done around creativity points to what Galia says.  Being creative or artistic seems to have cycles or stages, developing as it moves along either at a cracking pace or so slowly you wonder if it has deserted you.

I have a book by Kyna Leski titled “The Storm of Creativity”.  It’s described by one reviewer as “A definitive guide to swimming through creative chaos”.  Yep, that about sums up the problem!  The book goes into some detail with explanations of the whole dynamic creative process, which is indeed a cycle or series of stages, starting, stopping, creeping along, going full steam ahead, resting, regrouping and starting over again. 

Most importantly, she mentions that these stages are not something we can plan or schedule, but an internal process that we go through.  Ah, yes…..  So, the creative process and, by default, the creator, are subject to these uncontrollable stages!….. The quiet times are what seems like a “block”!

Back to Galia.  She recommends using the “down times” to rest, regroup, refresh and, importantly, to remain open to whatever stage of the cycle you are in.  Not to pressure yourself or mope about cursing whatever is or isn’t happening.

Resting, regrouping and refreshing, she says, should not be forced (as Kyna states they can’t be).  They should leave you open to gathering and allowing room for new ideas to develop, for your mind and circumstances to show you what is next.  It’s like a spring clean, re-organisation and opening up of your internal creative space and it cannot be controlled.  You can’t expand and become creative if you are tight and stressed about not being creative!

I think I’ll relax and plan myself some no pressure, inviting, nurturing things (arty or not) to do in my next “slow” patch.  And, most importantly, I want to try not getting anxious and obsessed with the fact that my art mojo has deserted me!  It’s just resting, re-energising and regrouping.

Does this explanation of “artists’ block” as a stage of the creative cycle make sense to you?  I think it’s a helpful way to look at it.

Something different, here’s the view from the studio with one of my fans, Spook, looking in. She recently went to live with a short, dark and fluffy friend called Forest so I won’t have her company any more. It’s just our K9, Jessie, and myself now, when she chooses to visit the studio!

I’ve sorted out three paintings for submission to The Art Society of Tasmania’s Annual Exhibition in August. The detail images above are taken from them. I’m now busy sorting out frames and completing forms before the closing date in early August.

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A Devil in the Detail

This week I thought about how I often prefer the details and cropped portions of my paintings more than I like them as a whole!

I had forced myself to stop fiddling in the studio and just start painting …“because you should.”  When I stopped painting, I realised I certainly hadn’t created a masterpiece, but I did like this bit, that section and maybe this part. It’s been happening for ages now, just look at my Instagram.  So, what does it mean?

It means I had one of those “aha” moments as I was subsequently preparing some large sheets of paper with gesso.   Usually I cut them up then gesso them, but feeling both lazy and more efficient at the same time, I just did the whole sheet at once.  I’ll cut it later, I thought as I slapped on the gesso.

While casually gessoing it came to me. I know! ….. Just make a painting on the whole sheet! Find the good parts later. Then chop it up!  Such a simple idea, but it seemed like a revelation at the time.

I think it came to me as a result of a subscriber’s comment on my last Studio News, “Fiddling and Floundering About” where she recommended I work big.  My reply to her was that I could feel “big” lurking somewhere.  I’ve felt it for a while now, but not paid too much attention.

So I decided to start a couple of larger pieces based on a crop design that I’d found in an earlier painting (above).  Step one (below) seemed ok and I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

Stage two (above)!  Well, I wasn’t at all sure about this?  Waiting to see how I felt about it later seemed like a good idea.  What I’ve done doesn’t match up to my ideas or expectations.  (The story of an artists’ life!)

What next?  I thought I could see an interesting white shape to keep, so I started putting on more colour and doing a bit of drawing based on that. After realising that I was only fiddling about, I forced myself to stop! (Good heavens! I feel like an app on my phone. Force start, force stop!!??)

I’m still not excited about this one though.  Why is that I wonder?  I started this image the same way I do when I paint small, so, in theory, you’d think it could work.  I have heard it’s not that easy to “go big” though.

Looking at my colour mixes, I feel like there’s too much variety and they don’t work together as well as I’d like.  Yucky greens.

The shapes are interesting enough, yet they haven’t inspired me.  Is it the comparative shape sizes or the number of shapes in relation to each other and/or the format?

There are lots of mid values with some white and black.  I like the unsaturated version better than the coloured one, so, the values are not too bad, but, they could be designed better perhaps?

I don’t think the initial big black brush marks work design-wise.  They seem to cut through on top of the other shapes, taking over (especially in the saturated photo) rather than working as part of the whole.

My big question now is, do I persevere with this one, try to find some crops I could use or start again?

Perseverance seemed unbearable so I tried to find some nice crops, but could only find small ones. I think the fact that I couldn’t find anything larger is a sign that I should start afresh. It just ain’t “special” enough. No point flogging a dead horse!

So, what’s next!

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