I think some of the biggest bursts of creativity and artistic growth I’ve had are usually preceded by a big creative block. — Ashley Goldberg
I give myself permission to just make for the sake of making without any thought to the outcome, which can be surprisingly hard. … What I would tell my younger self is this: There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there — just get to work and make something. — Lisa Golightly
Above: Shelter in Place, mixed media collage on antique book cover, 9 x 6 in
Right: Everyone Will Be Tested, mixed media collage on vintage book cover, 17 x 11 in
Both of these have been changed slightly from when they were originally shown.
Back in May, I wrote about the negative effect the pandemic was having on my creativity. I just couldn’t seem to finish anything. I’d have an idea, and start the piece pretty strongly. But then, a huge wave of fear and indecision would overcome me. I simply could not move forward, and was feeling pretty frustrated.
Now what? This piece stayed in the drawer for a looooong time!
Of course, perfectionism played a big part in this. I wrote about it in this post. My problem was, I would get to a point where I felt the piece should/could be better, but how? I didn’t want to do the same old boring things I’d done before. And because I didn’t know how to make them better, I’d put them aside. Before too long, I had a drawer full of unfinished work.
So, how did I get out of my creative block? I wish I had a simple answer for you, but I don’t. However, there were a couple of things I did that seemed to help.
First, I allowed myself to express my emotions through my art. It was very cathartic to make work about my fears and angst, rather than to suppress it or ignore it. This resulted in the first finished pieces I made during that time, which were included in the Art in the Time of Corona online exhibition.
Time to Put On Your Big Girl Pants, collage on vintage book cover, 7 x 9.5 in
The troublesome parts of our work, the parts that are most baffling and frustrating, are in fact the growing edges. — Stephen Nachmanovitch
The Growing Edges
Secondly, I consciously kept experimenting with new ways of working, even if I wasn’t making finished work. It’s hard for me to explain what I mean by this in a concrete way, but maybe I can give you an example.
For instance, I decided I wanted to try blending two faces so that they looked as if they were woven together. I looked at it as “practice” so as not to put pressure on myself. I also practiced playing with positive/negative space in ways I’d never tried before. Finding new ways to work was uncomfortable at first, but ultimately led to growth. Finally, some of these “experiments” began turning into finished collages.
In Memorium, mixed media collage on antique book cover, 12.5 x 9 in
Falling in Love
“I think it’s important to continually fall in love with your work. Enjoy and feel pride in your progress, no matter how small. Remind yourself of why you’re doing this—and if there isn’t an inspiring reason, maybe something has to change.”
If I’m bored with what I’m doing, it’s impossible to be inspired. It’s time to explore those “growing edges”, and fall in love with my work again.
Once We Were Goddesses, mixed media collage on vintage book cover, 17 x 12.5 in
Yes, I even finished this one! Are they all perfect? No. But at least I can now finish something, accept it as it is, and move on. And best of all, I learn something from making each one. That’s got to count in the plus column, right?
What do you do when faced with artist’s block? Any tips or advice you can share?
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” – Ray Bradbury