Saturday, 31 July 2010
6 Tips for overcoming 'Artists' Block'
I'm fortunate in that I rarely suffer from 'artists' block' but I do experience occasional lapses in confidence, which probably amounts to the same thing. And when it happens, it can be devastating! Fear of not being able to achieve the desired result probably underlies all such lapses or blocks and it is possibly the root of what we perceive as 'lack of inspiration' as well. So here are a few tips that I've found handy for getting myself past such situations.
Turning off the part of your brain that judges and criticises.
Common to all the following suggestions is finding and using the antidote to that fear - fostering the thought or feeling that the end result is unimportant. It's the fun of the process that matters. Once you can get yourself into that way of thinking, the pressure is off and 'flow' replaces it. I find that listening to music or even (sort of!) watching television helps me to silence those undermining thoughts about success or failure, that are not really at all relevant but which are keeping you stuck.
Some practical tips and wrinkles
Sometimes the worry about wasting expensive art materials can be an obstacle to experimenting so get around that by using cheap paper - I do all my initial sketches with an ordinary non-stop pencil on the backs of sheets of used typing paper! Children's crayons and powder paints - especially when mixed with washing up liquid! - are relatively cheap and effective in the following 'free-ing-up' exercise.
1. Doodle. Yes, most of us doodle at some point, while talking on the phone or in a boring meeting. Remember the covers of those exercise books you happily covered in doodles at school? Some of our doodles will be abstract shapes but some of them will take on a recognisable form. Doodle whilst watching television and once you notice that your doodle is turning into a 'something', develop it, simply for the fun of it!
2. Try a different medium, the further removed from what you normally use the better. It may just be that you have become so comfortable with your familiar medium that you've become stale. Experiment, remembering that it doesn't matter if your first attempts are disappointing - you can't expect to handle a completely different medium perfectly immediately. For the moment, it's all about exploration and discovery. And the bonus is that you'll probably find your usual medium so easy to handle when you return to it!
3. Explore a different subject matter. If you normally paint landscapes, try a portrait. If your work so far has been confined to meticulous plant drawings, experiment with wild seascapes from your imagination. Don't think about it as important, just do it for the fun of trying something new! You are not wasting any more time than you would be if you just continued in your 'stuckness'.
4. Practise your drawing - just for the sake of improving it, rather than for a specific project. If you're stuck for ideas of what to draw, just open up a magazine or newspaper and draw whatever you find
there! This one was from a magazine -
5. Copy another artist's painting. This may sound like a very strange idea and it's something I always wondered about when I saw art students copying the masterpieces in Norwich Castle Museum Gallery - until I had a go myself! Artists have always done it and it's a great way to improve both your skills and your confidence.
6. Use the power of your imagination to trick your judging mind. If you have a project that you really must get on with, but are feeling 'stuck' with, it may help to tap into your imagination and pretend that you are doing it for someone who never fails to be enthusiastic and encouraging about your work. (I've realised with hindsight that, at school, I used this technique to surprise everyone with exam results that were far better than my classwork!)
Next week, I'll post some demonstrations of 'free-ing-up exercises' that I've found helpful. But the most important thing to remember is that you need to let go of 'destination consciousness', ie thinking and worrying about the end result, and 'just DO it'!
If anyone has other suggestions they'd like to share, please leave them in the comments box.