Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Painter's Block

I have got Painter’s Block and I need help.  It’s my own fault; a self-inflicted injury. I stopped painting to study design of composition.  Then when I finally had a personal breakthrough, finding a compositional framework that worked for me, I found that I had difficulty in painting.  Not from lack of ideas but the actual act of painting.  I’ve had this blocked for a couple of years now.  I still paint, but nowhere as often or anywhere in the number of finished pieces I use to produce.

A number of changes in personal circumstance attenuated my Painter’s block. As Spring approached, I decided to find out if I could solve this problem and regain my mojo for painting. I Googled ‘painters block’ and uncovered some hints that helped me.

Robert Genn in “Fighting Painter’s block” said; “you have to try to figure out which species of block is getting to you”.  He described a number of different types of blocks you may encounter.

fear of failure after previous success: This one doesn’t appear to apply to me. The little I do paint is as good or better than previous paintings.  No fear of failure there.  Jill, my SO, agrees, particularly my use of colour which she thinks I have a totally new take on it.

fear of success due to a sense of unworthiness: This may be close in regards to unworthiness but it’s not on target regarding fear of success.  Elsewhere on the Internet I found a discussion of unworthiness in regards to self-doubt.  The suggestion was to write down one's self-doubts and feelings of unworthiness. Did that help?  In my case, it did.  Exploring Painter’s Block and writing about my own experiences of my own block helped to get me painting again.  If you have an artistic block of any sort, try writing about it and analyse your own blocking agents.  It helped me. Writing about your block can/may help you.

lack of potential venue: What?  I’m not worried about displaying the few paintings I have recently painted.  I just want to paint again.

jaded attitude:  Yes! It’s an attitude problem, but I don’t think I’m jaded but then...
jaded  adjective:  tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something.  Lacking enthusiasm to paint.  Yes that is close to the point but not from having had too much painting.  I’ve had far too little.

crisis of confidence:  No!  From the little I paint, I’ve still know how and can produce if I can get started.  Getting started is part of my problem.  Even the mechanics of starting a painting is a problem for me and most of my materials are out and ready to hand.  I just have to walk into my study, pick them up and start.

evidence of persistent poor quality:  No also to this block!  People like what I paint. I like what I paint.  Quality may not be show-winner but is a damn site better than the average hobby painter from what I have seen locally at a number of different venues and online forums.

lackadaisical motivation:  lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy.  Yes, lacking enthusiasm to paint and determination to get back and create and I guess I am lazy. No cancel that.  I am lazy.  Note to self:  You are not getting any younger.  Just get on and paint!

common everyday shortage of ideas: No problem here as I have far too many ideas to paint all of them in this lifetime.  My imagination has always exceeded my grasp and ability to execute.  I can recall trying to paint a tile-hot plate for my mother when I was 5 or so. I think it was Kindergarden but it may have been First grade.  I recall wanting to paint a sailboat, a cutter, under full sail.  What i painted was a child’s boat with sails and a smoke stack. A horrible mess that finally got lost in one of the many house moves we experienced before I finished high school. Never had a lack of ideas of things to draw or paint.

over intellectualizing:  We know so much and have learned so much but it doesn't come off the brush.  I have my doubts as to this being the root of my problems.  When I decide I need to apply my compositional framework and development methods it works.  My chances of success are better than any previous methods I have used but the passion comes from the application of paint.

Personal problems.  Creativity demands focus and it’s hard to concentrate if you’re getting divorced, dealing with toddlers, battling an addiction, falling out with your best friend, grieving someone special, moving house, locked in a dispute with a neighbor.

Yes! A 3 year legal battle for my SO to gain access to her grandson.  Emotional stress of coping with my SO’s son and his demands and rants.  House hunting and then I have the problem with SO being a negative muse.  There!  I’ve said it. Having said it, just today, she asked me to dig through some of my old paintings. I can’t remember why.  She found one of my failures and wants it framed! Not only framed, but she specified the colour of the mat! Then she saw #1 of my tree series; the Skeleton Tree and also wants it framed.  This negative-positive muse is going to be tough to work with and I realize that I am going to have to work with my SO as there doesn’t seem to be an alternative solution.

Along with all my stress related problems, there is one I didn’t mention.  I’m an Internet Addict. I need a 12 point plan to temper my addiction.  I managed it with alcohol.  Not reason I can’t control my Internet Addiction.

I’m not just talking about money, although a lack of cash is a perennial problem for creatives. You could also be time-poor, knowledge-poor, have a threadbare network, or be short of equipment or other things you need to get the job done.

I’m time poor and I have a non-existent Artists network.  Maybe it’s time to join a local arts society and attend their monthly meetings.

This one has two possible solutions: either save up the time/money/or other resources you need; or make a virtue of necessity and set yourself the creative challenge of achieving as much as possible within the constraints you have.

Saving up time?  You must be kidding.  That’s impossible.  Once the hour is past, there is no going back a re-living it.  It’s gone forever.  This made me realize that I was going to need to change my painting schedule.  When ms SO was still teaching, I had a 6-8 hour window each day to do as I pleased with zero distractions.  I’m not going to get that back.  I will have to work-paint within the constraints I have, and that may be doing the design and layout work on the kitchen peninsula downstairs and not in my ‘study’ or painting small passages where I can break off after a couple of minutes if necessary.

Overwhelm.Sometimes a block comes from having too much, not too little. You have too many great ideas.  … If you suffer from information overload, start blocking off downtime or focused work time in your schedule.

My creative vision and always exceed my ability to portray it.  I may be over intellectualizing but the alternative to having too many ideas seems to be an artistic dead end that should be avoided at all costs.  It only becomes a problem if I let it be the reason I’m not painting.  I don’t think it would be healthy to try and block or in anyway limit one’s creative vision.  It’s a distraction that I’m happy to live with.

Ignore uninformed feedback. Not everyone is equally qualified to serve as a judge of your work. Carefully select a knowledgeable instructor, a sensitive and experienced art appreciator, or another artist who shares your artistic viewpoint. The list won’t always include your spouse or best friend!

In the case of my SO, a single utterance can pronounce a death sentence on one of my paintings that is under development.  Even when she likes what she sees, her comments are not always helpful: “You should more of colour XYZZY in that painting”.  If I did, it wouldn’t be the painting I wanted to paint.  I just have to take the hit, pause for the pain to recede, and carry on painting my vision.

Limiting who you choose to take advice and criticism from may sound self-serving in that you only pick people who say kind things about art.  Not!  You are looking for critical advice to help grow.  Sugar coated comments will not help in this endeavour.  Then again overtly harsh comments art not beneficial.  Critical comments that point out weaknesses in your painting show where you have to improve and praise from the same source strengthen your resolve to continue painting.

One piece of advice that known to work is persistence.  Once you start to paint again, you feel that you can continue to paint.  Look for a visit by the dual muses, Passion and Excitement.  The more you paint the more you want to paint. Nothing succeeds like success.  This is where the magic of persistence kicks in. Nether reading about painting, thinking about painting, talking about painting nor staring at a blank canvas can overcome Painter’s Block.  You have to pick up a brush and paint. Painting will rekindle the Excitement and Passion you had about painting.