Sometimes we give up. It’s rare, but I think it’s safe to say that it happens to all of us who are creative. We get discouraged. But then something clicks and we snap out of it. As bad as those low points are, they push us toward the breakthroughs in our art making–the winning ideas, the sweet spots that we live for. I hit a funk recently with a project I’ve been working on for more than two years. For the first time since I began it, that voice (you know the one) tried to tell me that I didn’t have to complete it. No one was making me do it. No one else even cared if I finished it.
This was dangerous territory, and I knew I had to stop that voice dead in its tracks. I let the other part of my brain take over with the same motivating concepts that have gotten me this far. I know don’t have to complete the work for anyone else, but I’m going to, mostly for myself. (I may or may not have played theme songs from Rocky to get back into the swing of things.)
When starting on a project like an art journal, it often takes tools such as art prompts and inspiration to even get started. You have to let that momentum carry you through your project, but sometimes you need more help. I think it’s important that creatives support, encourage, and inspire one another to achieve our goals and get past the blocks. In that spirit, I’d like to share with you some words from Cate Prato, who addresses artist’s block. ~Cherie
Find Your Way Around a Block with Art Prompts and Diversions
by Cate Prato
My recent post about being afraid to make art lest I do it wrong elicited a strong response. Many readers commented on the blog and on Facebook, saying they felt the same way. Some agreed that art journaling for the sake of simply playing around and expressing themselves often releases their fear.
Today I’m going to talk about another kind of block: when you have gone down a creative path on a project and you’re disappointed with the results but can’t figure out how to fix it. This usually happens to me when I have a deadline. (And don’t I always have a deadline?)
When a block like this occurs, the first person to notice it is my inner critic.
“See? I knew weren’t creative enough.”
“You always go too far/don’t go far enough/use too much green/(fill in another criticism).”
“This is so bad. And now you’ve wasted more time. You’ll never fix it.”
I used to listen to my inner critic and keep banging away at the problem thinking I should be able to solve it through sheer force of will or intellect. Neither helped my creative blockage.
Now, I just give up. Temporarily.
Instead I do one of the following:
Walk away and do something else for anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of days, depending on the situation. (If my inner critic protests, I send her on vacation.) When I come back with fresh eyes, a solution often presents itself.
Go to project B. Many artists I know have several projects going on at once. Messing about with another ongoing project not only gives my mind a rest from the problems with the first one, but makes me feel like I am still making forward progress-because I am.
Attack the creative block in another way. Let’s say I am having trouble with color combinations. I know I need to add a third color to my composition, but if I keep adding paint or ink to my project, I’ll just muddy it up.
Instead, I can paint swatches on a piece of watercolor paper, let them dry, and then cut them up to arrange and rearrange them, mosaic-style, until the light bulb goes on.
Another idea is to make a color photocopy of the work so far, cut it up, and rearrange it to get a different perspective on the piece.
You could even pull out fabrics, paint chips, or objects around your house in the colors you’re considering and play until you see what works.
If you find a combination you like but isn’t necessarily useful for the project at hand, you can either snap a picture of it or make a duplicate (with fabrics, paint, or paper) that you can save it in your art journal to use as an art prompt another time.
These are my ways of getting past a creative block (and bypass your inner critic) using art prompts and art journal techniques.
For a more systematic (and also creative) approach, I recommend The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal: Mixed-Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic, by art coach and artist Quinn McDonald. You can never have too many art prompts or critic-silencers!
P.S. How do you work through a block? Share your tips below.