How to keep going with your art

How to keep going with your art

Just keeping going

Some of you will know that I recently moved home and although we have moved to a beautiful house on a large site, we have actually downsized. This means that we are trying to go through all our ‘stuff’, get rid of what we really don’t need, which is probably most of it, and fit what’s left into a much smaller space.

boxes, boxes everywhere.

In terms of my art, nothing has happened at all. Nothing. All my art supplies are in boxes piled up in an outbuilding. Thankfully, there is heat in the building because all my paints and papers are out there, and they really don’t come cheap.

I don’t have a single sketch book, pencil and certainly no paint to hand and it is killing me. Mr. S is over the moon because it means I have to deal with all the boxes in the house and whilst we have started the process of getting a studio built for me, it is, as is always the case, taking far longer than expected.  I was sensible in that I moved all my artwork for exhibitions to a temporary location whilst we moved which meant that I was able to take part in a show a few weeks ago, but I didn’t think about putting some stuff aside to make, play, experiment or simply doodle.

It is a bit of a first world problem, I know, but making art does keep me sane. Making my leather journals has the same effect, too. Selecting the linings from my artwork, cutting the leather making the booklets and then sewing it all together is so rewarding. Emptying boxes isn’t. So, what am I going to do? How am I going to get my art fix and what can you do when you hit a brick wall?

Finding ourselves in this sort of situation is not unlike those times we artists all suffer from when we find we’ve hit a dry period. We start to lose faith in our ability to make work and we feel that everything we make is so amateurish we wonder why we ever bother.

Once we have dug that pit for ourselves trying to find a way back out can be really difficult. If you are a beginner or enjoy art as a hobby it can feel like you have wasted your time and you simply want to give up. If you make your living from art, finding yourself in this mind set is horrendous. You have bills to pay: what are you going to do?

Well firstly, Don’t Panic! It is not the end of the world, despite what Douglas Adams wrote*.  Panicking will only make things worse and use up valuable energy which would be far better used to solve the problem.

How best to approach this, though?  Well, try doing something very different to what you normally do. So, if you are a painter, try drawing, take a ceramics class, or knit a scarf for winter. Just do something creative. When we immerse ourselves in any creative act our brain is allowed to switch off from the problem and it will find a resolution for us all by itself.

One lady I know bakes when she gets stuck. She creates amazing floral paintings which she sells very successfully, and you wouldn’t think she ever has a problem creating work. She is no different to the rest of us. She gets stuck, she feels useless and inadequate, but baking reminds her that she has amazing skills. She decorates these cakes, feeds her family and during lockdown made hundreds (actually, probably thousands) of them for her local hospital. Creating cakes reminds her she can do it and donating them to the NHS made her realise what an incredible gift she has. A total win, win.

Another man I know is a portrait painter who always works from life rather than photographs. Lockdown put a stop to all his commissions and his income. His way of dealing with this was to take a sketchbook and his camera out with him every day and record the world around him. He lives in a big city so at the start of lockdown he felt uncomfortable spending too much time standing around sketching when the few people out and about around him were there simply for exercise so that was where the camera came into use.

He created a large number of urban artworks on a small scale and discovered a new interest in the world around him, too. He has produced a selection of prints, cards and original works which he markets under a different name, although his representative clearly support his new works and he managed to keep on top of his bills.

Talking to other artists and finding out how they deal with it when they get a block, can be useful and that doesn’t have to just be other painters. If you know a writer chat to them about how they cope with writer’s block, and the same goes for musicians, designers, dressmakers, chefs etc., etc.

12″x12″ playboard.

Every creative person has their own tips and tricks for getting back on track with their output. For me these days I normally just get out a few square panels and mess about with paint on them I will grab some pieces of A1 cartridge paper and start literally throwing paint at the paper. Many of the linings for my leather journals result from this paint on paper process. By simply doing and not thinking about what I am doing, something satisfying emerges and quite often sends me off in a new direction. However, if like me you have just moved and you can’t get at all your supplies, what are you going to do?

Well, I am going to go out a buy another couple of sketchbooks, some pencils and maybe a small watercolour set. That way I can work on a small scale, which is not something I normally do, and see where that takes me. There is always a solution. You just need to look at things from a different perspective and keep a very open mind.

*Douglas Adams, for those who don’t know, was an English author and screenwriter who wrote a number of brilliant books, The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy being the one I am referring to here. Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass (a kind of intergalactic motorway), Arthur Dent is plucked to safety by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the eponymous Guide who has been posing as an out of work actor. Together they begin a journey through space aided by the Guide, which has the words “Don’t Panic” printed on the cover. If you know it you may find this amusing, if you don’t I recommend you read it, or listen to the original BBC radio series. The TV and film versions don’t do it justice.

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