I love this topic.
But I think there is another side to the conversation of creative blocks that doesn’t get mentioned. Maybe because it’s not about free creative expression and letting your brush work the canvas without a care or thought. Its logical. Its creation, but its not whimsical or freedom. I am talking about when your physical capabilities block the way you want your art to look. The subject of creative blocks and physical capabilities are intertwined but worlds apart.
I don’t get creative blocks. I may have a day once in a blue moon where my paintings don’t come together as they usually would, or writing doesn’t flow out onto a keyboard like it often does. In fact I am so heavily flooded with ideas that I sometimes worry that I won’t have enough hours in my lifetime to create all the things I want to. I do understand creative blocks though, because I used to experience them in a way that symptomatically showed itself as frustration at life. I know many people who feel intimidated by a blank canvas. Many people worry they can’t fill it in a way they want, or worry they’ll mess it up once they start. Sometimes people feel uninspired. Staying in an inspired space enough to see ideas through from start to finish, from thought to physical finished manifestation is tough, and it takes a lot of mind power. We live in a world that often dulls and does not support our creative senses, almost discouraging expression and instead saturating us with a way of life we are told to be living. Advertisements, social media, algorithms. We are shown what to like and are rarely encouraged to go out in the world and find what we enjoy by action. To me, creative blocks can be overcome by action in any sense. Grabbing a paint brush and doing just about anything. Maybe you’ll find texture that inspires a whole collection. Tap out some sentences on a keyboard and maybe you’ll run into a subject that spills out and could potentially become the basis of a novel.
But what about the block that is physical capabilities? We see our favourite artists and are so inspired by their work that we want to create similar effects. We put brush to canvas and its just not the same… Then you give up. All of a sudden the practice of creating isn’t freeing, or channeling your soul, its just failure to create the effect you want. Over and over.
I have had hundreds of messages from tormented artists who want to create certain styles but can’t seem to execute it the way they want! This frustration really resonates with me, in that whenever I turn up to a new painting to challenge myself, I am initially left feeling disappointed with my efforts. I counter balance this with the simple notion of ‘action.’ Action in any form, towards my art work is all practice. Any mistakes made are learnt from, any failures are built upon. By accepting that I cannot get to where I need to be without mistakes and failures as steps to take me higher, then the frustration of the hear and now turns into the will to make it work! When you set the end goal aside, and enjoy the process of learning about your art you will find it all changes. It might even take a different direction, but you’ll end up at the right destination.
A simple sketch, grabbing a paint brush and throwing any colours around, typing any words until something coherent turns up… These are just a few actions that I take to kick start any creative block, or to work on when I feel I can’t physically create what I want to! As long as I look back and learn something from it, then its better than giving up or doing absolutely nothing!
But most importantly…
Trying to stay present is my saviour in the scenario of a painting not working out. I assess why I need it to look a certain way, and what I’m compromising by being so strict with myself on the finished effect. What if my capabilities do not allow for the vision I had? Well to get there maybe it will take years of practice? So what can I do right now? The answer is just to take the piece, relax, and start having fun with it. Maybe I can’t make it perfect, and if I tried it would never be finished. But if the finished effect isn’t a mirror image of the painting I had in mind, then the effort and energy I put into it needs to come from a positive place. My personal trick to my paintings, is that I enjoy them. They get difficult at times, or might not flow easily, but if I didn’t enjoy it they look stiff and inauthentic. When my attitude as I approach the canvas is just to enjoy the process, the outcome is everything I desired and more, even if it looks worlds away from my vision!
I have so many tips, and exercises that awaken my creativity and help me take inspired action. Im currently figuring out a way to share all of this online once it has been compiled, in the form of a course, book website etc.
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That last paragraph what exactly what I’ve needed to hear! Before this year I had the desire but not the time to do art, so I stepped away from my full-time job, but realized with now having the time to do art came the paralyzing fear of “why doesn’t it look the way I wanted?” Your article was a MUCH needed reminder that perfection is impossible, but what is attainable is practicing more and more, but most of all, enjoying your art. <- I'd never thought of that last point, because if I'm painting 8 hours a day but hating it, how is that any different from the accounting job I just left?!? Thanks for your amazing thoughts, please keep sharing!!
Thank you so much for your reply, I write a lot of rambley art thoughts, but to know that this one resonated with someone means the world x