If there is 1 thing that can frighten an artist more than the critics’ reviews, it has got to be getting stuck in a Creative Rut.
Similar to a writer who sits in front of his typewriter looking at a blank sheet of paper (or a laptop with a blank Word document) with a blank mind, the artist who until now was painting away inspired to express thoughts and visions on his or her chosen canvas suddenly sees nothing.
Brush in hand, there are no strokes to color the canvas.
Even though I am a prolific artist who can paint for hours, I admit I have experienced moments when creativity has eluded me.
It is normal to experience ebbs and flows in our creativity but a creative rut is different. It lasts longer and is similar to a professional experiencing burnout.
Creativity and art require a harmonious environment but are not immune to the artist’s life outside of his or her studio. Artists are human too and don’t live in silos creating art like a factory line.
This means we too experience issues that affect our creativity – death in family, health, finances and other issues that can arrest our imagination while we focus on more immediate concerns.
When my spouse passed away, I didn’t touch my canvas or even think of painting for a year. What was there to paint? For sure I was encouraged by family and friends but I didn’t feel like it.
Then I was invited by an art director for a special event to mark the opening of a new cultural center. The director had curated a selection of artists who were invited to paint on tiles which would then be glazed and hung on the entrance wall of this center. It was a prestigious project.
The director knew my late husband and coaxed me to at least come and see. When I reached there, I thought I’d give it a try. It was challenging trying to get oil colors to stay in place on six 1 square foot tiles and my mind turned to solve the problem and before I knew it, I was painting!
More noted artists who were finding it equally difficult saw what I was doing and followed my example.
I came out of my creative rut and have never been stuck again although I can experience days when I don’t want to paint and I respect myself enough to let it go and do something different because I know The Muse is taking a break and so should I.
Lessons learned and tips to get out of the artistic impasse
Until then, I thought only writers suffered from this form of impasse but now I know it can happen to artists and sculptors too.
If that is your case, here are my 5 tips to make things better.
Be kind to yourself and take a break
Pushing yourself will only complicate things for you and the nicest thing you can do for yourself is accept that the inspiration is missing and it’s time to take a break and do other things instead of pushing yourself to work on your painting and creating something you don’t like.
This could be reading a book, playing with your dog or even going out with friends for lunch. Like shopping? Indulge in some retail therapy!
Be brave and try something different
I know it sounds contrary to my first tip but this might work like it did for me. Perhaps you’re bored or have outgrown your present medium. Maybe trying something different will work better.
Remember I told you about the tiles and seeing getting paint on them as a challenge to be solved?
Since then I’ve tried other surfaces too for a change and then return to my favorite oil on canvas with my friends the palette knives.
Go to other artists shows and visit art galleries
As artists, we tend to work in isolation when we have a community we can meet with. Every artist is unique and frequenting art shows by your community or even visiting an art gallery can uplift your spirits.
Exchange ideas and enjoy the art works. Isn’t it wonderful to admire art instead of being the one creating the art?
Use Positive Self-Talk to change your Mindset
It’s easy to become morose and think negative thoughts. You need to change the way you respond to your inner dialogue. Instead of obeying your negative commands, you can use positive self-talk to counter the negativity and overcome nearly all anxious thoughts.
Arrest any self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts that stop you in your tracks before you even get started with your artistic endeavor with positive self-talk.
Positive self-talk is an effective way to set goals and ensure that you stick to them, even if you have never been able to do this before.
The way this works is that you decide what goal is important to you, and then you plan the logistics of how you are going to attain this goal. When self-doubt starts kicking in, you will respond with affirmations that prove your success without surrendering to the negative pressure.
Since you’re reading this blog post, it’s clear that you’re no quitter and you’re certainly not a failure, so start believing in yourself!
One of the best ways I know to re-program our mind is to use affirmations.
Affirmations are essentially positive statements that re-program your mind for the positive. The moment you have a self-defeating thought you’d be able to counter the negative with a motivating statement.
An example of a positive affirmation is: “I am worthy of great success,” or “I see myself in the winner’s circle.” What this does is replace negativity with thoughts that will help you move toward your goals instead of further away from them.
Positive self-talk is easier to implement than you might think. You may not be aware of the severity of the negative dialogue currently within your mind. However, once you begin with positive self-talk, you will suddenly realize that you are self-sabotaging the goals you set for yourself from the minute that you make them.
This process can open your eyes to exactly how much this inner conversation has been interfering with your art and even your life. You’ll feel hopeful that you can now set goals and surpass them.
Learning to quiet negativity with positive thoughts is a great move toward setting and attaining future goals with ease.
Don’t give up
Know that this too shall pass and giving up is not an option. Instead, follow the above tips or talk to friends in your community for guidance in overcoming your artistic stagnation.
This happens to every artist at some point or the other and the onus is on you to move forward with confidence.
And when you have cleared this creative obstacle, you’ll be better placed to mentor the younger artists as well as peers who might be experiencing it too. No experience is ever wasted.