Saturday, November 15, 2008

Painter's Block?


You do hear a lot about writer's block but not much about painter's block but surely any creative activity must be subject at times to the lack of flow. Why else would the Greeks have talked so much about muses for various arts. I began my musings about this crisis on my 360 blog and figured I would go into greater depth here on the subject.

I have been in a painter's block for about three to four weeks. In a flurry of inspiration I began work on three new paintings back then. All three were departures on one level or another from my general subjects and for a while I blamed that for my stagnation on finishing them. But in and around the same time I enjoyed the sale of seven of my paintings. Seven! Not huge paintings but still seven! Nothing is quite as scary as success, and that seems to be true even in small spurts.

Clearly I needed to replace these seven paintings before my Thanksgiving weekend show. And I already had three begun. Piece of cake, huh? But I just stared at those three paintings up on their little ledges for work in progress over my painting desk. I even took to actively avoiding them. Doing anything but painting - even cleaning the house, rearranging the plants in the studio to allow for a Christmas tree, spending time looking for my Christmas tree stand unused for 10 years, cleaned up my computer desk and arranged my new library table, put up snow fence, built a woodshed, cut up scrap wood for kindling . . . well, practically anything but complete those three paintings.

The muse had checked out. Left the country. Stranded me in my beautiful studio.

Then a fictional character in a novel I have been reading (did I mention reading was one of my avoidance methods?) says that they felt there was no such thing as writer's block. It was merely fear. And that fear was ever more present after success whether public or private as in turning our a great chapter. Was that what was at play with my painting? This fictional character's prescription was to just do it and keep judgment out of the process.

Thursday I decided to give it a try. Tentatively I began with three new sketches and their enlargement for available canvases, ordered frames optimistically for those that would require them when finished and began painting again on two of the three long awaiting my brush. And tried to pay attention to the monkeys playing in my mind while not letting them stop the process.

Yes, for me fear of not being "good enough" or up to the standards of the seven that sold was in the background. And whether I was selling out and producing just proven work or moving forward on an evolving surrealistic style. That was something I never was concerned about before. It was part and parcel of painting for me, but now there is also this need to paint for them. Them being the people that have bought my work or just appreciate it.

So yesterday much progress was made on the three new paintings. Two of the old ones are reading to sign and seal. Today I am looking forward to getting back to work in the studio; monkeys or no monkeys.

Do you get painter's block? And what works for you?

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