Ever been in a "funk" and cant paint? If youre very serious about your painting (vs. doing it once in a while for fun) you know that "da funk" can really rattle you. Sometimes it hits you out of nowhere and sometimes it comes at other more predictable times.
Lets look at what causes it, and i'll give you some tips to get you going again.
First lets look at some things that cause "da funk". One is sheer burnout. Lets say you've been working on a series of paintings or an event (like a show) that either took a long time to complete, or took alot out of you (creatively and/or physically). For this symptom the remedy is to take a few days off. Sounds crazy but nothing but rest will get you jazzed again. You just dont have any steam left. Those few days off will give your Muse time to recover and when it does, it will begin to let you know by stirring those desires to paint again. Trust me, this happens to me all the time, and i think it happens to every artist (including me) just after delivering a show. There's such a feeling of let down and it can put the kabosh on your creative energy.
The second thing that can zap your Muse is a personal crisis or anything else that you're thinking about as much as you used to think about finding a painting. You just have to realize that sometimes life just gets in the way. Lets say you just got a bad diagnosis from the doctor, or youre spending night and day taking care of an elderly parent. The mind doesnt have time or desire to be creative. That makes sense right? But why are we so frustrated when it happens? We have to let these things run their course and when they do, you'll find yourself wanting to sling that paint again.
Now for a few ideas on getting that creativity jumpstarted. I've heard of still life painters going out to buy new still life props at the thrift stores, and i can see that working. Theyre getting interested in some new things to paint. As a plein air landscape painter, when i get bored i like to travel to a different city or region of the country to paint and this gets me going again. i usually do this at least four or five times a year to keep things interesting.
So the next time youre not feeling it, do one of two things. Rest and really dont worry about it (the urge to paint will return) or get up and find something that really makes your motor run, and then go paint it.
And then like Jack Nicholson, you'll be saying, " I'm Baaaaccckkk!"
There's another dynamic as well -- the feeling that you're not doing anything constructive, just playing. The US schools treat art either as part of recess or as marginal and therefore to be jettisoned when money is tight.
Current productivity is almost 100% expressed either in computer science terms or engineering terms. Only a few educators know the value of experiencing art, that it helps you to arrange the emotional patterns in your life.
As for jump-starting - when I was doing pottery, I delved into Southwestern native pottery and weaving. Artists in those traditions speak of having designs and subjects come to them in dreams.
There's some evidence that what's meant is less our conventional dreaming than the period just before you fall asleep, which can be an amazing time to imagine and rekindle positive times in your past, moments when you've actually accomplished something. It's akin to the sports technique of visualizing responses to game situations or, imagining the perfect swing of the bat. It can be quite inspirational.
After having gone through the 'bad diagnosis' thing last fall & an injury in winter- I hear ya! And it wasn't til I got on 'the other side' of this that I realized that just 'getting through it' was all I really needed to do. The art would be there..and come back bubbling over.
Gehman's got a good point, too- if we get it in our head (from our early education experience) that art is fluff....it makes the situation tougher to bear. Our fellow artists become our best advocates- Thanks Mike!- and welcome back!!!!
dave and roxanne- great points and since we've all gone thru it at some point we can sympathize with others going thru it right? thanks for the input
Been there with the burnout! I seem to cycle through periods of intense production/creativity and then it all seems to desert me. Its happened enough that I know it will cycle through but its still worrying sometimes when I can't work for awhile.
I try to not let my moods dictate my work. This works nearly all of the time. If I do not feel like painting, I sit down and start anyway, then feeling good about painting and click into happy right brain mode. "Perky" is not required to paint.
I guess I do not cycle to burn out, that would be a rarity for me; I try to switch things up. I multi task oils, acrylics, gouache and watercolor on top of drawing. If I need a break on painting, I can go to various printmaking media, video editing, photography, digital media, writing and crafty crafter stuff like beadweaving. I will do something mechanical, rhythmic, manual: like knitting or sewing.
If I am having a crisis or higher levels of stress, then creativity is comforting and empowering to me and I am working as much or more in art than if things were just okay. That may be a PTSD / Anxiety Disorder issue for me on top of a personality trait.
If I am dropping back and resting from painting, it is to contemplate; so I go to reading, books, documentaries, other media, galleries and museums to refill my brain with stuff. :) For me, painting is about thinking about things.
I try to work on multiple projects, I can switch off to a different painting in the current stream of works if I want to.
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