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How to Bounce Back from Painter's Block

July 1, 2014

Alternative art formWe've all heard of 'writer's block.' Painters struggle to overcome the same kind of difficulty.

When a painter can't be painting, what can s/he do?
Every artist faces setbacks that bring work to a standstill. The causes are different for each of us but all of us will experience at least one of these:

1. The 'aftershock' of your first success.

Your first solo exhibition leaves you with the anticlimax of its success.You fear you'll never be able to repeat that success. It was just a  fluke. You use any excuse to avoid getting back to the easel.
 
2. Relationship drama.
You've just met 'The One' or your heart is breaking over a lost love.
Your mind is fully occupied with images of the beloved one.
Nothing could be further from your thoughts than getting back to the easel.
 
3. Financial difficulties.
You've lost your 'day job' and now you struggle to pay the bills.
You need to spend all your time finding a new job.
Nothing could be further from your thoughts than getting back to the easel.

4. Deadline pressure.
You're short of the number of paintings you promised for your upcoming show.You worry the gallery will dump you but you're out of ideas for new work.
You mow the lawn or bake a cake rather than getting back to the easel.
 
5. Inclement weather.
( Don't laugh! This is serious for oil painters.)
You're desperate to get finished pictures varnished for your upcoming show.
You slump in front of the TV all day rather than getting back to the easel.

What's the solution?
I suggest a simple-sounding but powerful mantra that's guaranteed to keep you going until you're back at the easel. Gertrude Stein wrote the original version: 'a rose is a rose is a rose.' I've skewed it to suit our purpose as painters.

This is it : "an artist is an artist is an artist."

What does it mean?
A painter can use other art forms to keep the work fresh, for example, sketching or writing.

  • You can make quick sketches of your ideas for a new painting.

You can scribble a sketch of anything that catches your eye and inspires you.

Tape those sketches somewhere you're bound to see them, every day.

  • You can write notes on any flashes of insight you get for improving your art.

Keep a small notepad and pen in your pocket or purse.
Keep another in the bedroom, the kitchen, the office, anywhere you frequent.

How will it help?
Every serious artist is a "genius" at some times and a "no-hoper" at others.
When the 'genius' moment strikes, you may be unable to take up brush and paints but you can always make a sketch or a written note.

TIP: go into your studio every single day. Even if it's only for 10 minutes. Before you leave for your 'day job' or a date with the 'One,' walk into that space you call Studio. Take a deep breath, reminding yourself of the truth -  you are an artist, no matter what.©Dorothy Gauvin

EXTRA: you can see some of the scribbled notes and sketches I made during last year's frustrating wait to get back to actual wielding of the brush.

 

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