Category Archives: painter’s block

Painter’s Block

As an artist do you ever get confused about what to paint? Do you ever get the painters version of writer’s block? I definitely find myself in this state from time to time. I’ll sometimes enjoy a season of great productivity. I know what I want to say and how I want to say it. It feels great. But it never seems to last for me for more than 6 months or so. I get stuck. How do you deal with this?

I guess I’m writing about this because I’m in one of those funky states right now. I really don’t want to paint what I’ve already painted. As a professional sometimes I need to do this anyway. We create a “product” that both the galleries and collectors want. They want to see more of those smashing pictures you did for your last show. But I have to confess: right now I don’t really give a crap what they want to see. I need some freshness. I need something to breathe life back into my work. I may eventually get back to the “old stuff” but right now I just can’t do it anymore. This is a not uncommon dilemma for many artists. When I’ve discussed this with my compatriots it seems it’s an all too familiar place in which to find oneself. So what do we do? What do I do?

Well…first and foremost, KEEP PAINTING. A short break may be in order. But don’t stay away too long. Keep painting. Keep moving. I have found I can’t get anywhere unless I stick to the path. Just keep going. Change the subject matter. Swap out some of your colors. Change your support. Try a new medium. But keep going. You can’t quit life. Life goes on. It’s the same for us creative types.

Do a master copy. See what you can learn from one of your favorite masters. This can take the pressure off you for a period of time to create something. In the meantime you may be picking up some valuable insights you may have lacked.

Sketch book. This can be so important. You don’t even need a subject. Just open it up and start making marks. Make some shapes. Draw something from your imagination. This can spark all kinds of ideas. I think for me it has been one of the most helpful things I’ve ever done to spark a new season of productivity. My sketch book always has lots of writing in it as well as images. I make notes. I write down ideas. Don’t underestimate the benefits of this tool.

Get inspired. Go to a museum, or a musical, or a movie, or… Put yourself somewhere where your creative juices can get stimulated. The beach. I don’t know. What I DON’T recommend is browsing images on the internet. For me this usually feeds self-doubt and negative comparison. I find this does not happen when I see paintings in real life. I don’t know why. Also, be open minded about what can inspire you. I’ve been inspired by just walking by our backyard vegetable garden and seeing the ripe tomatos. Try to keep your eyes open.

Paint with others. This can be helpful, as well as a hoot. I always enjoy the comaraderie of other artists in an open studio type session. I get energized talking with and working beside fellow artists. It’s great to hear their experiences, insights, grumbles, as well as their jokes. It sometimes sparks something. As painters we can often find ourselves too much alone. I know this is very true for me. So I sometimes have to be very active in making sure I hang out with other people. The open studio is a great place for me.

Be patient. If all else fails just be patient. You have the “creative gene” so to speak. You were made to make stuff. Don’t worry. Soon you’ll be back in the saddle. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Best wishes and happy painting!