In the spirit of transparency, I have to admit that this week was not my most productive in getting in more creative office hours. There are multiple factors to blame, such as the cabin fever that comes the second the temperature hits above 50 degrees, and the swift uptick in reasons to be outside and socialble. However, I'm suffering a creative block with finishing the last painting of my South Dakota series. I've done what I always kick myself for doing, which is be pleased with an initial paint through, then I begin to add on, then second guess myself, and then begin mucking up the colors, which can happen all too easily with oils.
Creative blocks are something every creative gets all too familiar with. One of my favorite artists / curators / writers Danielle Krysa from The Jealous Curator blog and podcast dedicated her very first book on this phenomenon Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists. Her book exposed that there are a variety of ways to remove creative blocks, from briefly walking away from a project, trying a new medium, or starting a new activity that takes you out of your comfort zone. Below are some common contributors to creative blocks, and some ideas on how to combat them:
Finding the right space can be a challenge, especially if you can't afford to pay a second rent for a studio outside of your home. For a long time, I would paint on my desk in either my bedroom or a corner of the living room. However, three factors kept me from feeling completely focused: bad light, little space, and distractions aka my husband playing video games. My solution was to convince my husband to let me use one of our spare bedrooms into my "she-cave studio". I was able to use the extra closet to store things, invest in better lighting, and best of all - close a door. Here are more tips from Artsy on how to set up a painting studio at home.
The internal critic is the worst and likely is my biggest personal enemy. I constantly second guess myself and the work I do. Krysa also wrote about this in another book appropriately titled Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative. Like any internal dialogue, it's not something that will go away with a quick fix. I would highly recommend the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.
Lack of Support
When I started thinking about Creative Office Hours for the first time, it was because I found myself missing the classroom environment. I was craving peers to help keep me motivated and provide creative input, and some sort of authority to provide constructive criticism. If you feel like you're alone in your interest, it can be hard to find the motivation to come contribute some creative hours. A few things I would recommended from my own experience is 1. Find a local community group to join, or start one. I found mine through Nextdoor and over the past few months the group has helped me become more accountable, as well as providing some new folks to connect with and talk about art. 2. Search for local classes. I loved taking a Continuing Education course at SVA a few years ago and have been thinking about searching for another one to take later this fall. It was a great way to learn some new techniques and get some feedback. I would highly recommend looking at local universities and colleges for continuing ed classes, or through sites like CourseHorse. 3. Don't be afraid to share on social. While Instagram can feel daunting for some, it could open up a huge community of fellow artists and creatives to ask questions and engage with. I literally plan on posting my painting conundrum above to Instagram to see if I can get some input.
Let's face it, we never have enough time for anything. I've found there are three ways to getting more time in 1. Develop it as a daily habit, like brushing your teeth. 2. Schedule out a night or two each week to dedicate your "Creative Office Hours" or 3. Break up a project in multiple steps and focus on checking off a to do list. One of my teachers told me she used the weekdays to accomplish quick tasks, while weekends were more for longer tasks. For me I found that blocking off a night or two and breaking up projects into smaller tasks works for me.
Lack of Ideas
Sometimes you just don't feel creative at all. For me, I've found that I either need to step away or try a new project or assignment that is "for fun" and lets the creative juices flow. I would highly recommend Creative Block to start, but I'm also looking forward to watching a new series by another one of my favorite podcasts The Art History Babes called Daily Creativity Chats.
Aligning on A Purpose
I think in this world of side hustles and celebrity artists that seem to appear overnight, there can be a struggle of whether to create art that will sell or just for the sake of making it. If this is the case, my recommendation is to take some time to really think about the intention you have in being creative. Maybe you do have some skills that fall within the creative realm that happen to be marketable, maybe you have a cause or point of view you want to share, or you just have a joy when it comes to making. Sometimes you need to find a way to pay the bills, and there could be ways of making some money that are adjacent to your artistic practice (stretching canvases, selling prints, making logos). However, if your primary intention is to make money and not to enjoy your creative talents, I'd look elsewhere. Developing art is an incredibly vulnerable task, and being creative doesn't come easily, and so the rewards will only be as satisfying as your intentions going into it.
Hopefully these ideas will help you with your own creative blocks! Do you have any other tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments below!