I recently heard from an artist who used to join in my painting groups when in Malta. He says he’s ‘unable to paint’ at the moment, due to personal problems. To anyone who doesn’t paint, or who sees art as a way of expressing emotions (it can be of course, but I want to talk about something else here) this can seem unbelievable. People laugh, and say ‘don’t be ridiculous, look at all the work you have produced, of course you can still do it’. But when the spark goes out, there’s no light to see with.
I have experienced these blocks many times, which is probably why I have read so many books on creativity and inspiration. It used to really worry me and I would sink into pits of ‘If I can’t paint or draw, and don’t even FEEL like trying any more, WHO AM I?’ It’s very unsettling, and can be horribly depressing if it lasts for any length of time.
I have a personal theory that when outside events affect you too strongly (sometimes even positive things can take your Breath away), something happens to your brain chemistry and your long-practiced co-ordination goes awry. I know that when it happens to me I just can’t seem to see straight; I just can’t draw. For somebody like me, who treasures the ability to draw accurately, this used to feel like a tragedy.
Treat all this as a huge experiment – you can’t get an experiment wrong, can you? Make messes, see what happens. Mix different things together. Forget about making pictures that other people might like. Try not to judge yourself or what you are doing – enjoy the fact that it doesn’t matter what you produce, because you’re not even trying to make Art anyway. You’ll probably be very surprised at what happens.
Some people pour raw emotion into their art every time, others create perfectly acceptable pictures that express very little that’s personal. Finding a new way of working, or expanding your creative boundaries can be a beautiful gift that arrives out of an Artist’s Block if you are ready to receive it.
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