ELIMINATING THE ARTISTS BLOCK
What to do when the creativity just doesn't flow!
By Margaret Girle
Have you ever had an artist's block....those times of creative numbness which seem to hang over you, like a mist of nothingness, when you want so much to get your art done.
You may even get to the point of setting out all your materials, priming a canvas or paper, and having a flash of an idea run through your mind, tantalising and beckoning you. Then it fades and diminishes as you make some hopeful attempts at bringing it to fruition.
An artist's block is stuck energy; creative energy which, when not flowing forth, turns into a heaviness that drags like gravity on our being.
We justify why we can't begin our art; we don't have canvases, the right paint, not enough time, the weather is too rainy, hot, cold....whatever! We are constantly side-tracked, doing everything but our art. We even give ourselves a good pep talk, do the motivational work, watch inspirational movies, read books, or whatever it takes. We're happy, life is good, but the AHHAAA just isn't there. That wonderful feeling of "anything is possible", is lost, ( when you begin a painting with your sketch in hand and a clear vision in mind).
When creativity is flowing, we may begin an artwork with one idea in mind and it takes on a life of its own –an entirely different piece is born. However, when the flow has ceased, art opportunities may come into our inbox, letterbox, from wherever, only to leave us with a sick feeling at missing them, watching them drift by and out of reach, with no current work to show, or even an attempt.
Then, we begin to think that the whole artist's block excuse is just our own psychological cop out for our talent having left us. We recall past successes, past times when the art flowed and when we not only enjoyed the process, but the results – the excitement of being "on a roll".
What gave us this endless flow, this clarity, this magnificent inspiration?. For me, it has always been gained from meditation, and time in nature, simply relaxing and enjoying the present moment and the beauty of life!
Firehorse, acrylic on canvas, 99cm x 150cm This painting portrays the chinese astrological Firehorse and represents the need to sometimes burst through negativity and stay focused on the path to our dreams.
Flamenco Finale, acrylic on canvas, 91 x 122cm. This energetic image exploded onto the canvas as an intention to inspire others to express their life passions. Here, I used a basic palette including crimson, meridian, lemon, black, ochre and white.
Going into that space came most clearly for me several years ago when I had the pressure of a major exhibition just two months away. I had committed to painting 18 – 20 works of at least 1 metre each. The day of reckoning came when a friendly call from the Gallery owner inquired on how I was going? I felt the panic rise from deep within as I heard myself giving positive news when in reality, I had no idea what I would paint and had no canvases as yet. Off the phone, I felt paralysed with fear – the black cloud of fear which brings the nightmare images of opening nights with bare walls and my own crippling embarrassment.
Somehow I had to get my mind into that creative space. I had to summon every positive thought in order to paint from the heart, and that seemed an impossible task, with just 8 weeks to go and with fitting in teaching work. I decided that the first task was to eliminate the fear.....but how? I then decided to allow the fear full reign over my thoughts for a nominated time. I let the fear run rampant through my mind for the next couple of hours.
When I was willing to accept, stop resisting, stop trying to control the outcome, the fear subsided.
At last I took a deep beath and decided to do something positive. Basically, the fear is the ego playing out and when we can eliminate that, we have peace, acceptance, and love. All emotions stem from fear or love, so without fear there is pure love. I then decided to do some sketches purely for the enjoyment of doing art. I put on beautifully inspiring music, sat on the the big mat on the lounge room floor with a large sketch book and started to draw without expectation of outcome. I just enjoyed doing art, making lines!
Figure drawing is a specialty, latin dancing was my enjoyment at the time and the George Michael "Ladies and Gentlemen" album invited me into another space. I didn't have a canvas large anough, but I did have a huge roll of good quality paper which, when attached to the top of the ceiling, gave a 2.5. metre drop. Standing on a chair, my tiny rough sketch of a couple in my right hand,, conte crayon ready in the left, I began drawing what I could already visualise on the paper. For the next three hours the outside world diminished. I was in a space of sheer joy, peace and creative beauty, aware only of the moment, and the long sensitive lines I was drawing in deep blue, sienna, and buff shades in crayon and white chalk. A larger than life couple formed before me....a two metre high man and woman in a sensual and rhythmic dance embrace. Their personalities unfolded in my hands, echoing the image in my mind – the smooth highlights of their skin, soft, sheer folds of fabric, the illusion of movement. I became one with their mood.
Finally, they were finished. I could do no more. It was as if they dismissed me. I had played my part in bringing them to life! Stepping down off the enduring cane dining chair, I stood back to survey...and there were two people in a world of their own, "Dancing to the Rhythm of a Heartbeat". The powerful force of creativity had run its course for this artwork, but I was now tapping into ideas for more. They began to flow in an endless stream.
From that first flourish of creativity came the complete concept for the whole exhibition. It was called ‘A celebration of Song, Dance and Angels".The common theme running through the entire 20 diverse works, including dancers, wild animals and angels, was the light or Illumination in each painting. Over the next three weeks I created tirelessly, passionately. As soon as the concept of one painting was captured on the canvas, the next was shown to me, in a clear mental image.
This same space of creativity, this dimension of manifestation, is available to everyone at any given time. It is the divine space spoken of in countless books and texts, by thinkers, poets, musicians, artists, monks, athletes, and dancers. It is not exclusive to a few, but available to all at anytime. Children easily tap into it and the only criteria is that there is not one trace of fear or doubt, not a hint of negative emotions! Meditation is a wonderful path to this space. Having no fear means having no pre-conceived thoughts or ideas, and being fully in the moment with openness. If you have even a glimmer of doubt about the past or the future, you cannot enter that space. It is the space of Oneness – a space in which there is no judgement on credentials, bank accounts, age, culture, or achievements. Of course its good to have done ‘your homework" so to speak, to know the techniques and the elements of art, to be able to portray form, movement, depth and expression However, in order to make these elements work with a lyrical quality, the artist needs to surrender, to be an instrument for a higher force. This takes a clearing of the mind, a relaxing of the body, a consciousness of the spirit, and a willingness to centre all three.
Margaret's articles are designed to inspire others to tap into their creative right brain energy. They have been published in the Insight Magazine, Australian Artist Magazine and Brisbane periodicals. Margaret's focus through her writing, art and educating is on the belief that art, the creating and viewing of it, is not only healing, rejuvenating and balancing, but through creativity students of all ages find the inspiration to find and follow their dreams, whatever their area.