How to beat painter’s block

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Dear Artist,

A lot of stuff has been written about writer’s block, mainly because writers write. At the same time, there’s been a surprising lack of guidance in the parallel condition of painter’s block, mainly because painters paint. While many fight it daily and some never experience it at all, I always thought I might try to do something about the shortfall. Here are a few thoughts:

The sheer size and daunting length of a novel do not equate to a small easel painting that may take only a short time. Painters, identifying bite-sized projects suited to their current spans of concentration, can go from one work to another, randomly or in rapid sequence. Short-duration projects are block beaters. Painters can take wisdom from prolific haiku masters. Reducing individual project size compounds satisfaction and helps stickhandle the way. Rather than three medium-sized paintings a month, think of 30 small ones. Smaller works are more readily chuckable.

Another block beater is the “Working Without Plan” system. Blocks often occur in the planning stage and ideas get aborted before the brush hits the canvas. Just as writers learn to start writing before they know what they’re writing, painters need to squeeze out and simply begin.

Further, blocks occur through the commonplace error of letting the cat out of the bag. Verbalization eviscerates desire. Talking blocks action. It’s been my persistent observation that mute artists are more consistently productive than verbal ones.

Then there’s the tyranny of the jaded brain. “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt” haunts both the mature and the overeducated. This form of ennui requires a reinvestment in innocence, a return to the childlike view and a simple commitment to play. Not easy for some, but doable. Just as the block itself can be a self-delusory avoidance activity, the release to play is just another self-delusion needed for creative growth.

Painter’s block is a kind of creative blindness. Fortunately a temporary disability, it obscures the limitless depth of human invention. The reasons for the blindness vary from artist to artist, but all forms can be neutralized, if not beaten, by rest, change, action, going smaller, going kiddie, and being quiet.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “The block is an entirely imaginary, self-inflating disease afflicting both nothing-to-say professionals and not-knowing-how-to-say-it amateurs.” (Ray Robertson, novelist)

Esoterica: Page Fright — Tools, Tricks and Fetishes of Famous Writers by Harry Bruce, is the latest book to probe these mysteries. He thinks creative folks need to make a leap of faith and begin to feel that nothing but the successful execution of their chosen art can deliver true happiness. Seeing our art as “important” can both stymie and empower us. If day-to-day happiness is important to you, the theory goes, not conquering these stupid blocks invites a perennial state of misery.

 

Titling and verbalizing
by Ruth Rodgers, Lakeside, ON, Canada
 

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“Morning gold”
pastel by Ruth Rodgers

For me, verbalizing is actually a strategy to get going on a painting. While other artists I know have trouble coming up with painting titles, for me the titles often precede the actual painting process. In verbalizing (if only to myself) the distilled essence of what the image is saying to me, via the title, I create a touchstone for all decisions about the process. For example, if the title is “Morning Gold” (see attached) then it’s the temperature and colour of the light on the golden late-summer field that has caught my eye, and I’ll design and execute the painting to emphasize this aspect. Titles flash into my mind constantly as I’m driving, walking, looking at photos, and when they do, it gives me a little jolt that says: paint this! That’s often enough to get me up and started.



There are 2 comments for Titling and verbalizing by Ruth Rodgers

From: Kathleen J — Oct 02, 2009

This happens to me also and I find it a useful as a touchstone too. It brings me back to what it was about the subject that made me want to paint it. I think, in some way, my left brain wants to be involved – if I let it work on the title it leaves me alone while I am painting.

From: Emm — Oct 02, 2009

Your lovely painting made my day!

 

Blocked by life’s blows
by Debbie Baer, Hunlock Creek, PA, USA
 

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“Spilled Milk”
original painting
by Debbie Baer

Blocks can be created by extenuating life circumstances as well. My husband’s illness earlier this year and then in June the sudden, unexpected passing of my father kept me out of the studio for several months. It was as though someone had built a stone wall around my creative tendencies. Finally, recently, I pushed my way into the studio once again and spent some time tidying it up. I then spent some long minutes studying the half completed canvas that sat on the easel, screwed up my courage and squeezed out some color. Five and a half hours later I stepped back…..and realized that I had just taken the first step forward.



There are 5 comments for Blocked by life’s blows by Debbie Baer

From: Nancy — Oct 01, 2009

wow, I love this!

From: Susan Avishai, Toronto — Oct 02, 2009

I’m wondering if this is the painting you produced during that time. If so, the metaphor is apt–you didn’t cry, you painted over spilt milk. Well, you probably cried plenty too, but this painting is a testament to your forward motion, despite the difficulties in your life. It’s wonderful!

From: Debbie Baer — Oct 02, 2009

Thank you Nancy. Susan, actually Spilled Milk is a piece that I did a few years ago during a calmer period of my life. I thought it appropriate to the response as well. Thank you.

From: Jan Ross — Oct 02, 2009

What a BEAUTIFUL painting! I can almost feel the milk dripping into my hands. I’m sorry about your difficult times but congratulate you on returning to your painting. The experience of becoming engrossed in your work does help one take a mental vacation from life’s hardships.

From: Jennifer Horsley — Oct 06, 2009

I haven’t been able to paint since my grandmother passed away in April. And then, last month, my dearest friend passed. I’m encouraged by Robert’s letter and your response. It’s time to put brush to canvas.

 

Switching to ideas
by Sandy McMullen, Toronto, ON, Canada
 

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“Deyell”
original painting
by Sandy McMullen

Finding out what I wanted to say literally changed my painting life. I started painting watercolour — florals and landscape and every time I painted I had a mini-block trying to find something to paint. The impulse to create was there but the inspiration was lacking.

I have a passion for personal development and realized through Gallup’s Strengths Finder that “Ideation” is a core strength. Once I understood that I could paint my “ideas,” subject matter is never an issue. Generally one idea leads to another or suggests a series. With that potential block out of the way I developed a routine of “block busters” by paying attention to what keeps my momentum going and my energy up. Everyone will have their own formula for this. I have several approaches that get me rolling. I include “percolating” time to read and reflect. I also “fill the tank” by going to art shows or taking a class so that I don’t get stale and I see these activities as part of the painting process. Sometimes I start on old canvases if I am dithering, but I always trust the process. One of the biggest motivators for me is to commit to a show. It might be too much pressure for others but a deadline works wonders for me.



There are 2 comments for Switching to ideas by Sandy McMullen

From: Nancy — Oct 01, 2009

Beautiful colours and softness to the edges.

From: Anonymous — Oct 14, 2009

Your approach to overcoming the “block” reflects my own efforts to search for inspiration. Short jottings to myself in an art journal also provide ideas and motivation for those moments when I fear the well is close to drying up.

 

Go deeper to overcome boredom
by Sandra Muscat, Toronto, ON, Canada
 

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“#9”
original painting
by Sandra Muscat

“Been there, done that” is far too familiar to me as a block. On one hand, I want to be fabulously original. I want every painting to be fresh and new and different. On the other hand, I would like my work to be recognizable to the buyer and contribute to my perceived body of work considered essential for some measure of commercial success. The devil is the boredom with repetition. With some focus, I have come to realize that surrender is necessary as is the desire to go deeper. For one thing, you are who you are and you can no more willfully change what is intrinsic to your expression via painting as you can via speaking. In other words, we all have our innate brush stroke style, our way of organizing spatial components and so on. Surrender to that. It really is your ally. And as with a meditation practice, stay with it. Just when it feels you simply cannot paint another landscape, I promise you something else will capture your attention. Suddenly, you are focused on the texture and colour rather than the composition. It does happen. Especially if you can remember there’s so much more there to see and feel. Just think of the way we typically perceive a plant for example. We see its shape, colour, maybe the way it moves or grows, but we do not see its cells, its DNA, its micronutrients or the energy it uses to hold its cells together. Go deeper into your work and you will overcome the boredom.

 

Just for the fun of it
by Greta Stromberg, Middletown CT, USA
 

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“Zanzabar on the run”
original painting
by Greta Stromberg

I’m in one of those ‘blocks'(very much like a solid form within which I sit, trapped and miserable). I have a small sketch on my desk easel and now am ready to begin. I even bought some new brushes and paints — and yes, the smaller canvas is great as a “little” thought to start. I’m doing this for a while now after a few big ones that took time and effort. Love to work BIG, and will again. I did the “let it flow” thing and from it emerged one of my favorite, albeit, not the best of my works, but one that takes me beyond the mundane to a different realm of reality. It is fun stuff. Faces and figures emerged from the watercolors I’d splashed on. They are haunting, funny, regal, unplanned and create a montage of life within the framework of outerspace — a Universe unto themselves. Ah — the title was just born here…. So — who knows what satisfaction of the muse can come from playing and funnin’ around.



There is 1 comment for Just for the fun of it by Greta Stromberg

From: Penny Collins — Oct 03, 2009

Great horse! I like the roughness of the brushstrokes.

 

Pressure makes it happen
by Clare Cross, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
 

In an attempt to deal with my own blocks, I have just signed up for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of writers from all over the world attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Because of the time limitations, writers are forced to focus on quantity, not quality. Of course, this results in at least some quality work as well. In 2008, 120,000 writers signed up. More than 20,000 of those completed the project. National Novel Writing Month began in 1999, and a number of novels written as part of the project have been revised and published. The website has various forums for writers to seek support. There are also regional forums, and some areas have events where writers gather together and write. Participants “win” if they complete 50,000 words by the deadline. Everyone who wins gets a PDF winner’s certificate, but as the site says, “Win or lose, you rock for even trying.” Perhaps a similar event would help painters. Thirty canvases in thirty days?



There is 1 comment for Pressure makes it happen by Clare Cross

From: DJ — Oct 02, 2009

Love the idea…

 

Knowledge makes it more difficult
by Lina Jones, Melbourne, Australia
 

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“Mt. Erica 3”
oil painting by Lina Jones

When I have endeavoured to embark on a painting I do it ‘dry,’ with no real inspiration or passion. This never used to be a problem and it seems the more I know about what a good painting should be, the less confident I am in undertaking one. However, I don’t think this is unusual for many artists — the more we know, the harder it gets. But what I want to say is that at times we go through hard times in our lives and these wear us down leaving very little energy for creativity. At these times we create in whatever way we are able, be it gardening, working in the community, etc. and just hang in and hope the desire to paint returns, somehow. Reading about art, visiting galleries, keeping in touch with other artists, (I coordinate an art group, probably partly the reason I’ve gone dry as I’m so caught up in the administrative side of the club), this all helps to leave the door open to the creative muse within us all.



There is 1 comment for Knowledge makes it more difficult by Lina Jones

From: Carla Woodcock — Oct 02, 2009

Thank you for sharing your stories. I’ve struggled to start painting again after the death of my father. Painting gives me such joy and I am just realizing that I have been denying myself that joy as an unconscious act of mourning. We all mourn many and varied losses in our life times. We must remember it is the joy in doing and creating that keeps us alive spiritually.

 

‘Woe is me’ after workshop
by Kathleen Cundith, Pleasant Hill, CA, USA
 

Woe is me. That is the self-indulgent thought process since attending a two week intensive workshop this past spring. Since then, six months ago, I have not picked up a brush. This is the worst block I have ever had the misfortune of allowing myself. Your recommendations sound like they may be the ticket out of this funk. I will give them a go.

(RG note) Thanks, Kathleen. People often write and tell me about their post-workshop trauma (PWT) as well as the opposite. It has partly to do with the degree of automatic intimidation that goes on at learning or competing events. Think of measureable events such as the high jump or the hundred metre dash. Think of Darwin. Then think of desire.

 

Seven moves you might try
by Julia Bry Schwab, Boulder, CO, USA
 

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Untitled
original painting
by Julia Bry Schwab

1. Paint or draw or build your own creative block — its form, depth, size, placement, embellishment, color, and raw essence may reflect back to you what is happening NOW and is TRUE.

2. Locate the block in an environment or background that has information and unfettered possibility — what supports you and what surrounds the essential figure (you and your block) that has relevance in your process?

3. Write down a discussion between you and your block. Paint the cover image for this piece.

4. Create a block a day for one week, then do something with them. Hang them from a tree, photograph them in varying contexts, integrate them partially or wholly in a painting/drawing, title them and make a poem with all their lines, etc.

5. Scribble like hell all over the paper.

6. Make a creative block rattle that is filled with seeds or beads or marbles that can be shaken from time to time with delight in its useful and helpful reminder.

7. Visit an art therapist who can redirect your angst into fertile discovery.



There is 1 comment for Seven moves you might try by Julia Bry Schwab

From: Margot — Oct 02, 2009

I just love your ideas about blocks – will be printing them out and pasting into my ‘inspiration’ notebook

 

Do it; edit later
by Debra James Percival
 

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“Shattered”
original photograph
by Debra James Percival

YES OH YES from me. In times of Hmmmmmmm, what now I have found it is very important to just keep at it and edit later. A lot of talented people/ artists stop and never start again. Everything does not have to be a master piece! I am so in love with creating and the process of working, that it no longer matters what others are griping about when they look at my art. I am filling my dream and if I stopped I would just be another living dead person. Wow, that is deep for me.



There are 2 comments for Do it; edit later by Debra James Percival

From: Nancy — Oct 01, 2009

Yes, this is a familiar feeling and your post-I’m glad you’re in the flow again!

From: Carol — Oct 01, 2009

Beautiful photo and wonderful words!!

Carol

 

Positive side of blocks
by Susan Canavarro, Florence, OR, USA
 

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“Violet’s magic carpet”
original painting
by Susan Canavarro

I’m one rare bird who perceives painter’s “blocks” as positive. For me it is a period of gestation. I’m always thinking about painting — visualizing my next, thinking about ideas, and working out concepts for a project. My mind is always “painting,” while physically, I’m not putting brush to paper. I’ve experienced many painter’s blocks over my long years. I stopped beating myself up about it. Wasted energy. Instead, I learned to go with the flow, realizing that it is a time of creative rebirth — a rebirth of ideas, skills, energy and excitement.

Recently, I’ve been bored with painting watercolor landscapes. I felt a need for something more than just a landscape. I couldn’t even drag out a piece of paper. During this current painter’s gestation period I decided to change what I paint for a while. I’m determined to learn how to draw and paint cats, dogs and birds. This is not only for painting, but also for a concurrent writing project. The learning is a fun challenge. There’s no pressure. I’m painting. I’m excited again.

Now that I am well into this series, I feel stirrings of desire to get back into watercolor landscapes. Ideas feed on each other. It’s what happens when I work on three or four ideas/paintings at the same time. It’s what happens when I let the gestation period flow. It can be a continual rebirth of ideas and energy leading to creative productivity. And surprises!



There are 4 comments for Positive side of blocks by Susan Canavarro

From: Libby — Oct 02, 2009

Lucky Violet. I’d love to have a carpet like that!

From: Penny Collins — Oct 03, 2009

The pattern on the carpet is beautiful.

From: Anonymous — Oct 04, 2009

Your piece makes me want to try to paint my own Siamese mix named Isabelle. She just hopped up on my lap to check out Violet…great painting!

From: margaret — Feb 07, 2012

your painting is so lovely,the colours are so cheerful and vibrant well done.

 

Road blocks
by Jamie Lavin, Gardner, KS, USA
 

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Untitled
original painting
by Jamie Lavin

I’ve been on the road for six straight weeks selling my work at art fairs. Good Night, I’m tired and my work stinks. I thought I was onto something that was equitable to what real artists should do — landscapes and dreamy sunsets, all to have that part of my business blow up in my face. I want so very badly to be a quality artist, here in the Midwest, doing great works that the Smithsonian wants to buy, but…. I really stink at painting — I should be arrested for impersonating an artist. I should be flogged mightily, and sent into a small room to cook in the heat. My work stinks! If my studio wasn’t in my basement, I’d burn it to the ground! OK, maybe not the studio, but didn’t Remington burn a bunch of paintings he thought were “unworthy”?

Did I mention that my work stinks lately? OMG (as my daughters like to say ) I took some pieces that needed finishing to a show recently — set them out undone, to show their progress — and everyone bought them! I stink at getting these things done correctly — I stink, I tell you! Even my unfinished work sells better than the ones totally finished! This is a mark of a true art whore! I did wheel and deal a little, but it was truly disgusting how they all flocked to these pieces. My work stinks so bad, that Henny Youngman is practicing jokes about me in heaven. My work stinks, and everyone in heaven is talking about it! All the good artists who’ve passed are really hurt that a “live one” is getting more press on heaven’s news. I can see it now: “Jamie Lavin, the artist whose work stinks, is the talk of heaven today…” and Fredrick Remington has just tossed his big screen out the window in fury! Wilson Hurley probably lives next door, and is considering getting something to come down and spook me! All this just because my work stinks. Tom Lovell is laughing out loud.

I keep thinking about how unmotivated I’ve been (and I rarely can consume more than six or seven cups of coffee a day) but NEED to do my work faster and better and get ready for the next show, not to mention my artspace that is expecting me to hang 134 major works for this Friday — did I mention my own work stinks? This is the best part — I’m going to have to go up the extension ladder and cover my fear of heights! Even my fears stink!

Truthfully, my works stinks so bad, I should not be allowed to read your fine newsletter; if I wasn’t so scared of hurting myself, I’d commit suicide. Then, my wife would kill me for doing it after I was dead! I can see it now on CSI — Kansas City — “Well, the goof finally offed himself, they’d say, and just before the M.E. was about to shred open my head, ( looking for a brain ) my wife would come in, grab the saw out of his hands, and retain her vengeance!

Did you hear (I know you know) all about this crazy economy? I dropped all of my prices in half, after the Good Lord swooped in and shut all the disreputable ones down, except one, and the good ones all decided to retire — they’d had enough. Our recession has been going at least 7 years now, I can’t sleep tonight and I’m late paying almost all of my bills. It is utterly amazing how well-timed and steady the bills come in!

I went to the dentist today for the usual cleaning and three-year, God-Fearing check-up! The dentist comes in, jovial and free of problems, laughs and tells me he’s going fishing somewhere far away this weekend, and Turkey season opens in Missouri this weekend. “Are you going?” he asks? No I tell him. My work stinks and I need to finish a bunch more of it — like piling up horse manure! — Ha! Only framed horse manure! I bet that would sell in my booth, if you painted over it in Taupe and brown, and sealed it with acrylic medium and varnish???

Sorry about the rant, but OMG, do I need some muse.



There are 15 comments for Road blocks by Jamie Lavin

From: jeannine — Oct 01, 2009

i’m sorry you are struggling but at least you are funny. why are you finishing paintings if it is the unfinished ones that sell? just wondering.

From: Susan — Oct 01, 2009

LOL Hilarious! Haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. I think you found your muse in this piece!

From: Consuelo — Oct 02, 2009

Ever thought about going on Letterman or Leno?

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Oct 02, 2009

You made me laugh today, but only said what we all feel sometimes. I feel that way when my painting isn’t going right, nothing in my world is right when my painting is off.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Oct 02, 2009

Was that you I saw running behind the stable with a shovel and bucket?

From: Jackie Knott — Oct 02, 2009

I had one of those “My work stinks” episodes yesterday. Thanks for making me laugh instead of flogging myself over it. I’ll go back to the studio again today and try to correct the mess. If people are buying your work “unfinished,” you’re better than you think, oh, us self-critical artists!

From: Linda Bean — Oct 02, 2009

All my thoughts EXACTLY! I just didn’t know my thoughts were so funny. Thank you for the laugh of the day.

From: Debbie — Oct 02, 2009

Thank you for the amusing read. Your work is far from stinky or it would not be selling half finished. Give credit where credit is due.

From: David Blanchard — Oct 02, 2009

Keep producing stinky work like the one accompanying this great rant and you’ll be just fine.

From: BJ Wright — Oct 02, 2009

I offer unfinished plein air studies at discounted (40% less) prices when I do art fairs. It’s like offering free fudge!! People are frantic about grabbing them and shoving money into my hands. This a mystery whice needs investigation.

From: Glen Verbhush — Oct 02, 2009

Stinks? How is that?

From: Pat Scott — Oct 02, 2009

I just had the best laugh I’ve had in ages. Thanks!

I really enjoyed reading this. Hang in there Buddy.

From: Shirley — Oct 03, 2009

Rant away! You made my day!

From: Mahmood Platt — Oct 04, 2009

But what about those of us whose work really, truly, does stink?

From: Anonymous — Oct 09, 2009

I think the buying of unfinished work is partly because people love a mystery…they can imagine the unfinished bits themselves…

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Bonnie Hamlin  

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Eagle

oil painting 16 x 20 inches
Bonnie Hamlin

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes George Alles who wrote, “There is another Painter’s Block: I would paint more if I sold more.”

And also Rodney Mackay of Mahone Bay, NS, Canada, who wrote, “I have never had painter’s block, which may explain why I have painted a bit over 13,000 canvases in the last 50 years!”

And also Bill Skuce who wrote, “The two words a friend said to me some years ago became a key to unlocking painter’s block that has worked for me many times since. During a spell in which I hadn’t painted for weeks, we met at a gathering and I moaned about not being able to get started. He fixed me in a knowing gaze and said emphatically, ‘Just paint!'”
 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for How to beat painter’s block

 

 

From: Faith — Sep 28, 2009

I must confess to a surfeit of whatever block is going for grabs! Maybe we take our creative spirit for granted too often. I find it useful to move on and do something else when blocked in one direction, and yes, writing – something we can presumably all do who read these columns – is a good way out, but there are so many creative activities to choose from that are part of everyday life that surely one will appeal to the lethargic spirit. In my case it’s often writing, but baking bread can be a blessed release, too.

I think it helps in any art form to change roles. The writer changes adjectives, the musician changes key. Make an art demo, i.e. analyse whatever art-making process you are using and photograph the stages – that forces one move on and can be published to help others, so it isn’t even a waste of time! Review the work that is stuck like a stranger. Look at what you are doing (or not doing, as the case may be) with new eyes and take on board whatever “improvements” your inner critic deems necessary. If I do that with a painting, this often leads to defacing it with a bright colour. I am invariably exhilarated by this process and relieved that the annoyance has gone. But sometimes I regret the action and set about repainting it. The result is invariably an improvement and lo and behold! the block has gone, too.

Slight correction to the title of the recommended book. It’s exact title is

“Page Fright: Foibles and Fetishes of Famous Writers”.

From: Dwight Williams, Idaho — Sep 29, 2009

After a life-time of painting and teaching I can tell the “blocked” one way that has worked for me and a lot of students and other artists.

Backup and do something you know you can do. Maybe not repeat exactly what you’ve done before, but something using the same techniques and subjects. Then keep moving into something new without hesitation as you normally would.

It may be like getting a car out of a muddy or icy spot. A little rocking in place or reversing to get a forward run out of the rut often works.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Sep 29, 2009

Stop reading, says Julia Cameron in her book, ‘The Artist’s Way. That was a ‘biggie’ for me. But then I don’t own a TV.

From: Susan Kellogg — Sep 29, 2009

The shift to the right brain is difficult for most, All painting requires that important shift. Painting from life especially requires letting go of all the (linguistic) associations we have to the so called reality in front of us. The real task is letting go of the comfort of our ideas of things; seeing what is actually before us without allowing our left brain’s confabulations to dominate perception in order to maintain its own comfort. It can be like letting go of a hand rail along a cliff and risking a fall. It requires being confident of one’s own internal bungee cord! And really, if the thing fails, there is always the trash can and a better day. If it gets to be a real problem, one could build a safety rail around the easel!

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Sep 29, 2009

I agree with the non-verbalization of the project at hand. In the past, I would talk about a future project to anyone that might be interested (or even NOT interested :)…this took all the adventure out of the process and created a “space” or block, as I was no longer excited about the birthing of the work. Now I keep my mouth shut and let my brush do the talking!

From: Elwood Combing — Sep 29, 2009

Sometimes I’ll keep looking for the perfect plein air venue, and coming up dry. My significant other told me that when that begins to happen, and I’m looking at something– perhaps the third venue– that isn’t quite tripping my trigger, I should turn around and set up my easel to paint something in the scene that was behind me. Sounds weirdly arbitrary, but it has worked.

From: Rene Wojcik — Oct 01, 2009

I keep a moleskin book of painting ideas. My ideas are in the form of a mind-map and I keep the map simple. Do a search on the web and see what mind mapping is all about. Using this method I have no problem with painters block. The problem I have is having too many ideas to work from and not enough time to do them in.

From: lisa schaus — Oct 01, 2009

I share your thoughts with others and just posted your quote on my facebook about “verbalization eviscerates desire”. This says more than the stars in MY Milky Way.

My method of avoiding the block these days appears to be your very wisdom offered here in “How to Beat Painter’s Block”.

When another painter who enjoys the great outdoors invites me to “show up”. I do my darndest to get there. Last evening I had very little time and missed connecting with most of the painting group scattered along the course of the river.

I set myself up near the river at the top of the falls and made a very quick piece. The sun moved swiftly behind the pines leaving all aglow. Who could get blocked in a situation like that?

From: lindell stacy-horton — Oct 01, 2009

I have found the best exercise when blockage of any artistic endeavor begins, is to grab my well-worn copy of Julia Cameron’s Artist Way, and work it. I have used it, loaned it, bought copies for friends, for years now, and should know it off by heart, but just the discipline of beginning it at the beginning, not skipping around, but actually doing it, works wonders. There is something about the actual physical texture of the book, which cannot be denied. Try it next time.

From: Tania Hanscom — Oct 01, 2009

For the longest time I was stuck – afraid to complete a painting because I wasn’t sure it would be successful. I can draw well enough, and I can paint in an illustrative way, but I have little experience in painting using glazing and other old world methods. So by the time I had the painting sketched in and the grayscale under painting done – I just couldn’t move forward. It just sat there. Taunting me. Oi Vey! So, I began a charcoal sketch and became quite involved with that. It wasn’t perfect, but it satisfied me and gave me confidence to continue with my painting, (which is still in progress).

So I concur with the advice in your letter – work on another item, something smaller that can boost your confidence and drive your creative energy forward.

From: Jim Rowe — Oct 01, 2009

The latest technique I am trying is a real good workout before creative activity, something that really gets the heart pounding. I read an article about how rigorous exercise stimulates or feeds neuron growth in the brain. I figured it might also help creativity . And it seems to be working, and the positive side effect is a healthy body which must also contribute to creativity. This should definitely reduce the occurrence of painters block and increase our strength to overcome it.

From: Richard Stevens — Oct 01, 2009

Just the regularity of these letters is useful to me. They remind me who I am and that all of you are my friends and have similar problems.

From: RJoeH — Oct 01, 2009

To Bob,

Thanks for taking yout time to explain to me the first and

second easels. So simple, and so obvious, and so obtuse

of me not ever to have been aware of them!

From: Red Payne — Oct 02, 2009

When I’m blocked, I do something else. I’ve never not gone back. Not worry about it works just fine. (All things pass? Well, most things.)

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 06, 2009

Painter’s block– oh, yes, that old thing. Sits right alongside my muse to taunt me. That old saying “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. Now THAT is a block in the making. I turned it around: anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Once I realized that, I was free to let my painting happen. Amazing how freeing that is, and how it let me explore and grow.

Another thing I recently came across: a young artist by the name of Haim Mizrahi, who earns his living as a house painter and paints art with joy and verve, said during an interview, “If I am not intimidated by painting a 6000 square foot house, why should I be intimidated by a small canvas that wants to be friends with me?” Now I look at that little bit of canvas or wood panel in a whole new light. It is like a pet waiting to be stroked with my brush.

From: Michael — Oct 08, 2009

Thanks for that..I sometimes think that I could just as well be making tables. When does one stop engineering paintings and making art.

From: Melinda Collins — Oct 21, 2009

For the first time I can remember, I feel blocked. I have been painting for over 40 years, have sold many thousands of dollars worth of work, but this year has been very dry for sales. That is definitely a blocker.

But not selling has also made me re-evaluate why I paint and what is the point of it. I am trying to make work that is not just sellable but expresses something I want to say about life. I never used to think about this aspect of painting. I just assumed I was saying what I needed to say by the simple act of expressing myself visually. Perhaps this is the truth and finding a meaning in painting beyond this is futile.

I would love to read some thoughts on this.

From: Jeanne Melville — Aug 26, 2013

Thanks for the really good advice.

 

 

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