I’m currently filming for my new course, Artist Inspired, and it is not proving all plain sailing.

In fact I’ve filmed and deleted four paintings so far for my current piece on Kandinsky, and have a pile of unusable crap to prove it.

But all is not lost! It occurred to me, as I was pacing back and forth in the studio wondering how the hell to rescue the most recent mess, and whether it was even possible, or best if I just scrapped the whole thing and started again {again}, that this was what they call a teachable moment. For me as much as for you, of course.

It’s always worth noting the details of a process that successfully returns you to a state of equilibrium.

I KNOW that you know how frustrating it can be when you want so badly to paint/draw/whatever it is that you do, and everything you do is coming out somehow ‘wrong’. I also know how in the moment it can be incredibly hard to maintain perspective.

And so here are my guidelines for moving through the episode with grace and ease {mostly}. I used them all on this particular occasion and the moment passed very quickly; each need only take a few moments.

Pick and mix to suit you. Most can be applied to any creative practice.

Admit that it’s not working

There comes a point during the process where you just know that this one’s not going in the right direction. You can absolutely keep plugging away but there is a tipping point after which everything you add is only going to make it worse. And that makes it more likely that you will feel crappy about it.

Stop

You’ll know inside when that moment is, and you can train yourself to recognise it and make it the moment where you quite literally stop what you’re doing and take a physical step back. I can pretty much guarantee that that in itself will shift something.

Swear

I’m not even joking. If no one’s around who might be corrupted by it, I recommend letting forth a torrent of choice expletives {I favour the F word, and variations on it}. Frustration is excess energy and if you release it, you will create a space for a peaceful resuming of your work.

Laugh

This will likely happen anyway if you’re having a swear fest ~ especially if you’re accompanying it with flailing about and stamping, as I like to do ~ and become aware of how ridiculous you must look. And as soon as you’re laughing, that’s when the spell is broken and you can move forward.

Try a resuscitation effort

Sometimes a piece can be rescued. I have done it, but more often I have had to consign the offending item to the recycling or the bin. One way is to cut it up and make cards or smaller paintings, or use them as backgrounds for new paintings. Another is to bring in a new medium, so if you’ve been painting with acrylics you could try adding oil pastel for an interesting drawn element, for example.

Move on

Whether that means binning it and starting again, walking away and doing something else entirely, or even rescuing the current piece, remember it’s just one painting, and that the more you do the better you’ll get, even if they don’t all work out. Which they won’t. So even a disaster in the studio isn’t really a disaster. Let that remove the pressure to create masterpieces every time and give you space to just play and have fun with it.

What do you do when it all goes horribly wrong? Got any useful tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

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