Lost your art mojo? Try this!

When I was a tiny thing, if left to my own devices, I could often be found in the bathroom, making ‘potions’. I don’t know why, or where the idea came from, but mixing up different bathroom products was one of the most fun ways I could think of to spend my time.

I didn’t do anything with the potions – mostly because they smelled and looked revolting by the time I was done – but that wasn’t the point. The point was the process of combining various things, partly to see what would happen, and partly because it was so much fun just to do it.

I’d actually forgotten about my bathroom potions until fairly recently, but it makes a lot of sense when I look at my life today. That curious little blonde kid is still alive and well, and she often comes out in the studio.

Even if you weren’t a little potion making weirdo, you have that curious kid inside you too. And giving her or him a bit of space to play without purpose can transform the way you think about your art,  and the way you make it. 

Losing the art mojo

When I came back from my most recent trip to Cornwall, which included a five day course at the St Ives School of Painting, I had assumed it’d be the same as last time. {Yes, I know.} Last time, I had come back brimming over with inspiration and motivation, and created an entire series of new paintings.

This time it was a whole different story. Despite loving the course just as much as the previous one, when I got home I found there was nothing I felt like doing less than moving paint around.

Huh, I thought. Well ok. And after two weeks away I had admin up the wazoo and was happy to redirect my creativity to things like blog posts and, er, emails, for a while. 

That didn’t last long though. While I acknowledge, recognise, and accept that my art and I each have our own cycles and seasons, and they don’t always coincide, after a while I knew I just needed to do something with paint. Something non digital and non brain based.

Enter five year old Tara and her bathroom potions.

For the past few days I’ve been letting little me loose in the studio as an antidote to the total lack of mojo of the past couple of weeks. She and I have been having a fabulous time. 

Below are a couple of videos I made of the processes. They were originally shot for my Instagram stories, which is why the less-than-ideal long portrait format and randomly written notes. :)

The Frankenthaler Experiment

I found a very old piece of unused canvas in my fabric box, left over from the days when I stretched my own canvases, and decided that since I just couldn’t get in the right place with any of my usual stuff, I’d sneak in the back door, so to speak. I’d do an experiment with no plans, no intentions, and no particular interest in outcome.

Music: Meantime by Jahzzar

As you can see, the experimental nature of this, combined with the big piece of rough edged canvas, freed me up to try anything and everything that came to mind. I had a lot of fun thinking up ways to make marks, and working at a larger scale than I usually do was very liberating.

I still don’t know what will happen to the canvas. Maybe I’ll cut it up and make smaller paintings from it. Maybe I’ll stretch it in its entirety. Maybe I’ll keep adding paint and see where it takes me. Maybe I’ll ask little Tara. Maybe she’s already moved onto the next thing.

None of that really matters. What matters is trying something new, and staying open to sparks.

The Yupo Experiment

I’ve wanted to try yupo paper* {synthetic paper} for ages. It was one of those typical ‘I must try that’ situations, which doesn’t actually come to anything. Also it seemed prohibitively expensive. Then I was stocking up on paint and found some yupo paper in a pad that didn’t seem too extortionate, and threw it in the basket.

Below is the video of my first ever experiments with yupo. I used mostly acrylic inks, some sumi ink*, and various mark making tools. I feel I only really scratched the surface of what’s possible {obviously! It was the first go!}, but just getting to play with colour and line felt really good, and the introduction of a new-to-me material opened up doors to fresh possibilities.

*affiliate links

Music: I like it here {instrumental} – Robin Allender

Evidently none of this is rocket science, and that’s the beauty of it. When we’re lost in the dry desert of no mojo, our brains can start telling us very convincing stories about what’s wrong with us and how rubbish and lazy we are. 

Pish posh, brains.

It’s a fact of creativity that sometimes we’re just not feeling it, and while I’d personally never advocate ‘pushing on through’, I do advocate sneaking in the back door. 

So when you next find yourself in that place – because you will my friend, you will – remember little Tara and her weirdo bathroom experiments. It’s totally ok {and potentially a gold mine of inspiration, but let’s not try and make it be that!}, to just pootle around trying things that may or may not come to anything.

 

Here are some ideas to try – minimal brain power or inspiration required:

 

  • Deliberately tell yourself you’re going to do an experiment – outcome not important
  • Try out a new art material – how about that one you’ve been wanting to try for ages?
  • Choose a colour palette from a photo in a magazine, or on Pinterest or Instagram, and mix up the colours, just to mix new colours. Like this:
colour mixing from magazine images
  • Go large
  • Go off the stretchers!
  • Go tiny
  • What do you ‘usually’ do? What’s the opposite of that? Do that
  • Try a collaboration with the weather – what does rain/earth/leaving your work outside do?
  • Make something entirely with your non dominant hand
  • Combine two materials you’ve never used together before
  • When you’re done, you’re done. No justifying, no need for a ‘finished’ piece, no need to share {unless you want to}, no need for it to be anything beyond the experience of making it

Now tell me in the comments what experiment you’re going to try. :)

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