I think I know what’s happened.
A combination of:
~ looking at too many other people’s work (no matter how inspiring, looking is not doing)
~ thinking too much (the downfall of the genius sadly)
~ and not wanting to produce anything that isn’t a ‘work of art’. (Did Flora teach me NOTHING about process?!)
I am currently suffering from a lack of confidence in my artistic abilities; my technical skills have never been more than quite good, and frankly I’m out of practice. I feel like I’m cheating if I’m breaking the rules without having fully grasped them. To break the rules you must first know them, right? (Mind you, I think I USED to know them…)
So I’ve noticed many artists can do incredible colourful abstracts (which may not need drawing skills but require an understanding of balance and colour), and then also turn out a fabulous portrait (for example) with realism and accuracy.
I can draw. Just not very well. And I can copy, but who wants to be a copy cat? I want to be me, not a half baked version of someone else!
Also, and most concerningly to me, I feel very strongly lately that none of my paintings have any real depth to them. They often seem to come out like the froth on a cappuccino – quite yummy perhaps, but essentially just air.
I have definitely gone way too far down the path of taking it all a Bit Too Seriously, but even having backtracked to the crossroads I find that I can’t escape the certainty that I am not ‘telling the truth’ with my paintings.
Deep down I think I know the answer – practice practice practice. Stop trying to make each piece a sellable masterpiece. Play more. Maybe take a class. Chill out!
But first, this. I’m telling you this so you can hold me accountable (ick, but it needs to be done). Starting today:
1. I’m going to not look at anyone else’s art for one week. No blogs, no Flickr, no Pinterest, no inspiration folder, nada. (Anything I see by mistake doesn’t count.)
2. I will spend every day of this week that I don’t have to be doing something else in the studio. Painting. (Ha, I bet you thought I did this already! Actually no.)
Now obviously you won’t know if I’m cheating or not, but I will know, and now that you know, my conscience won’t let me cheat. It’s all very complex. 🙂
Please feel free to share any thoughts or words of encouragement for my week of immersion. 🙂 This could go one of two ways…
I’m optimistic though. (yeah!) The idea just arrived my head, which is always a good sign – inspiration rather than forcing the thought using logic. And I get a strong sense that some interesting stuff is going to come up… I’ll keep you posted when I come up for air!
I think you could be right about too much inspiration and by seeing other people's art one can end up copying the sort of thing they do instead of being tru to oneself. I do hope that your week off will allow you to rediscover your own style and that you will produce something you are happy with. Who's to say that art has to be deep and meaningful all the time though and sometimes wishy washy is exactly what you see so producing it is still art. I am not an artist though and have no training in art so am not really in a position to comment. See you back soon.
Tara I think we all go through that…but you have really hit the nail on the head with your solution. Just playing and experimenting for a while helps loosen you up again. Last year I took Amelia Critchlow's Experimental Art Course and I'm taking it again – it starts in just over a week (27th June). It's fab for trying new things, playing and 'doing the Flora limber up'. It's online and we share results through a Flickr group. Moyra Scott has done it too – in fact we first met at a meet up that Amelia organised in London. I know there were a couple of places still going a few days ago
It involves everything from doodling to taking photos while moving – she also provides loads of examples of artists using these techniques.
Please don't think your art lacks substance! I'm a big admirer – the work you did at the retreat was amazing. I'm still finishing my 3rd canvas – it's fun. It was the one with the mermaid face that I painted over, but guess what… a face has come back (just a different one, in a different place!). I posted a WIP on my blog about a week ago, but it's changed a good deal since then.
Whatever you do – have fun 🙂
I agree with you and Lisa–just paint….or …whatever. I think, for me, the best part of art is the feeling I get when I'm doing it. It really is true–no matter what else is going on around me—the minute I walk into my little art room, I'm in a completely different world. I don't even care what I produce–I just love being in here!
I wish you luck in your little adventure this week–I don't thinkg I could stay away from the computer though.
While reading through this post I found myself nodding the whole way though… you often write so well about the thoughts that go on in my own head. I totally get where you are coming from here and I know how frustrating it is.
I think it might be a good time to give yourself a bit of creative space to play and to make mistakes if they happen. When I was going through the same thing I wrote a list (full A2 page diagram, flow chart type thing) of all the things that I wanted my paintings to say, things I wanted them to include, the feeling I wanted them to portray (and some of these things were from others work that I liked and wanted in my own). I know it is really easy to get so off track with all the other coolness that is out there but I found that this was a good thing to do and really got me focuses again on what was important to me.
I think giving ourselves time where there are no expectations, where nothing has to be finished makes it easier to play and enjoy it. Although in saying this I have also learnt that you can't schedule creative play… so don't be too hard of yourself if you just don't feel like it, we understand. xxx
Haha! One week away. Sounds good to me but don't put yourself down Tara because your art is amazing to me who has no art training whatsoever. I cannot do abstract art, although I have tried, so I am a great admirer of you and your processes.
I think it is good to take blog breaks from time to time. I'm now off to France for two weeks with no phones, no tv, no internet and really looking forward to the space and taking some art stuff with me to see what I can come up with with no other images inside my head.
The course WrightStuff talks about sounds wonderful, maybe that would a good starting point at the end of your week painting.
Whatever you do will be from your heart with a lot of your mind thrown in. That's the way you do it! I'm always awestruck so look forward to seeing what you create in your blog free space.
You are a thinker all right! I love your thought processes and how you are able to convey them. I think you speak for many! You WILL do this! You WILL feel your Artist's Block fade as you experience nature or whatever inspires you and your own art and style! No one is like you…maybe they even think they copy you…!(Remember not to be too hard on yourself!! Best to you.) ~kath
I totally get what you are saying about "seeing is not doing". I fall into this trap a few times a week. I find myself surfing around seeing the most fabulous, inspirational art….instead of being in the studio making my own! For me though, this fuels me. I just have to be careful about how long I stay on the computer! Luckily, I do have a very strict afternoon work schedule and I do get a lot done. Sometimes I think artists have a hard time with schedules. When your job (or art) are at home, you have to be very self-motivated. As for artist's block: I have that every year after Artfest. I just feel like there's nothing else to do…it's all been done! I just have to force myself through it. (I do that by painting even when I don't much feel like painting!). Another thing that helps me through it is to do something totally outside my usual path. Crochet…or bake…or dye some wool and needle felt….anything that takes me out of my comfort zone and gives me a little burst of "wow!". Then I can go back to the studio with fresh ideas and inspiration coming from me…not from the internet! Give yourself time to get through it, it sometimes takes me a few weeks. Enjoy your kids…the summers go by so very quickly.
Great [very honest] post! I totally agree that looking at art, while inspirational, can also get in the way of our OWN creations. I find that when I start looking at a lot of art online, I get discouraged and think "Why bother — everyone's doing the same thing, and theirs is better." Gah! Apparently, I forgot that the things I love most about making art are its internal effects on me (and me alone!) — that usually ends up what turns up in my creations, and what makes them powerful. Comparison just makes me want to cry. Thanks for the reminder!
Loved this post and, apparently, I'm not the only one. I too totally understand the sentiment. Been there, done that. We all have. But remember the U, Tara. Sounds like you're at the bottom of the U right now, so there's no way to go but UP! Come back soon to tell us about the experience!
Good luck! I actually found this a motivating and inspiring post, so I bookmarked it.
Hi, I can so totally relate to what you are saying and I get quite down if I start to compare my work to others. Have a great week and all the best, looking forward to seeing how it goes (no pressure though) Michelle 😀
Tara I found myself nodding the entire time while reading your post. It's like you are in my own head you sneaky little pixie you!
You my dear are fabulous your art is fabulous and your writing is fabulous. Take the time to be gentle on yourself (words I constantly have to remind myself of!) and just play. I know I have a hard time discerning between painting to "sell" vs painting to "paint". The thing is there shouldn't BE a difference – it should all come from a place of joy and playfulness but it's so easy to get caught up in 'will someone like this?' "so-and-so is so much better than me" "my work looks like a 5-year old drew this" (oh wait, that's just me. Never mind!)
Really it's just getting caught in the future – stay in the now, in the moment and love doing what you do best girl – being fabulous!
You can see me but I'm totally cheering you on 🙂 Blog high five!
OHHHH, how well I can relate to all this…tomorrow I'm going into my art room and not coming out until I've applied brush to paper (ha!) I do think some of us (me included and sounds like you too) take this all too seriously instead of just going with the flow of the evolution of our work. It's all a process like the rest of life and I suppose there are seasons just like in nature when we lie dormant as something new is birthed. I've even been thinking the whole creating one thing at a time to sell and looking into art licensing. I look forward to watching your art journey – by the way I Love your abstract work!
I think YOU are amazing Tara and also that a lot of you (wonderful you) comes out in your paintings…There is real substance and sustenance in your work and I hope that this week when you step away from all of the electronic interruptions you will see yourself and your work with fresh eyes.
I’ve recently discovered your blog via Instagram and also a search I did on Pailine Agnew’s ecourses. Reading your blog could be like reading my own, we have gone through so many similar phases and had very similar thoughts, about our oaths, wanting to find our voice, feeling like you can’t break the rules without first learning them…. I love your blog and fully intend to keep reading… Best wishes
Welcome Sue and thank you for the kind words. 🙂