Thursday, April 16, 2009

Creativity Unblocked

I've always been interested in the subject of creativity and read a lot about it. I realise now I don't mention it here much at all. Why is that I wonder? I think it is because I leave it up to the experts.

I am reading this post over at Pikaland about creativity blocks. Amy has put together advice from 40 artists on how they deal with the problem. In reading through I realised (again! why do I keep forgetting!?) that we are all experts on ourselves! I am an expert on me! (Actually, I'm glad it's me. I'd hate it if someone else had got the job of being an expert on me.)

I haven't got through the 40 pieces of advice yet, and I don't know if I'm just going to repeat something that is already there, but I thought I'd write about my technique I have to break through creative blocks.

When I can't begin or when I can't progress it is usually my inner perfectionist raising her ugly-but-well-maintained head. I have become too precious about the project, sometimes it is just an idea but already I see it as sooooo wonderful that I could not possibly do it justice. I become blocked. I can't do a thing. My inner procrastinator (actually, it is rarely 'inner' - it is usually my outer coating!) is remarkably skilled at getting me to the computer to spend hours looking at the work others are NOT blocked doing. Or to the bookshop where I'm sure there MUST be a book that tells me exactly what to do. (There never is.) I waste so much time that I have had to come up with a technique to un-precious-ise my idea.

My solution is volume. Instead of beginning the one perfect work, I begin 7. Or 52. Or 3 if I'm being a bit lazy. How can you be precious about 7 paintings!? Well, you can, but to a much lesser extent. I can even convince myself sometimes that it is OK to have, say 2 of those as just pure experimentation. As I progress on my array of works, some naturally slip into the 'later' basket and others I become obsessed with, working at them until they are done. Ahh. Now that is what I was after all along - a little obsession to drag me to the canvas again and again.

If this technique doesn't work I know why. Again it has to do with volume. I NEED a quantity of art materials waiting in my studio. If I'm using up my last canvases, or the 2nd last sheet of my favourite paper, I can't work. I need an abundance waiting on my shelves. This too is a preciousness. If it is the last squeeze of paint from the tube, then I must do it justice, I can't waste it by making a mistake. I find that with a draw of paint tubes I can 'waste' any quantity of paint. And of course it has not been 'wasted' but has gone into something I loved making.

So I go shopping. When I prioritise I often have trouble putting studio time up high on my list of things to do, but I don't allow myself the sabotage of stopping myself from spending money on my supplies. I know from grim experience that there will be no point in putting studio time anywhere on my list if I'm not well supplied.

Now, one of the reasons I'm mentioning this here is purely selfish. I wanted to remind myself of this. How is it I keep forgetting?


Ange said...

hey Jan - I feel your pain!!!

Great post.

Jan Allsopp said...

Thanks Ange, I think we are all the same deep down, in some ways anyway!

Owl and Fox said...

I too feel your pain Jan! I have draws full of gems and pearls and silver, yet if I feel like I don't have the exact amount of new and exciting things I need for a creative outburst, then I can do nothing with what I already have! It's very diva-ish, but it's the only way I can work well. What a bad habit, I wonder where it came from?
Great post :)

Jan Allsopp said...

I don't know that it is a bad habit, so much as a just a habit. I can think of worse ones!

Shirley said...

What a great blog entry. Like you, I also love to read and think about creativitiy and have to create many tricks to get past my internal critic. Fear of failure, preciousness, wasting supplies are all part of the same block for me - and I can get past it most easily by working small and fast. This however means my art ill most likely remain in journals or sketchbooks but I'm OK with that since it was travel sketchbooks and visual journals that were the stimulus. I'm heading over to the link you supplied for more reading.

Gaston Studio said...

Great post, and thanks for sharing it!

When I feel blocked, I stay away from what I call 'something serious' and jump into 'something frivilous' which kind of acts as a jump off point for me.

I say, do what works for you!

Jan Allsopp said...

Shirley, your books and journals are your artform and I wouldn't be worried about it at all if I were you because you are sooooo good at it. And if your skills and your method of overcoming blocks collide, well, lucky you! I do use the work small idea too for unblocking as well. It's a good one. I usually work fast anyway, so slowing down is sometimes good for me. Whatever is the opposite!

Gaston Studio, I had forgotten about those frivolous acts! Yes, that is also a great way to get going again. I do have to be careful they don't take me down the 'distraction' road which is really called 'avoidance' though!

Angela said...

Totally spot on with this post Jan. I'm also big on surfing the net looking at all the great stuff that others do, as well as my trusty art books.
Lately ive been seeking out books about artist books, art journals, sketchbooks etc. They are a great source of inspiration for me. But what i have only just realised, is that it's not actually those books i am looking for, what i really want is a book (or blog) about the PROCESS of the artist. From very first initial inspiration to the journal stage, development and final art work.. Any recommendations?

I have found the biggest issue with my *creative process* is WHAT do i draw/paint/print etc. Almost everything inspires me, i have a bunch of great supplies looking at me, but when it comes to the actual IMAGE i want to paint that is always where i get stuck. *shrugs* been in a rut lately and it always ends with WHAT do i paint.

Jan Allsopp said...

Thanks for your great comment Angela. You sound identical to how I've been. Thankfully I am past that now and you are reading the blog that I found that got me past it. Or I should say 'founded'. Start that blog yourself! I will be your first follower! By starting this blog I soon discovered that I had to paint/draw something, anything to post or my blog would look sad! I became my own motivator and, truly, the answer to what to paint is always "anything, just paint!" I also suggest you try my volume trick and start 6 paintings of 6 of the things you might paint if you could only decide. (Are you a Libran like me? You poor indecisive thing! I KNOW your pain.) The other thing that really helped me get going at the time I started this blog was Danny Gregory's "A Creative License" which took the pressure off me to draw 'properly' and opened my subject matter up infinitely. The rest evolved from those two things, blogging and Danny Gregory.

I, too found that I was most interested in reading about process. It's infinitely fascinating! But so little is written on the subject or the parts of it that you and I am interested in. I think I might work on a post about that. Thanks for the inspiration! And please email me your blog link when you get it!!!

Monster Girl said...

I'd hate if someone else was the expert on me, too. Wonderful blog.