Let’s face it, when it comes to creating art, sometimes we encounter a serious mental or emotional block.
When we’re desperate for answers to our general lack of enthusiasm and productivity, we search the internet for websites, blogs, art magazines etc. that are willing to address this issue.
Eventually, we discover a general pattern in the advice that we receive from some of these sources.
This particular advice is as follows: “Always show up each day to work in your studio. Don’t be afraid to play with your materials to get over the fear of creating art.”
However helpful this advice may seem, it is only useful if you consider one very important point:
All the playing and experimenting in the world won’t help you unless you create with intention.
What is “creating with intention?”
When you create with intention, you create with a specific artistic goal in mind before you begin experimenting with your materials.
This particular goal will help you to define how and in what way you play and experiment with your materials.
For example, let’s say that you want to create a series of urban landscape paintings, but you are unsure as to what colors that you want to use. You might play/experiment with color scheme in order to decide what type of mood that you wanted to convey with your work. Executing small painting studies with several different variations of either warm or cool colors might help you to achieve this goal. Painting studies might also be used to determine which composition you find most interesting or pleasing etc.
In these two examples, “playing/experimenting” would be considered effective in determining the final version of your urban landscape paintings.
In the above example, I used painting, but this same concept could be applied to a variety of different mediums, sculpture, photography, drawing and digital art.
There are some people who say that it is “freeing and fun” to just paint or create without any worry or concern about the end result, but I disagree with them. Sooner or later, you will be driven to seek meaning and purpose in your work.
When you finally do decide to create work that you want to share with the world, you will find that you can’t do so without both an adequate understanding of the basic foundations of all successful art (line, form, shape, composition, etc.) and a specific goal in mind.
Creating without intention is to create without purpose. While that may have it’s momentary joys, creating with intention, (though sometimes challenging) is far more rewarding.
If you have any questions about this post please let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of pursuing another medium like branching out into mixed media work (ex. mixed media painting, mixed media sculpture, installation etc.) or alternative media (ex. video, digital art etc.) but every time that you dared to consider a direction less familiar your head suddenly fills with mental movie clips of naysayers, tremendous obstacles and absolute failure to succeed.
As if this were not enough, your personal artistic adventurer/explorer is further quashed by exhibition deadlines, less than stellar time management and a host of weekly family activities.
Does this mirror your present situation?
If so, here are some suggestions that will help you keep your sanity, manage your time, and stop the insecure thoughts that are holding you back:
SELF DOUBT THOUGHT/THOUGHTS #1: I know absolutely nothing about the new medium/mediums that I want to work in; if I attempt to produce a piece of artwork using this medium/mediums, I’ll just screw it up!!!
A. Research The Medium You Plan To Use For Your Piece
a1. Research the history of the medium
b1. Research the application of the materials or various techniques that can be applied when using these materials. (For example if you are a photographer researching ceramic sculpture because you wanted to do a public project using ceramics as part of your installation piece , you might research certain techniques used in ceramics like slab construction, coil construction or carving clay).
c1. Research art pieces that have used this medium/mediums. You may want to research other artists who are experts or specialize in using this medium/mediums. Take note of the works that have the most impact. Ask yourself why?
B. Enlist help or Outsource
b1. Research artists and professionals that have experience working with the medium/mediums
c1. Try to make contact with these professionals and ask them what their rates are? What do they charge for employing them to help with certain tasks or parts of the piece. When you are comfortable with the price range that is within your budget, then communicate with the professional about what you want to do with the project you are pursuing. What is the piece about? Is the work you need done simple or does it require a high level of skills? The better you communicate what you want and need the professional to do, the easier it will be to complete the piece.
SELF DOUBT THOUGHT/THOUGHTS #2: How can I create work in another medium if I don’t have the budget?
A. Start Small
Who says that you have to create a huge, life-changing piece. When you create a small (tester piece), you can focus on learning how to use the material that you have researched effectively.
B. Create a List of Weekly Expenses
Make a list or chart of weekly expenses. This way you can see how your money is being spent, where it is going, and where you can cut back. For example, look at the money you spend on extracurricular activities and see if you can use half of that to fund your project.
C. Raise funds for your project
Set up a fundraiser to raise money for your project/projects. This can be done locally or through social media crowd funding websites.
SELF DOUBT THOUGHT/THOUGHTS #3: Nobody will like the new piece/pieces of artwork; My clients won’t understand what I am trying to do.
A. Everything Involves Risk
When you have found something successful that has worked for you, it is scary to think that your latest passion may not be received the way you would have initially envisioned. Continue producing what sells while trying to find alternative ways to market your work in this new medium. Your continued success in the medium in which you are familiar will offset any initial rejection or cool reception of the pieces produced in the new medium/mediums.
B. Market Your Work To A Different Audience Using Social Media
This helps to expose your work to people that are unfamiliar with what you do. So they are less likely to judge you based on your past work and the medium in which it is produced.
C. Consider dealing with the same subject matter and themes that you deal with in the medium in which you have experience. Then you can tie your old work and your new work in a different medium together using theme. This theme based work will help your present collectors to more easily identify with your work in this new medium.
SELF DOUBT THOUGHT/THOUGHTS #4: I don’t have enough time to pursue another medium.
A. Make A Time Chart
Look at your present schedule. How do you allocate time in your day for each item on your to-do list? Try to see if there are any open spaces of time that you could use for your new project.
B. Enlist family members to help with chores
Ask your son, daughter or spouse to cook for you some days or take out the trash. You’d be surprised, even the smallest, simplest tasks take up precious time that you could be using to do research and to create your new work.
Outsource time consuming jobs like sending your packets out to galleries, updating your website and writing copy to an assistant, intern or freelancer.
When you attack self doubt with action steps to solve the problem/problems you are worried about, you begin to see the possibilities. Tasks seem easier to conquer. Dreams seem attainable when approached in small steps.
*If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear from you!
I decided to illustrate this article with a picture that I took of the center of a line of staples. It looks like a mysterious tunnel leading from a place of darkness to a place that is bright and clear. If we think of the tunnel as a metaphor for our artistic journey, we begin to realize that along the way to achieving our goals we will stumble, learn and grow. If we can see a clear vision for our art, the message we have chosen and keep focused on this, we feel like all of our temporary frustrations will eventually result in success. Sometimes, artist’s struggle with a clear and definite vision for their work. You can read countless art history books and magazines searching for other artist’s to both influence and inspire you. The search online for websites that feature hot up and comers who are presently making waves in the art world with their unique style is a constant and arduous one. Feelings of irritation arise as you struggle to define yourself and get a handle on the marketplace. You try to figure out where you fit in and who is looking to purchase the type of work that you are producing. While getting a degree in Art (a Bachelors in Fine Art or a Masters in Fine Art) has it’s advantages in that you are made aware that you need your own website, a bio (biographical information about the artist, your particular style of work and who influences you to create the work that you do), curriculum vitae (where and when you got your education, training etc.) and portfolio, it does not necessarily help you to decide what you are passionate about or what message you want to convey through your chosen medium. Unfortunately, this is often a solitary journey that you must take in order to find out who you are and what is important to you. Some people may have a mentor to help steer them in a certain direction during the early years of their career; however, this does not guarantee that they will stick with this message or genre. People may get many ideas, but not feel particularly tied to any of them or they may have significant success in painting or photographing landscapes, floral, or figurative work then find out mid career they are bored and want to move on, but they don’t know where they want to take their work or what they want to do. These kinds of experiences can wear at your creative spark leaving you feeling directionless. Although the shot gun approach never works for anyone, you shouldn’t have to corral yourself to the point of being limited by perceived or self enforced limitations. If you ever get to this point and some of us inevitably will, consider some of these suggestions to help you out of your creative situation. In formulating your own unique vision, it is necessary to discover who you are at this point in your life…:
1. Make a List –
Try making a rough list (hint: don’t edit yourself) of all of the things that you like and don’t like. If you are incredibly patient, write this down in your list; if your are impatient and bore easily, make sure to take note of that. It is necessary that you discover your true creative personality because this will eventually determine which style is best for you to work in.
2. Look at other artist’s that you admire and that have inspired you recently-
What is it that you like about their art?
Why does their particular style or subject matter appeal to you? What inspires them to create their individual brand of work? What are they trying to say with their work? Is this the type of work you might aspire to? Ask yourself why?
3. Take an honest look at the causes you are involved in as a source of subject matter or inspiration for your work-
For example, maybe you like to contribute you time to an animal shelter and would like to help find people to adopt stray animals. You could use this as a reason for producing expressionist portraits of the animals that need homes. Perhaps you contribute your time to helping the elderly or homeless and would like to make paintings, sculpture, photography, etc that addresses these issues.
4. Do research into specific schools of painting, drawing, sculpture,or photography-
Perhaps a certain philosophy or style appeals to you and you believe you can expand on that.
It is important to know why you create the art that you create because then you can set your own artistic goals around this information as well as tailor you style to the overall feeling that you are trying to convey in your work.
I hope that this helps you in your creative endeavors. If you have any ideas or suggestions about how to help others or how to give them direction in this area please feel free to comment.