Finally, an idea strikes! It’s in your mind perfectly – the subject, color palette and feeling. You pull out your art supplies and block off time to bring this beauty to life…but when you go to paint it feels stuck! The dread of artists block settles in, and we all are far too familiar with it. Getting your ideas out of your head and onto the canvas can be an absolute challenge. Too often we leave incredible works of art in our imagination because of the space between imagination and reality. That experience is frustrating and repeating the cycle of frustration can take an isolated incidence of creative block and make it something we grow to expect. The excitement of an idea quickly leads to the apprehension about how to make it come to life, creating a psychological connection between imagination and anxiety.
How do we break this rather dissatisfying pattern? For some artists, daily or regular practice is one way to lessen the hesitation between thought and work. If you find that you’re only going to the canvas to create your final masterpiece, that can be nerve-wracking to say the least! Often our creativity needs to be teased out, or like a child left slightly unsupervised so the judgmental parts of our brain can’t interject. For others, it’s a process of starting from taking photographs, editing them, making small pencil sketches, translating that into small painting sketches, mixing paints and then finally, being ready to proceed. Then you have those bold free spirits among us that move forward best by just going for it – any color goes on the canvas, any mediums are subject to being used and somewhere in this creative madness emerges the idea of its own accord. In this blog we will explore a few productive ways to encourage our imaginations to flow freely from our minds eye to our fingertips.
If creating art has become a formal process where you only make time when you are ‘performing’ a final work, you may be unintentionally creating some frustration. A regular, stress-free but scheduled practice may alleviate some of that tension as you can warm up that connection between imagination and substrate without the added pressure of making sure it’s perfect. This is a great time to play, pick a medium you don’t usually work in, collage, mock things up, try different techniques like cross hatching, contour drawing, drawing upside down. If you’ve got some figures or portraits lingering in your mind, perhaps you focus on some basic anatomy lessons. If you’re doing landscapes, play around with some color mixing, or try using only a palette knife making bold marks. Many artists use 30-day classes or tutorials (like Sktchy), others find inspiration in using prompts only (like Inktober for instance). The trick is to make creating a part of your day-to-day life, easing the pathways for your creativity to come to life. You also might find unique ways to incorporate different methods and styles into your work that will capture the essence of your golden idea. Robert Kelley is one that often works in his Moleskin journal! At the end of the day, he will lounge on the couch, watch a show, and sketch! He says it is a way for him to enjoy the process and get "out of his head"!
If you are used to painting on a large canvas or a beautiful sheet of unmarked heavy duty artists paper, small sketches can be a great way to shake out any artistic wiggles between our mind and our hands! A small size (this may be paper or canvas or whatever you can think), encourages us to focus only on the essentials. Some artists will use small 4x6 canvases or create a grid of small squares in a sketchpad. We start focusing on negative space around a subject, or the angle of flowers in a vase, or isolate a complex image to only 3 tones – highlight, mid-tone and shadow. Distilling the most vital elements of an idea can help us let our work shine. Frequently in this form of warm-up or play we allow ourselves to experiment a little more with, “What if…” options. We move a hand out of the picture entirely, or change angles, we realize we really want a softer look rather than high contrast. Taking your idea (if you can) and teasing out a handful of sketches beforehand can be a great way to break up the task into bite size pieces.
USING A TABLET
Programs like Procreate can be a fabulous way to play. You can start with a blank canvas or import a photograph or piece of art that inspires you as the first layer. Build your way up along additional layers, giving yourself the ultimate freedom to grab an endless array of tools, techniques, mediums and colors! Hands-down the most forgiving method of trial and error as anything you don’t like can be gone at the click of a button. For added fun, try hiding layers you’ve created in between – every once in a while, you will find you don’t need something you would have done in real life! This is also a great way to adjust or decide where to go next if you get stuck mid-creation. Have you ever wondered what your work would look like with a bold stripe through it? Or if you added a repeating stenciled pattern in the background? Try cropping your work or adding distortion. The possibilities are truly endless. This is your judgement-free playground and bonus points for not worrying about wasting any materials or making any mistakes you can’t fix.
KEEP AN IDEA JOURNAL
Tried all the suggestions and the idea is still stuck in your mind? Keeping an idea journal is a great way to not lose track of those flashes of brilliance. Maybe you don’t have the right medium yet, or you haven’t developed a certain skill quite enough yet to really bring your concept to life. Jotting down what the idea is, how you feel, what moves you about the idea, even what kind of music or thoughts you are having will help you be able to return to this at the right time. Maybe this looks like a written journal, a collage book, or a combination of colors, images, drawings and ideas all taped together to remind you of something that sparked an idea! Much like people, the right ideas sometimes find us at the wrong time. You just might find that as you flip through your idea journal, you’ll bump into an idea that is ready for you! View some examples of Deanna Strachan-Wilson's journal and artwork below!
Do you have other ideas to share with out community! We want to hear them! Please comment below!