Sometimes I think in answering that question, we will be able to conquer artist's block. If we knew where our creativity came from, we could always tap into this font of inspiration whenever we need a painting done. Sometimes I think we spend so much time looking for our muse, we don't notice when we walk right past her. Sometimes I think we get lost in our lack of knowledge about our creativity that we become scared of touching it. We treat it like some mythical force that we can never, ever, ever influence. Creativity is there somewhere but we don't know how to access it so we have to wait to stumble on it accidentally.
Let me tell you a short story.
I was asked to do a commission of a subject that I found particularly uninspiring. I did sketch after sketch to no avail, and finally just picked the least crappy of the lot and painted it out. Now I felt guilty because I REALLY wanted to do an amazing job for this person (particularly since they've waited literally a year for a painting to be done), but I couldn't find any way to be inspired. I was stuck in the rut of artist's block like woah.
One day, Sarah comes over (man I love being able to see her all the time now), and we sit down and doodle. She makes an idle comment, I don't even know what it was, but suddenly.. that painting that I hadn't been thinking about for months.. clicked. I knew what to do. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew it! I ran over and grabbed a board and started sketching my little heart out. Sarah was right there so she was able to pipe up with suggestions whenever I started to go downhill with the work, and to offer another opinion on composition and balance. By the end of the night I had most of the piece sketched (again, but this time it's the final piece) and I'm dying to paint it.
This is a subject I find uninspiring, bland, boring, etc.. and yet I am DYING to paint it and make it beautiful and amazing. I"m bouncing and eager with ideas about this painting that till now I had thought I would be giving the commissioner sub par work just to get it off of my table. And all it took was one little word from my darling Sarah to get it to all come together.
Sometimes the muse is like that, needing a trigger to think of things outside the box. Sometimes you just know what you want right off. But I thought I would put together a few ways to trigger that creative font when you're stuck in a rut and don't know what to do. Maybe if we stumble around enough, we'll come across the way we create, how we inspire ourselves and then can have more control over our creative process.
Please add more if you think of more!
1. Approach the painting from another angle. This works if you have a piece that's already set up for composition and you're struggling with anatomy/color composition. Have you ever become disillussioned because you know something's wrong with your sketch but you don't know why? Flip it. Hold it up in a mirror. Turn it upside down. Reverse it in photoshop. Anything to change the way your eyes view your linework.
2. Another opinion often works wonders. Have a circle of friends just to brainstorm with. This isn't to critique your work, but to plop out the idea of what you are supposed to draw, and just brainstorm what everyone thinks of when associated with that word. Sometimes the most outlandish ideas are the coolest! I like to keep a journal of silly, random things we've come up with in brainstorm sessions to look back on and see if those words trigger my muse.
3. Start from a new direction This is kind of a fun one for me. I used to always start every painting the same way. If it was a person I started with the head right in the middle of the paper. One day I just drew an arm. Another day I started with a foot. Start with something different just for fun. The same goes for coloring. Do you usually start coloring one section of the painting first? You only do the foreground? You always do background washes first? Try new techniques to achieve the effects you want when painting the opposite of what you usually start at!
4. Work with what you know. A friend had a block. She had a painting she REALLY liked, but when she would start working on the gears in it, she would lose steam because she just didn't know what she wanted to do and hadn't painted in so long that it was a bit of a hurdle to start with an unfamiliar subject. So she should switch and detail something she knows she does well... like hair. Detail it out, eventually the other parts will come together.
5. Jump around In line with #4, don't lock yourself into one part. I have to finish this hand before I draw that vase. No. If you really want to draw the vase, bounce over to it! Draw what you enjoy, it will come together!
6. Surround yourself with beauty. This one comes from Sarah. She surrounds herself with beautiful things. Inspiring art, dolls from other artists that she loves, things that she feels passionate about. Her workshop is one creative center, and it's worth it! When you walk in there you WANT to draw, because you are filled with the things that inspire you. This also works for people who really like goth things, or zombies, or whatever. Surround yourself with things your muse has inspired in others, it really does rub off!
7. Meditate I am a huge fan of the art of meditation lately. Just slowing everything down and getting in touch with tranquility. Sometimes we can't draw because we have so many stressors in our lives, and so much going on that we just can't stop and THINK. My therapist got me onto meditation and I have to say that I have never felt better. It wasn't immediate, it has taken months of practice, working on how to properly meditate, finding the style that worked for me. But once my mind started to slow down and calm down, I began to feel my creative wellspring opening up. I want to draw because I am calm and relaxed and able to feel the art coming on me.
That's all I can think of for now, but add your thoughts and let's see if we can fill this journal with ways to take back our creative process!