My Counter-Intuitive way of Dealing with Artists’ Block

The term-“artist block” is one that every creative person has heard, and carries with it a sense of frustration and artistic desolation. It’s a term that has been in the back of my mind, daring me to tackle it and rise above it.

Lately, I have simply surrendered to it, which runs counter-intuitive to the common advice given on the subject, suggesting that the artist should “just turn up” to their creative practise regardless. A kind of fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality. And there nothing wrong with that, it does work- I’ve tried it in the past. But I guess that’s not where I am at the moment.

I wanted to divorce myself of the label “artist” as part of my identity. Funnily enough, as I write this it occurs to me that perhaps this was necessary so I could grow as a person.

In December I ditched my studio space in Fremantle. In January I ditched my home studio, replacing it with a beautiful, funky lounge room. I decluttered all my art supplies, leaving me with just the bare bones-journals, pencils, paint and canvas. In March I ditched my gallery space in Fremantle. I gave away some artwork here and there, which has been liberating and kind of joyful, too. Ditching and giving. Throwing away the superfluous, gifting things that hold meaning and value.

I’ve just been finding the whole process of trying to sell artwork….soul destroying.

I still paint occasionally- only when I really want to- and I just set up in my dining room or outside. But mostly, it’s all about sketchbook doodles, writing down dreams, thoughts of travel and trying to find the still small voice again.

The below image is from my sketchbook, done on a plane trip on my way back from Bali.

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A work in progress, and some thoughts on artists block

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Here is another work in progress. I am slowly wading through my artists block, and am hoping to create a body of work that shows the spiritual world interacting with the temporal…or at least creating landscapes that fuel the imagination for things that we don’t see with physical eyes.
So…on the topic of artist block, something that I have been mulling over a lot, to the extent that I sought advice on Google (sigh). The most worthwhile thought has been, ‘just show up, sooner or later your muse will too”. Good advice…but still not without frustration and self doubt; these re-occurring feelings as the artist waits for and searches for his or her illusive muse.

On the flip side working through this block has helped clear up old cobwebs. I am starting to have much more clarity and focus- this is a very big nod towards creativity being a healing agent. I’ve been thinking about a book I used to read quite often; “Art Heals: how creativity cures the soul” by Shaun McNiff. In this book the author likens creativity to a kind of priestly and intensely spiritual engagement, capable of bringing profound inner healing. This is relevant to creative block in the sense that it puts it in its place: we are all creative. Our creativity moves us beyond the temporal and into the spiritual- a place where the subconscious reigns. Therefore to be blocked artistically is akin to being caught up in the cares of the world. Our creativity, our muse beckons us beyond this. To find our muse is essentially finding connection with God, since (I believe)it is a force beyond ourselves that heals, nurtures and awakens.
I am not implying that overcoming creative blocks simplistic in a “just get in touch with God” way. It’s a precious process, we wrestle with our own psyche and who we believe god and creativity to be. When I look at art history it’s like a living pictorial story of how we have tried to understand the divine, the universe, ourselves. Creative blocks are perhaps the chopping board of ideas and deeper thoughts. It’s a very precious place.
On a lighter note. Below is a little painting I created tonight on a scrap if board, totally unconcerned about the final product; just enjoying applying paint, leftovers from my pallet. It’s a great example of how #1 working on more than one artwork at a time is good practise #2 when you are relaxed and don’t care if things work or not, things seem to work well!

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