To starve an artist:

Getting back in the saddle

For many creative individuals having periods of low productivity or periods where you can’t seem to get work flowing is a very common occurrence.  Getting back in the saddle can be the hardest part to cranking out work regularly.

For me, this has been a long trying year of stifled creativity and in many ways I gave up.  For the better part of a year I lost sight of why I was illustrating and painting and quit producing work while I began to evaluate my work and my goals. After a couple things occurred in my life, I found the strength and inspiration to get back on my feet and continue onward. 

January last year, I departed from an internship as a studio assistant and started to work more at the restaurant I work in.  I was in a period of re-evaluation. I took time to really look at my own goals as an artist and my approach.  It is safe to say that my productivity plummeted.  In many ways, I had given up on my creative pursuits.

Summer flew by with a great deal of anxiety in response to our political climate. As fall passed and October approached, a few things occurred in my life that directed me back into the saddle.

One of the things that brought me back into the game was developing tendinitis in my thumb and wrist. I think that was when I realized that it was more important to me to preserve the health of my hands so I could pursue a life of content creation. I knew that if I was going to do this, it was all in, now, or never.

I began cranking out work enough to get my flow back regardless of how strong or poor the work was.  The goal for me was to return to the level of productivity I once knew.

Here are a four ways I worked through the funk and got myself cranking out work again.

Keep writing down all your ideas:

The best thing I did for myself even through all the creeping doubt was to write every idea down.

The key here is generating and recording your own ideas as frequently as possible. Writing notes and elaborating on ideas with sketches will often help workout concepts you cant wait to start working through. Then when I became excited about new ideas I would rush to paper and pen as quickly as I could.

Understand the process:

It is understandably frustrating when you start sketching again and nothing good seems to be coming from the tip of your pencil for a good deal of time.  It is important to keep sketching and allow yourself to work until things begin to look good to you.  I am a fan of stream of consciousness drawing in order to exercise your brain and I do believe that will help you find your flow again. 

When the mood strikes and the work begins to flow again, draw out thumbnails of bigger ideas you want to explore and keep them in your radar daily by hanging them on the wall or flipping through notebooks everyday.

Look through old work:

Sometimes during artistic droughts or times when I questioned whether it was worth it to keep trying, I would skim back through old material and look at my growth and remind myself of the creative vision. 

While looking through my own paintings and drawings I saw my own growth. It reminds you of how far you have come by seeing your understanding of techniques improve.  It really does help to see your work becoming stronger and more cohesive from one piece to the next.

Don’t forget about the fans:

 Be willing to listen to the fans.  The fans will remind you of why they like your work. They will also remind you that, while they may not like everything that you produce or understand it, they do want to see new work.

 Enough times this year while I have thought about giving up, my fans and patrons would come up to me and ask me when my next show would be; or they would ask if I was working on any new paintings or illustrations.

It was important to hear that they still wanted to see new work; and that they wanted to see me display in shows. I think for a lot of people it is refreshing for them to watch a passionate person pursue their dreams.  But on the other end of that; for an artist on a dry spell, it’s a great reminder that there are people who believe in what you’re doing.

While I have several patrons and followers of my own, I am just an artist in the very beginning of my journey.  I am fortunate enough to have co-workers who remind me that when I have my days off, I need to stay productive and keep pushing forward so I can eventually live as a working creative.  With that in mind, producing bigger and better work becomes priority.

Everyday I have off, it becomes a challenge to break every goal into small steps that are manageable so that I can slowly set myself up for bigger opportunities or build up a visibility on the Internet.  It is a great deal of help to break down your goals into manageable portions everyday, before you go to whatever restaurant, café or bar you may work at.

Keep hope alive,