Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's as easy as 123...456789... By Lenall Siebenaler

Do you ever have the feeling that you really want to be in your studio making art, but for some reason, week after week, you just can’t get there?
Does it seem that you constantly make excuses for yourself as to why you aren’t in there? Do the excuses sound lame even to you? I have to …”weed the garden, go to the store, watch TV, vacuum, empty the dishwasher, I’m too tired to do anything…”

Have you ever started to read a book, disinterestedly picking it up for short intervals through the course of a week, two weeks, and then all of a sudden you get to a point where it starts to draw you in ---and then you can’t put it down? You can’t stop reading and you’re staying up till all hours until it is finished? Then after being all consumed, it takes awhile to even start a new book and the process starts all over again.

It’s kinda like that with a painting for me.
Earnest Hemingway once said, “I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. ” This makes a lot of sense to me? How about you?

I currently have about 10 or more painting starts sitting in my studio waiting for me. Some of them actually look rather promising. Others are going nowhere fast. I did five of them one night in one energetic sitting. About two weeks later, I returned to two of them, but haven’t touched them since.
What’s going on here?
Is it really just a lack of time? We are pulled many different directions everyday. Do we just need to make art a priority?
Is it lack of discipline? They say that if you make a habit out of doing art every day that you can’t help but be more prolific and that your skills will improve.
Is it lack of focus or commitment? Our minds are full of the days doings, our stress levels is high. It’s hard to get in the zone when you know you only have an hour to play. We don’t want to be so disciplined that we have to actually schedule an hour each day. Perhaps trying it might not be such a bad idea though. It only takes 21 days to make a habit.
Is it lack of confidence? We don’t know what to do next so we don’t do anything. Are we afraid of failing, messing it up? Is it fear of ruining them? It’s only paper after all. They’re not that precious.
What can we do to help us get over this BLOCK? I’d love to hear from all of you as to how you get through these dry periods. I’m sure you have some great ideas.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Schedule time each day to so some art. Write it down and keep your appointment with yourself! Even if it is just a 10-15 minute drawing of something in the studio. Try to do it in the studio or where you normally do your work.

2. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses. Commit to yourself—this is important to you. Make it a priority. Stop watching TV or surfing the net and get in there!

3. Leave out everything you are using on your work space so that all you have to do is grab the brush, pastels, pencils, ink and paint and pick up where you left off.

4. Make sure you don’t allow your work surface to become a dumping space. Keep it clear. You don’t want to feel claustrophobic. If you have to clean up or organize each time you’ll never get to the art itself. You can always just keep reorganizing… A mess can also stop you from even beginning.

5. Make the tools you use regularly accessible. Know where they are and put them away in the same spot each time. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find something when you need it. Consider enlisting the help of a professional organizer if you aren’t satisfied with your space.

6. Ensure your space is a place where you are comfortable and that you enjoy being there. Surround yourself with things you love and things that inspire you. Paint the walls your favorite colors and play music that excites or relaxes you.

7. Be like Hemingway and stop at a point where you know what you’re going to do next. That way when you finally get there, you won’t waste anytime getting down to business.

8. If you get to a point where you don’t know what to do next—set the piece up in a place where you pass by it regularly. Look at it, and ask yourself “What if?” Try using clear acetate and experiment painting over areas that are not working.

9. Get a second opinion. Call a friend, join a critique group, ask your husband or wife, or take a regular class where others can help you. Take only those suggestions you like!

Now that I’ve figured out what I need to do to help me get back in there and make it happen-- I just need to do it!

Wish me luck!



Lesley said...

Love this post, great advice.

Robin Olsen said...

Great ideas here Lenall--and many that I should follow! I find it helps me to always have both a painting and a stitching project going. I can't start painting in a 20 minute window, but I can get a few stitches in. I've also been following Tammy's advice of having set hours to work. I now work from 10-12 most every day of the week. If I have dishes to pick up or email to check, they have to wait until noon because my "job" starts at 10 sharp.

Lesley said...

Hey, just wanted to let you know I was thinking about this enough that I had to blog about it. Thanks for the inspiration!

Maggie said...

Another piece of advice that might be useful is one I use for exercise): don't let more than three days go by without playing with some art.

Suzie Wolfer LCSW said...

This sounds like it could be a new class Lenall! OR an art challenge!


Anonymous said...

10. Consult your Muse of Choice. Going for a walk may not be that odd, but it's a muse-generator painters swear by. Music and muse are not an odd combination either, unless it be Cowboy in rotation. Mere repetition can be valuable--every time "Home on the Range" comes around it re-creates a mental state that gets the brush going.

"Whatever works" is more than the name of a Woody Allen movie. Artists need to canvas their history for habits, fetishes, peculiar activities or imbibings that worked in the past. Perhaps it's just part of the business of claiming your own uniqueness. But more often than not there's a genuine connection, perhaps going back to a dim childhood memory.

PS: "The man who arrives at the doors of artistic creation with none of the madness of the muses would be convinced that technical ability alone was enough to make an artist. What that man creates by means of reason will pale before the art of inspired beings." (Plato)

Esoterica: A lot of muse-gathering has to do with one's current state of self esteem. Feeling good about yourself can be generated by reviewing past winnings, uncovering and exploiting unrealized reference, diving in, or sometimes just feeling the close warmth of fellow travellers. One needs the quiet murmurings of admired artists' books. Holding a great one in your hands, you can often fly.

excerts from Robert Genn

Lenall Siebenaler