In a recent promotional talk for my upcoming mentorship group with Mastrius, I was asked about experiencing Artist’s Block, and my response has consistently been, “No.” Do a Google search for strategies on dealing with Artist’s Block and you will find hundreds of websites and therapists offering techniques to dealing with it, but I have yet to find it explained as what it truly is, fear.
Artist’s block refers to a creative obstacle or mental barrier that prevents an artist from generating new ideas or producing work. It is a condition of creative stagnation, where the individual may struggle to find inspiration or motivation to create art. Overcoming artist’s block often involves finding new sources of inspiration, experimenting with different techniques, or taking a break to refresh the mind.
I have never suffered from finding ideas (inspiration), and I begin every new painting by adding a new challenge, this helps to keep me interested and motivated and moving forward. Technical stagnation can happen, but this is only because of fear. Since I began painting, I have never gone longer than a month without making a new painting, that makes more than twenty years of making new original paintings.
What I have experienced as an artist is the opposite of artist’s block, and that is burn out. I touched on it briefly in my talk, and I did experience a work stoppage in 2021 brought on by the pandemic and working too much and having limited social connection. This mental burn out landed me in hospital for a month. It was a wild month and an experience I have written about, privately. What was most fascinating to me is, that even though I couldn’t paint, I found myself healing through making art. I was drawing every day, in that month in hospital I did 100 drawings, and they are completely different than anything I paint, and I love them dearly. Perhaps someday they will accompany my writings from that time and become a roadmap for others experiencing something similar.
So going back to Artist’s Block. I think we need to rebrand this term and start calling it what it is, ‘fear’. It is the number one thing that keeps us alive, but also causes us to freeze in our tracks and not move forward in life. BE it art making or anything else in life, it is fear that truly stops us from realizing that which could transform us into our ideal selves.
A favourite quote of mine from ‘Chuck Close’ speaks to artist’s block or waiting for inspiration statement, and it is a favourite because it addresses fear head on.
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”
To navigate through creative challenges, the most effective technique is simply to work through it. Whether on canvas, paper, or a digital medium, persistence is crucial. Instead of discarding incomplete work, keep pushing forward, allowing the process to guide the evolution of ideas.
JUST. KEEP. GOING.