Time for another report from my ongoing quest to beat painter’s/writer’s block. I can’t say that I’ve done very much besides tend to a sick cat, get a skin biopsy on my face and knitting/reading/baking/cleaning to take my mind off it (well, the cat mostly, to be honest). But I did climb into the hayloft and found that I had quite a large pile of stretcher bars stashed up there, so I’ve ordered a roll of canvas. Just the cheap cotton variety for now, to take off the pressure of “ruining expensive supplies”. I obviously must have intended to get back in the game, since I’ve been moving these around for the last 20 years (and some of those moves involved very cramped quarters).
Another challenge is how and where to store my papers. Not just various unused watercolour pads, but the finished or half finished products such as my leaf prints. I want easy access to browse them in case I think of a project where I can use them, rather than stow away and forget. I feel this is important, but maybe it’s my overachiever speaking. My office is woefully small and very full… Spare room has my fiber in it, as much shelf space as I can possibly steal. (“Sweetie, those old OS/2 manuals aren’t really required anymore, are they? Fancy a trip to the dump? And what are these, 386 motherboards?”) Score: I just discovered a lot of VIDEO TAPES on one shelf, it’s not like we even have a player anymore…. And, well, I can’t deny that I sometimes think up plans for one half of the sideboard under the tv. To those of you who think “poor man”, well, his only hobby is his job and can be done in an office half the size of mine. Besides, he’s got a mouth and a throat, I assume he knows how to make noise with them if he feels inclined.
As I was tearing up old sheets into rags for use when painting, I came to think of another tool to spark creativity: Boredom. In fact I had to take a break already halfway through the first sheet to come out here and begin this blog post! Much to the delight of the kitten, who thought I was making a new toy for him on the floor….
There simply isn’t anything like boredom, or being unable to get to your art supplies, that creates ideas like a stroke of lightning. Showers, driving, visiting boring relatives, cleaning your office. So if sitting in front of your canvas for 3 hours doodling doesn’t do the trick, try the opposite. 😉 (although that sounds pretty boring too, but it needs to be the doing-something-boring kind to work I think)
I even managed to smear some orange onto one of my starter canvasses (finding in the process more old brushes filled with hair and gunk), before whipping myself into obedience and ripping up more sheets. Although I was tempted to hop back online to shop for brushes and other cool stuff (gotta get the most out of the postage, right?).
For those of you who think I’m not very disciplined, well, I can be if the need arises. I just don’t think ripping sheets is going to save the whales, so I’m cutting myself some slack. Besides, after I decided to test how many layers I could rip at once, it all became a bit more fun and was over pretty quick too. After Arthur was done playing with the pile, I even sat down and folded my rags to put into one of the Expedit boxes! 😉 Then I got rid of the gunk and covered my yellow painting in a coat of white. And then writing this I realize those rags probably have cat hairs on them now – doh!
Doing something tedious but productive with your hands like Heidi mentioned for my last post, such as spinning wool, also helps by just touching and working with the materials. You get ideas for new yarns, the colours of the new yarns my remind you of something and ooops, a painting is pushing its way forward. You need to learn to not think of your grocery shopping list while you do this, however. The idea is to empty your mind to make room for new, if writing down your old ideas in a notebook didn’t work.
So next trick is hands on: Learn/do something new. If you paint but can’t get into gear, learn to knit, speak French, cook, take a photography class. If your new thing IS painting, it may not work. Anything that gets your juices flowing, make you feel a bit more alive is guaranteed to also set your creative wheels in motion. New stuff has a better chance of achieving that compared to silly old tv shows and Friday nights at the pub. (ok, I admit that I have no idea how inspired you can actually get at the pub, the question is, do you remember your ideas the day after and are they still as good as last night?)
I think I forgot to mention: collect resources. If I did indeed mention it, forgive me for repeating. Every time I see a neat picture, colour, motive, skill, anything that moves me, I consider saving it as a reference. Not to publish or copy, just to look at for inspiration. This works great in this day and age, 20 years ago I had a shelf full of binders, such a waste of space compared to a harddrive.
At the moment I seem to be into collecting skies among other things that happen to appear in front of me. I never really use any of them as an explicit reference, they just get me started. Such as:
I hadn’t actually looked at the photo in a while, and as you can see I got it totally wrong, but it was nevertheless my starting point. (sorry about the flash – it’s so dark here at the moment) And then I began thinking up other skies at all sorts of odd hours. I’m not sure why, since I actually thought I was going to be painting abstract/intuitive like. But as I’ve been advocating, gotta go with the flow, follow the red thread as we say in DK. Skies it is. Until it isn’t. I’m not going to show you the finished painting just yet, because then I wouldn’t be publishing this post for quite a while. So it’s all WIPs.
Next on the program is refreshing my theory and daring to blend “dirty” colours. Just so I don’t keep hurting eyes out there. 😉
Something that can also be fun is to ask other people for themes. Ask them to make up a random sentence or word (or read a random page in a random book). Illustrate that somehow, not necessarily paint something that looks like a horse, or, if you do get a bunch of random words, combine three. “Blue horse on fire”. – “Usually you just feel him passing, sir, but I have seen him twice, in what would have been the flesh, if he had any.” Your turn! Send me a theme or challenge in the comments below and I promise to post the results of the ones I try out.
And when all else fails, a quote that I snarfed from Tintina’s blog:
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe