|I remind myself that even artistic legends like Michelangelo struggled. When he did the
Sistine ceiling in fresco, a medium he wasn’t familiar with, the first few sessions were stressful and
trying for the artist. But he persevered and created one of the wonders of the art world.
It’s okay. Breathe. Stay calm. Do. Not. Panic. It happens to all of us—a creative breaking point in our art that threatens to push us into a tailspin. When I was in school, this was my routine: I would try so hard to push it, to make something happen. Then I’d get derailed, and then came the frustration and even anger. I would get down on myself and just mope around for a while. Not fun!
But those kinds of episodes happen to me less and less now because I do a few things differently that I want to share with you:
|Edvard Munch channeled his psychological anxiety and pessimism into
powerful, moving artworks (Ashes, 1894, oil on canvas).
I acknowledge that not every studio session is going to be a brilliant, amazing success that will leave me with a cheery smile on my face. The reality is that it can be really tough in there, right? If I feel like my expectations aren’t matching what I am accomplishing with my work, I make an effort to set reachable goals so I’m not disheartened. For example, I’ll focus on working without stopping for an hour. No looking back on what I’ve done or reworking, just working. At the end of that time, I’ll usually have one or two ideas that I can build on, and that is really satisfying.
I take off the blinders and try to honestly assess what is going on. If I keep stumbling over something, I ask myself—what’s in my way? If something isn’t working, I don’t want to ignore it. There’s no shame in retracing our steps to see what has tripped us up. Art is not a one-way street. You can go back and forth dozens of times until you are happy with your progress. I know I have!
I give myself permission to start over or work in a different way. I used to be the type that had to see things through to the end, and to a point I still am. But I also see the value in letting go in order to refocus myself. If something isn’t working, I’m not going to let one painting or drawing sour my whole creative pursuit. If I want to put oils aside to do exercises with pastel painting or loosen up with watercolor, I do it. You should too!
And most importantly, I know how to get back into the right mindset—inspiration and artistic guidance. That means looking at art that excites me and studying the techniques of the master artists I so admire. I also “reach” for one-of-a-kind resources from ArtistsNetwork.tv like Bold Underpaintings for Lively Pastel Landscapes, which explores color, composition, and more in pastel. This video workshop had me itching to start working when I was done viewing it. Such an art guide spurs me on and enlightens me when I reach a crisis point. I hope it does the same for you. Enjoy!
P.S. Have you had an art breakdown? What did you do to get back into the right artistic mindset? Leave a comment and let me know.