Diary of a Disaster: Artist’s Block

by hlara411

We’ve all heard of ‘writer’s block’ before, but what about “artist’s block”? When I talk about Artist’s block I’m not talking about a simple lack of inspiration, a lull, a momentary lapse of genius. I’m talking about an utter desertion of all skill, ambition, talent and drive, a mutiny of your hand and your mind, and a complete failure to make a decent decision to save your life. How does it begin? How do you overcome it? How do you get back on the proverbial horse and start creating again? I don’t have all the answers but I can walk you through my most recent disaster(s) and maybe it’ll help you through your own.

Exhibit A: “Buster” – created in 2010, stunning photo, captivating subject, fantastic client. Project went very well, very pleased with the results.

Buster WM 800px

Fast forward to April 2014 and we see…..

Exhibit B: “Lacey” – Reference photo not as good but adequate, subject just as captivating, same fantastic client … so what happened?

Lacey Disaster 2 blog full size

Ok, wait… I guess I should go back even further by showing what came before:

March 2014 : “Ruffled”,  11” x 14”

Ruffled progression

February 2014: “Untitled”,   24” x 26”

 Pelican disaster

Get the picture?? Are you weeping yet? Add to this, three more large pieces that have remained unfinished for the better part of a year and a long, long list of commissions waiting in the wings.

Now I can’t say that I’m out of my slump completely and I think that’s important to contemplate. You don’t wake up one day and realize you’re in a slump, it’s a slow gradual descent so it makes sense that it’s a long slow climb back out. Here’s my advice for the climb:

  1. Remember you’re not alone. All artists go through this regardless of skill level and stage of your career. You can’t be genius all the time and you have to allow yourself that small imperfection.
  2. Recognize what the obstacles are that are in your way so you can tackle them one at a time. For me it started with the stress of a big show and continued with poor time management, pressure to repeat a successful commission, lack of focus, guilt over missing time with my family, missed deadlines and a lot of bad art.
  3. Take the necessary steps to heal your heart and mind before attempting to do more work. I have the good fortune of not having to support my family with my art so taking a little sabbatical was the key for me. I passed on all my shows, I spent time playing with my kids who are growing up way too fast, and I threw myself on my sword with the commissions and begged forgiveness and patience!
  4. Toss it!!! If there’s a challenging piece in the way, and you’ve already spent more time on it than is rational or fiscally responsible, THROW IT OUT. For me it was Lacey and I decided to visit the clients again and spend time with her, I took fresh pictures to help with the original reference and I started over. I spent more time trying to fix and eventually ruining the first picture than I spent redoing it from scratch. The hardest thing to do can be throwing away something you’ve worked so hard on and starting over but it can also be just the thing you need to get it right.
  5. Give yourself a break and take it slow.   Don’t try to go 100mph after the first success, keep a steady pace and gradually build on it. Set reasonable goals and stick to them.

I’m happy to say that Lacey is finished! I’m not 100% happy with it but I think that’s more my wariness talking and not so much how my client feels, but it’s delivered and for better or worse it’s one more thing on my list I can check off. The kids started school today and I already vacuumed and washed my floors even though no one is coming over. It’s a start and I’m going to build on it, now go take your first step!

Here’s Lacey now: