I don't know about you, but it was slow going this week and I had a couple of difficult days trying to paint something I wasn't completely frustrated with. After the past couple of frozen weeks, I was back in my thawed out studio and started painting.. and nothing happened.
The landscapes I was working on this particular day were Blah with a capital B. I had a nice little stack of paintings I was tempted to put in the fire pit.
The next day, we were talking about it and Gary asked a great question - had I been painting photos I really loved. I had not. Actually I had been working on several photos in my "pile" that I had at one time thought would make good paintings, but I was not in love with any of them.
I went back to my studio, and started working on one I really wanted to paint. A road out in New Mexico that is in the middle of sagebrush and always makes me think of Georgia O'Keefe- she used to take off in her model A across the desert sage in hopes of finding the perfect spot in which to paint. Georgia is one of my favorite artists because of her fortitude in finding what she loved, what spoke to her heart and soul. She lived in New York and painted in beautiful Lake George but it wasn't until she came to know the desert in New Mexico that she fell completely in love with a landscape. A place that sustained her creativity for decades.
It made me think again about what the difference is in those days where nothing happens, and the days where everything has a little magic in it. How do you find what you love when you aren't feeling inspired? How do you sustain the creative flow? Some of it may be the "muse" at work, but there are a few things we can control, so here are my tips for getting unblocked and back to painting:
1. Set the mood- Get your best "painting music" playing, have your water/tea/coffee at the ready, and definitely give yourself the benefit of working during your most creative/productive time of day.
For me this looks like 6am with my coffee and spotify "art" playlist.
2. Take a walk- I need a walk periodically throughout the day to give my back a break, one, and to clear my head and work through what isn't working in my painting. Somehow getting out and breathing in a change of scenery is transformative in how I see things when I return to my studio.
3. Have an inspiration board- a physical board works best for me. On it I put up my best paintings- Photos that I want to paint, ideas, quotes and verses that inspire me. I also put up words that resonate with my work. Terms that describe the heart of what I want to convey in my work. "whimsical", "buoyant", "beautiful", "sacred" are some of mine.
4. Call a friend- Ask someone, maybe an artist friend- who understands the struggle- how they see your work, what it says to them, words that describe it. This is invaluable. It's powerful to hear from others how your work speaks to them, and may just give you the boost you need to get through your block.
So I painted "Georgia's road" - my little reminder to be true to myself- and the magic happened. At least magic in my mind, and whether it's in my mind or comes across in the painting, I don't always know, but I am satisfied either way.
I love what I do. There is nothing else I would rather spend my day doing than painting. It satisfies me on so many different levels that I don't think anything else in this world could substitute for it.
So as it is in painting, often it is in life, true satisfaction doesn't come until it aligns with our passion, our spark- that thing that makes us feel like a kid again. Georgia understood that sometimes it just takes a change of scenery, a little fresh air, and a new direction to find it.