The cycle of ideas and working in a series.
Tag Archive for: Getting unstuck
Do you ever wish you could go back to school?
I listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts this year. I used to listen to music while I make art but now I listen to podcasts.
Listening to a good conversation does something to distract my mind so that I can create more freely. Does anyone else feel this way?
Here’s a list of some of my favorite shows and episodes – I’d love to hear yours, please feel free to comment below and add to this list:
Hands down, my favorite podcast. The host, Antrese Wood, has fantastic guests and does a phenomenal job of interviewing them. These are some of my favorite episodes, but really, I have never been disappointed by any episode.
Burton Silverman (2 parts) https://savvypainter.com/podcast/components-good-art-burton-silverman-pt-1/
Errol Gerson https://savvypainter.com/podcast/errol-gerson/
Carol Marine https://savvypainter.com/podcast/carol-marine/
I love every episode! https://alicesheridan.com/podcast/
I love every episode! https://www.laurahornart.com/thepodcast
So many good conversations, these are a few favorites
Roanne Van Voorst https://thecreativityhabit.com/project/roanne-van-voorst/
Lots of good episodes but these are a couple I found useful:
Ep 219 – The 3 Journeys to Creative Transcendence http://www.creativepeptalk.com/episodes/2019/2/19/219-the-3-journeys-to-creative-transcendence-amp-how-to-know-which-youre-stuck-on
So many good episodes! https://www.thejealouscurator.com/blog/art-for-your-ear-podcast/
Alex Kanevsky http://www.artistdecoded.com/podcast/kanevsky
It’s not an art podcast but there are many years of wonderful conversations between Krista Tippett and her guests
Rex Jung – Creativity and the Everyday Brain https://onbeing.org/programs/rex-jung-creativity-and-the-everyday-brain/
Talking with Painters
Do you listen to music or podcasts or perhaps audio-books while you work? Tell us about it in the comments!
So, you’re ready to return to art or try it for the first time. You’ve decided to make it a priority, you’ve carved out the time and you can’t wait to make all the amazing art that’s been hiding deep inside!
Great. But where do you start?
I often dive right in when an impulse strikes. I like action and I’m incredibly impatient. If I have an idea or desire to do something, I like to start straight away. (I’ve been known to rearrange furniture at very odd hours.)
This kind of motivation is great, but it hasn’t always served me well where art is concerned. I operated on these whims for many years and it led to many false starts.
Several years ago, after a very long absence, I wanted to make art a regular part of my life (read about that here).
I didn’t plan when I was going to make work, I hadn’t thought through any ideas and I didn’t prepare my materials and workspace. This meant that in those infrequent moments of “inspiration”, I wasn’t always able to act on it. It meant that I had to use my time just getting ready to make the thing.
I didn’t set myself up for success.
It has taken me a while to figure out that I need to do some planning in order to establish a consistent creative practice.
Here are a few questions and ideas that may help you to get started.
- When are you going to make art?
- Do you have a specific window of time and specific days or is it going to be flexible?
- Do you need to tell your family or anyone else who may be affected?
- Where are you going to work?
- Do you have a dedicated place at home?
- Can you leave your work and supplies out or will you have to put them away after each session?
- Do you need to work somewhere else (cafe, car, park bench)?
- What materials will you use?
- Do you already have them or do you need to buy them?
- Here’s a list of the basic tools I used when I first returned to making art
- Do you know what subject you’re going to start with?
- Start keeping a list of possible subjects
- Perhaps you want to revisit a subject you enjoyed exploring in the past
- What artwork, styles or mediums are you drawn to?
- Consider creating a Pinterest board (here’s mine) or bulletin board of inspiring artwork or other imagery
What other routines have you successfully established for yourself? Is there anything you can learn from them?
Do you have any other suggestions to add to this list?
In an earlier post, I shared a list of materials I used when I first returned to making art. These might be helpful if you’re just getting started.
I hope you will join the conversation with your suggestions.
Join me for a fun 30 day challenge starting November 1, 2019 to get our creative juices flowing!
The #20brushstrokes30days challenge is to make one small painting (mine will be 4×4 inches/10x10cm) using no more than 20 brush strokes every day of the month.
The subject and medium can be anything you choose. Mine will be on paper using acrylic paint and I’m going focus mostly on landscapes.
My hope is that these little paintings will loosen up my style, help me simplify shapes, help me really “see” my subject and possibly inspire some larger paintings.
Even if the result is 30 ugly little paintings, I know it will still be a fun project for November!
You can follow my progress on Instagram, @rachpetru, where I promise to share my painting every day, regardless of how it looks!
I hope you’ll join me, remember to hashtag #20brushstrokes30days on Instagram and please tag me, @rachpetru, so I get to see what you’ve created!
When I finally returned to making art, my first project, a series of candid portrait drawings, involved a few simple tools and I believe that it is one reason I stuck with it. It was unintentional but by keeping my materials and subject simple, I set myself up for success (more about that project here).
I used pencil and paper, the same basic materials I used when I first became serious about art as a teenager. I already knew how to use them and there was minimal set up involved.
In the past I wanted to paint, so I bought a set of oil paints and tried to make one painting. In college, I took only the required oil painting classes so the learning curve was way too high.
I didn’t do any preliminary sketches or play around with the paint, I went straight in to the final product. There is also a lot of set up and clean up required for oil painting so I couldn’t quickly dive in if I had limited time or energy.
I’m not suggesting that pencil and paper will help everyone return to art.
I believe that using materials that are familiar and enjoyable to you could alleviate some of the obstacles to making art.
You may not want to start out with a medium you’ve never used if your goal is to start a regular practice of making art.
It can be difficult to make art on a regular basis, try to choose a medium that doesn’t make it harder. This will mean something different for everyone.
Perhaps you can think back to what materials you loved using when you felt no pressure and just enjoyed the process of creating.
(Share your go-to materials in the comments!)
For me, those materials were:
Disclosure: The section below contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and decide to purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any extra money, they will help me keep this site up and running! I have not received these products for free, nor have I been paid to promote or review these products.
A digital camera
I started with the large Canon DSLR that I already had. I began taking it with me when I traveled, but I wanted something smaller, lighter and more subtle.
After much research, I bought a Sony Alpha NEX-5N. If you’re interested in the tech stuff…it’s a compact, mirrorless camera that is much smaller than a DSLR camera. It has a large sensor and interchangeable lenses.
I chose it for size and photo quality but also because the screen on the back tilts so I could hold the camera very low and tilt the screen up towards my face. This enabled me to take stealthy candids out in public without attracting much attention.
It’s also just a generally great camera that I still use often and is particularly terrific for travel due to its compact size.
You can find the current Sony model on Amazon
(As an Amazon Affiliate I may earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.)
I like soft graphite in order to achieve dark areas so I usually use 6b up to 8b graphite pencils. You may want to experiment with a range of hard to soft graphite to see what you prefer – this set from Faber-Castell includes one each of 8B, 6B, 4B, 2B, B, and HB.
8B is the softest in the set, meaning it makes the darkest mark. At the other end of the spectrum is HB which is the hardest in the set so the marks will be lighter.
When I started drawing portraits, I used an 11×14 inch Strathmore pad of 80lb smooth white drawing paper. It’s a good quality, acid-free paper and it’s affordable.
A General’s kneaded gum eraser is useful for pulling up some graphite to lighten an area. You simply squish the eraser with your hands and press down on the area you want to lighten. You “clean” the eraser by “kneading” it together like dough. These erasers last for decades in my experience!
To erase large areas as completely as possible without damaging the paper, I use a Staedtler Mars white plastic eraser.
You may prefer electric sharpeners but I go for the old school handheld type like this one from Staedtler.
You’ll find a ton of other art supplies on the Blick website.
What are your go-to art tools?
Creative block is something that many artists suffer from and I allowed it to prevent me from making art for a very long time.
It was during a particularly frustrating time in my life when I returned to making art consistently.
I found myself ten years into a business career I never planned on, living in a place I didn’t like. I was frustrated with myself for delaying my dreams so I found fault with everything around me.
I needed an outlet.
Without any ideas, the easiest thing for me to do was take pictures. I had absolutely no plan. With my chunky DLSR in hand, I went out and started taking candid pictures of the public.
I’d take photos of people coming out of the wholesale club store or going into the Chinese buffet. I went to a protest rally that was opposing a movie theater’s proposal to sell beer and wine, just to take pictures.
I never intended to show the pictures to anyone but I kept taking them.
Once in a while, I’d look through the photos on my computer. The faces and expressions were intriguing but I still had no ideas.
Finally, I zoomed in on the face of an older Asian man and was compelled to draw his portrait.
His skin was weathered and his expression was that of despair or deep sadness yet he was just walking towards a restaurant, holding his wife’s hand.
I had almost no experience in portraiture but I felt like I needed to draw this man.
I had a pad of 11×14 inch paper and some drawing pencils. I laid the paper on my desk with the computer screen behind it, displaying the zoomed in photo, and I started drawing.
I didn’t know any particular methods for how to draw a portrait, nor did I care to find out. I didn’t know about the grid method that helps achieve precise proportions. I didn’t study portraiture in college.
None of that mattered to me, I just wanted to draw.
After that first portrait, I was pleased with the result (in retrospect it was not very good, see it below next to the larger version I did many portraits later) and excited to try more. Through my photos, I found a wealth of subjects.
I didn’t show the drawings to anyone except maybe a friend or two. It was my private project and I still didn’t know what it was about or what to do with the work.
I remember thinking about large portraits I’d seen in galleries and museums, thinking that I couldn’t possibly create something bigger than my little 11×14 inch portraits. Then, by chance, I had the opportunity to get some very large sheets (about 30×40 inches) of good quality paper for free.
It felt like a sign.
The full sheets were too large to store flat so I ripped them in half and started new portraits. Immediately, the larger than life portraits became more dynamic and the practice from doing 20 or so small portraits paid off.
My skills were improving and it was more comfortable than I thought it would be to draw so large.
I became obsessed with drawing.
I couldn’t wait to draw after work and on weekends. Before I left the house to go to work in the morning, I’d stop and look at the latest portrait in progress, anxious to return to it.
This project also meant that I wanted to collect more source material so I started bringing my camera everywhere. I was fortunate to have a job that required me to travel all over the world. Whenever I had a spare morning or evening during my work trips, I walk around whichever city I was in, snapping photos.
I didn’t set out with a plan or a concept and I didn’t know what to do with the portraits, but that project brought me back to making art.
I felt like I returned not only to art but to the identity I lost for so many years.
During my years working in business, I often felt like I’d taken on a different identity because I didn’t consider myself an artist anymore.
What this project taught me was that by working on my art consistently, I’d find not only the inspiration to continue but it would fulfill me in a way that I’d missed for a decade.
At times it was hard to continue the work but I decided that making art needed to be a priority in my life so I aimed to stop making excuses and get on with it!
In the next post, I’ll share info on the specific tools and materials I used for the project you just read about.
To listen to the audio version of this post, please scroll to the bottom of the page and click play on the audio file.
For many years, I had several limiting beliefs that prevented me from making art.
Many of us have beliefs that prevent us from doing the things we want to do. How many of those beliefs are a story we’ve told ourselves or ideas we’ve allowed someone else to put in our minds?
Do you have any limiting beliefs that have stopped you from creating?
The most damaging limiting belief I held was that I had to wait for inspiration.
I thought inspiration was a prerequisite to art making but I didn’t know where it came from or how to summon it.
Inspiration seemed magical and elusive.
I thought all great artists throughout history had moments when brilliant ideas struck like lightning, then they went to work. (If only that were true!)
It’s ridiculous to think how long I believed this to be true. Where did this idea even come from?
The reality is, inspiration can come from almost anywhere at anytime. It can come before the work, during the work or after the work. Your ideas can be clear or cloudy. The path is subject to change at any time.
The important thing is that we stay active in the creative process so that when inspiration arrives, we’re able to take full advantage of it.
For me, it is doing the work that generates the inspiration. Inspiration is only a part of the creative process but understanding how I find it helped me return to making art.
During my art drought (which lasted about ten years), I’d occasionally get in the mood to make art. One week, I’d embroider or draw, or I’d buy a bunch of oil paints and try to put something on canvas. I’d play with spray paint or weave strips of newspapers together.
None of it stuck.
Not one of these ideas developed beyond the initial investigation because I didn’t understand how to take it further. It was only through starting and sticking with an idea that I learned the way to inspiration is through doing.
I started to return to art when I was tired of waiting for something to happen. I was always waiting for the idea or for the perfect moment when what I needed to do was take action and stay with it.
Initially, it wasn’t much of an idea, I thought I’d document things in my neighborhood through photography. I kept doing it, with no goal in mind.
After a while, I had an impulse to draw from the photographs, that impulse lead to a series that I developed over several years.
Looking back, I realize the impulse I had WAS inspiration.
Inspiration isn’t a fully formed vision like I’d imagined it to be. For me, it feels like something tugging on you, subtly trying to get your attention.
It’s a whisper, not a shout, and you’ll only hear it if you’re listening.
As Picasso recognized, inspiration rewards consistent action. That isn’t to say you have to spend all of your time creating art to find it. I believe if you saturate your life with art; creating, reading, looking, listening, you will find inspiration.
What is critical is that you don’t wait for it to find you.
See my next post to read about the project that helped me return to art and provided years of inspiration.
To listen to the audio version of this post, please scroll to the bottom of the page and click play on the audio file.
Making art was the most important thing to me, so why did I stop creating for a decade?
Art school was a wonderful experience, I love my alma mater, my years there were inspiring and fulfilling. As much as I value my education, art school did not prepare me for the realities of being a professional artist.
Until recently, I don’t think any art schools taught students the business of being an artist.
It isn’t surprising then, how many people with fine art degrees, never make a career out of it. We weren’t armed with business skills, we were taught how to conceptualize our work, how to make the work (hopefully), how to write about it, and how to critique the work of our classmates.
This lack of practical knowledge wasn’t the only reason I stopped making art. I told myself a story about what it meant to be an artist and that story consisted of several limiting beliefs that I accepted as facts.
These “facts” became my excuse and it was easier to stop making art, find a more clearly defined career path and focus on other aspects of life.
When I finally did return to art, I was in my 30s and had a full-time career in marketing. I stopped waiting for inspiration, stopped making excuses and began to realize those old beliefs were not true.
It has been a slow process that has taught me a lot about myself and what it means to be an artist.
During the years when I wasn’t making art, I felt like I was hiding part of myself. I felt like no one really knew me because I didn’t completely identify with the person I allowed myself to become.
I hope that sharing my experience will help others return to art.