I have scraped two paintings in the last week. This really does not happen to me, and I find it disconcerting, to say the least. But I got lost. I’ve been working more intuitively than I have in the past, without working up my ideas beforehand, and until last week I’ve been happy with the way that’s developed. And now I am not- I can’t seem to engage with an idea once I see it in two dimensions, I get frustrated and do something dramatic- again, a reaction that has worked well for me in the past- and in the end, I scrape it down and start over. Hours and hours wasted, paint wasted, confidence shaken. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to paint. I tried taking a couple of days off, which is difficult for me- I panic if I don’t work. It didn’t help.

I KNOW what it is. I know it’s a block, I expect it will probably pass, I am fairly sure I haven’t actually forgotten how to paint. But I don’t get stuck; it just doesn’t happen to me, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I can paint really bad stuff until I force my way through it, I suppose. I can backtrack and return to drawing out my plans, identifying light source and vanishing point with arrows and exes. I think that’s all I can do. I hate it.

When my children were very little, they would reliably be most frustrated, most tantrum prone when they were on the cusp of some new achievement. I remember thinking that there must be power in frustration itself- an additional rush of angry energy which pushed them to gain the skills they sought. Maybe I will just make an angry painting and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, there’s always prison.

Wish me luck.



8 Responses

  1. For me, my connection to whatever-you-call-it often comes in the form of a river, or rivers. (Highly useful for painting word-pictures, if nothing else.) This passage of yours reminds me of a river that has carved out new depths, slowly massaged (or crumbled) a rocky chunk off its bank at some swirling oxbow turn where the pressure used to build just…so…and now needs more time to find the old homeostasis again. Maybe that will happen, or maybe there is a new normal at hand. Either way, that’s what leapt to mind, so there you go.

    As a writer, this is when I try to work on my penmanship and hope like heck that the ink will find the right groove on its own, until it seems to listen to me again. Go back to the fundamentals, as you say. With teeth grit and eyes rolling like a teenager.

  2. I have struggled for the last month or so myself. Find it happens at times after a long productive run. I just need to refill whatever psychic tank my painting comes from. It always go away, and I find a bit of work can tip me back into work mode. Last few days I have just hung around the studio re-sorting my comics after our move. Getting close. Nice to know I’m not the only one in this place. Plus, January sucks.

  3. I think you are right…frustration comes because you are subconsciously working on something new…at least that is my experience. Don’t let it get to you…it will work out

  4. I hear you. my big strangling moment, comes when i feel i have wated* paint…. this usually devolves into an epic drunk in the studio, where somehow I magically give myself permission, to untie myself. ” A
    nd now for something completely different…”

  5. Listen to this. You may have already but it sounds like today would be a good time to do it again. Good introspection on the creative process and tricks to get unstuck.
    Specifically the section from 38:00 to the artist field trip assignment. Hope it helps or at least entertains.

  6. Keep faith and just wait, this moment will pass. I was stuck for a long time and now I’m painting again. I actually took a book study group for the book The Artist’s Way which is all about getting unstuck. And my style has now changed…not sure if it is for the better or not LOL only time will tell

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