The Creative Spark

From time to time, like most artists, I run into a rough patch in the road. Perhaps not so much rough as just muddy. The ideas are less motivating and the resulting work doesn’t seem to go in the direction I want. Recently I took a break from painting to help with home improvement projects. When starting back in the studio, the creative spark seems to have become a faint glow.

Every creative person goes through such times. I’ve been here before and I will no doubt be here again. I have found some strategies to help me through the discouraging days:

1. Set aside the pressure: Forget about the desire to create and the worry about not accomplishing much. Those negative thoughts just get in the way of finding the road back. Realize that it happens to everyone and the creative energies sometimes need a rest.

2. Reset the creative environment: In my case this means clean and straighten up the studio which is usually at least mildly cluttered. I’ve tossed old files, cleaned out a closet and organized a drawer or two.

3. Start from scratch: It’s time to clean the pile of ceramic palettes with dirty dried watercolor, and get rid of ‘petrified’ watercolor blobs. Cleaning the brushes and palettes mean I will have bright inspiring color to start with next time. Muddy palettes and muddy water make for muddy paintings.

4. Browse the art supply catalogs: Ordering a new brush or a couple new tubes of color to try is always helpful. While I depend on a set of familiar pigments, I sometimes like to try a different color or two. A different kind of watercolor paper brings new possibilities.

5. Play! When the painting area is peacefully neat, the materials are freshly scrubbed or new and there are no distractions, take time to play! I use small paper samples or the back of an old painting and simply play with color. Wetting the paper, I can drip, dab and mix different colors to see what happens. It is very helpful sometimes to paint, without the intent to make a painting! You don’t have to please anyone but yourself. Just watching one color interact with another on wet paper, or dripping one color into an area of another, can be fun, relaxing and very rewarding.

Soon the ideas will start to pop up like mushrooms after a rain. In my case a walk in the woods or drive in the country alone also stirs up the idea pool. In no time I will be back again with enthusiasm and energy for painting projects.

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