Artist’s Block

I think artist’s block, for me, might be a different thing than writer’s block (which I’ve had and I would guess anyone who has gotten paid to write has had at some point). Or maybe it’s just that I am so desperately out of practice. Wait. Let me back up.

Yesterday I had time (granted to me by my totally amazing wife) to work on a painting. I really hadn’t painted anything since the mural in our baby’s nursery. Due to a recent remodel of my office/art studio, I first had to dig out my painting supplies. Once that was accomplished, I looked at the time I had left and I made the decision to paint with acrylics rather than oil.

I knew I wanted to further explore a type of painting I’d done while taking my Design class (two years ago — time flies). I called this piece Rick’s Chair, because it was inspired by Richard Diebenkorn:


It’s not a masterpiece, but I liked it’s rough lines and restricted color palette and it was even accepted into a juried student show. I’ve been wanting to try more “in that vein” ever since I painted it. A photograph of two of my cats cuddled in the sun seemed like a possible subject. Saccharine, for sure, but there was something about the quality of light that I liked. I thought I could work with it.

sunbeam brothers

Maybe I could work with it… if I was not so out of practice! I stumbled right out of the gate because I tried to duplicate this amazing purple that was in the photo rather than choosing and sticking to a limited palette. I failed to ever get close to that color (I perhaps lack the right blue). Then I found myself falling back into pre-art major habits, like generalizing (“I know I am painting a stripey cat’s fur, therefore I must make stripes with short strokes to represent the fur!”) and, on a related note, not looking at the source material but painting what I think it looks like. I had only gotten a third of a small canvas covered when I felt it was time to throw in the towel.

So, here’s my theory: when you have writer’s block, you are stuck. You can’t get anything on the page. But when you have artist’s block, you get things on the page, but you hate it — everything feels wrong. I know the only way to get through writer’s block for me is to talk it out. I will literally talk out loud about what I want to write and just keep talking and talking until something clicks and I run to my computer to start writing. With artist’s block, I think I just have to force myself to put some marks on a surface. A little bit of art each day and all those bad habits will fall away and allow me to express myself the way I want to. I guess that’s why I started this blog in the first place, to get me working on art every day. So far, so good, even if the result was ugly.

Do you ever get artist’s block? If so, what do you do to get over it?


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