What Art Taught Me: Dealing with Art Blocks
Written on December 28th 2013
They definitely aren’t fun, these little spaces in time between finishing up an art piece and starting a new one. Unless you have a fully equipped arsenal of ideas, there are times when you will run into art block. And of course, the more time you dedicate to making art, the more art blocks you will have over your life.
We all know that they are necessary from time to time, but how do we get over those hurdles? Because we all know that sickening feeling when no ideas are coming our way and we are in fear that we have finally exhausted our creative juices. That is how I’ve felt many times.
But there are a few exercises I do to help stir up creativity. They might work for you too.
1. Take what you’re feeling, and use it.
I had about two weeks worth of art block at one point. I was miserable. I was hasty. I was scatter brained. So many negative thoughts and emotions came from me not having ideas. Why?
For those two weeks I had so many last second, unplanned, random photo-shoots.
I thought I was being productive doing all these quickies, but in reality they produced an opposite effect.
But then I started to think about how I was feeling at the moment, instead of trying to pick fruit from empty trees. That lead me to draw out photo-shoots based on the art block itself. For example, one idea I drew up involved a path leading to no where. It really helped me to imagine the feeling I had in those moments as a picture, instead of a wall I had to climb over to find the good stuff. Use the emotion you have in your hands.
2. Keep it simple.
During the whirl of all these poorly planned photo-shoots, I decided that I needed to just get outside. Not to take a walk, but to find a place where I could calmly shoot, instead of feeling cramped up in my home and yard. I took with me my Nikon d7000, a semi broken tripod, and some red silk fabric that had hardly been used, but was very wrinkly. I made my way up to my neighborhood ballpark. When I arrived there were a few kids playing around, but I never really needed privacy to shoot, so I would let them be curious. I broke off part of a branch from a tree, and then I got shooting. The concept meant a lot to me, and the materials used were few, which definitely took a load off my mind, and I was able to create a piece I entitled “Last Hope”. For me, tons of fancy things never created fancy pictures. Only when I felt happy and completely free to be myself.
3.Your medium might not be the right outlet for what you want to say.
One night, this particular two-week art block had been torturing me all day, and left me with no images that reflected how I was feeling. I wanted to express something, but I didn’t know exactly what. All I knew that it was bubbling up inside, and if I didn’t somehow get it out, I was going to go insane. It was after dark, so shooting anything outside was out of the question. I was on the computer at the time, probably looking through Internet memes. Bored and frustrated out of my mind, I somehow decided to get on Hotmail and I started typing a message to myself, and the words just poured out of me, I almost didn’t even have to think about it. That message turned out to be my first spoken word poem. After writing, I re-read it once and thought “This is it!!”. I was so excited that I ran downstairs to perform it for my sister. It said everything I needed to. And I was extremely lucky and grateful to be able to perform that one particular poem at a Story Telling night called “The Flame”, hosted at my friend’s restaurant.
In that moment, I didn’t need photography. I believe that in limiting yourself to one medium is limiting yourself to only one form of expression. Of course at the moment photography is my main outlet, but sometimes it just won’t cut it. Just how a guitarist might really really like cooking or a hip hop dancer might have a hidden love for drawing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but adding different colors to your pallet is always good. You can’t always just use red.
4. Know that sometimes creativity does come in random bursts, and wait for them.
I was beginning to accept the fact that photo ideas weren’t knocking on my door as frequently as I would like, and I was calming down. I was on the train heading towards Nara with my sister, and I was sketching a bit. It might have been the calming motion of the train, or that I was just in a very good mood, but somehow, a door was opened and idea after idea started flooding my mind, and made its way onto my sketchbook. Besides being EXTREMELY overjoyed, I was very curious as to ‘why now’? The ideas just wouldn’t stop for about an hour, and even as I was walking I was writing them all down. I stopped drawing them out at that point, and just started writing titles, because I was afraid that if I spent too much time drawing one out, another idea would pass me by.
That evening, after the faucet of ideas had been turned off, I looked at my scribbles and was happy that my art block seemed to have come to an end. I tried going back to that same spot in my brain where I thought the ideas had stemmed from, but they didn’t come like they had earlier that day. But it was OK. I had that moment, and it was enough for now.
5. Study the technical side
And then, when nothing is coming through of the creative end, it might be a sign that I need to pay a visit to the technical side. We all need to go back and learn new techniques and tricks. I am definitely not the best at this. But it is good to brush up on.
I also like learning about different forms of photography. Fashion and landscape are the next two that I’m interested in, so I tend to lean towards those.
Thank you for reading! Please keep in mind that these are just my personal thoughts on art block and not truth for everyone 🙂
If any of you have your own personal tricks, please share them with me in an email, and I will post it on my Facebook! We are here on earth to share.