The Fearful Artist

Fear seems to be a big part of why I don’t create. Over the years, my own fears have eroded my desire to create and to push on. It is a strange thing, to be so in love with your craft, but to be terrified of it once you are faced with it.

One afternoon I was sitting in Starbucks. My time there was one continuous sigh. I go here to get away, to find time to relax, to allow my brain a release and a chance to recharge. And yet, I find myself in a panic each time I visited. Thoughts such as Nows the time I must create. You don’t have much time. What do you want to do? No one will create you future but you blah blah blah. A phenomenal rainbow of thoughts, each color a different shade of fear and pressure. I don’t know how it happened, but in my adult years, I have totally lost the ability to relax and to allow my own self to drift through my work and what I do. My confidence was slowly stripped away by own own doing.

When you are sitting in a cafe, the last thing you want to be doing is thinking of this. Questioning yourself, who you are, your own competence and abilities. And yet without interruption, I have somehow made criticism my daily meditation.

I looked back at my accomplishments, and felt nothing. All that I felt was what I hadn’t done, and what I should do from now. I looked at my goals from this past year, and all had yet to be accomplished.

Why is this? Is it because my crushing pressure and high standards of myself were taking its toll on me? Was it because I was messaging my boyfriend too much? Was looking at too many images of artists who were doing better than me? Was it because I still didn’t have the equipment that I wanted and needed? Or could it be that I didn’t actually believe in my own abilities, and was just biding my time. Or, maybe this age of digital wasn’t actually for me, and my world and creativity had been stunted by the endless possibilities. They did say that more choice was worse than fewer choices, didn’t they?

I knew it was ridiculous. None of them made any sense when I thought it out. The pressure wasn’t real, I didn’t need to do anything I didn’t want to. I was free to create anything, or to create nothing. That’s the thing about art, it shouldn’t be rushed and it shouldn’t be forced, no more than you can make water run down a stream quicker. You can only remove the rocks.

As for my boyfriend. Yeah, probably. I tend to lose my own personal focus when I’m in a relationship. I can’t help but think of the fate of two lives than just my own. In a way, its my own creative project, thinking about what the future will be like and what we could and should do. It was also a slight addition. I find solace in having a partner, its fun, its always wonderful to have someone that cares about you, its just not healthy to be careless about it.

Images though..the vast endless array of impeccable artists with incredible lives. They all say its possible too—to be like them, to do what they do. And of course it is, there is always that sliver of possibility that says if you follow the blueprint perfectly, you could do it as well. But its ridiculous to say that to someone who has an opposite life in a completely different situation. It’s not fair, and it’s not reasonable. I always felt like they should put their focus on telling people that they shouldn’t aspire to be them. Different people need and want different things, instead of continually getting bombarded with propaganda that tells them what their lives should look like.

As for equipment….yeah maybe. That one could actually be possible to some degree. But it was still implausible as to why all my art suffered, and not just the side that required equipment.

One thing, I thought to myself, I was hardly ever creating. It was rare that I created, and it was rare that I made mistakes. I didn’t allow myself to. Something about it was too painful, coming short was painful.

But maybe, what if, it didn’t have to be? What if I didn’t even think about it, and allowed my body to go on auto pilot with the art, forcing the side of the critique out. So long, you have overstayed your welcome in the gallery. And just let me.

Perhaps I was afraid to do things wrong. To share too much, to give too much away. To reveal pain and failure was to be one. Maybe though, just maybe, it wasn’t.


Recent Studio Shoot, Recent Thoughts


Recently, I’ve been working with a team to create photography pieces in-studio. It is all-in-all a wonderful experience, though it can be conflicting. In the past, I had predominantly done Fine Art Photography, and lately it has been harder and harder to create within that realm. Almost as if I’m not quite ready for what that next step is. I am still preparing myself for what direction I want to go to. But I do know that I am starting to adore the sphere of fashion and beauty, and I am learning. Painfully so. I’ve spend so many hours staring at thousands of images in admiration, imagining the process of how it was completed, but only to have it like a skeleton in my brain, incomplete. I’ve been overwhelming myself with going over the processes, the possibilities. This dream, I’ve come to realize, has the capacity to destroy me. But when it doesn’t, I adore it. Creation is complex in that way, and in some respects contains elements of Stockholm syndrome. It takes you captive, gives you pain, but you stay. Perhaps that’s why I sometimes feel locked in, and unable to move.

In some ways, it’s a wonderful thing, to love something so much, that even when it hurts you, you choose not to leave. I’d like to think that that’s how you know when it’s real.

But admittedly I am fearful. I’m afraid of showing exactly how this field of mine controls me emotionally, and how it makes me feel. Its gut-retching to see everyone try to present themselves so confidently, whereas I quiver, so prone to honesty. When all I wanted was to just make beautiful things, and to not have to feel like I had to succeed online, have a stance, have a following. Popular on this social media, that social media, until it chokes you. It’s just so saturated that it’s painful.

But I hope that one day it can all come together and be beautiful. That even with all this excess, we can merge together and make sense of this all together. Can you imagine what a murmuration looks like? An enormous, overwhelmingly breathtaking flock of starling birds flying together in unison. Once you see it from afar, it makes sense and it’s awe inspiring. I hope that that’s what we look like as well, once you step away far enough. A flock of creatives, doing what they can, flying and soaring. Doing what they naturally do, with the by-product being beauty.



© Reylia Slaby
Fine Art Photography
INSTAGRAM: @reylia.slaby

What Art Taught Me: Dealing With Art Blocks

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.