Sharon Bell is the East Texas artist that mentored me many years ago when I was discovering myself to be an artist. Once in a casual moment she made what seemed at the time to be simple comment. Yet that comment, that she probably doesn't even remember saying, has helped me many times. Sharon told me that every artist has times when they question themselves, when they doubt whether they can still "do" it, or if possibly they never really could. When I am discouraged or worry that I've been off that horse for too long, I remember her statement. In doing so, I know that I am not alone in my self doubts and that if I will just begin again, I will realize my gifts once more. I will discover that my gifts were not fleeting fancies like a luna moth living but for a day. Rather the gifts inside of me have been hibernating like a bear, simply sleeping for a season waiting for the warmth of Spring to reemerge.
As an artist, as an art teacher, I have made some observations of actions that can be helpful when our creative spirit seems to have slipped away into hibernation. I hope some of you find these to be helpful.
First I would remind you that art, that is creativity, happens on the right side of our brains. Also living on the right side of our brains are our feelings. It is my opinion that when our creativity alludes us, there is a feeling connection present somewhere. So my suggestions work in the direction of feeding and nurturing your soul and your feelings thereby restoring creativity to an active place in your days.
Many artists suggest going to a gallery to be inspired when their artist's self has moved into hibernation. I would think this would be helpful if one is stifled and seeking new directions. But if I am having trouble finding the right side of my brain, then going to a place to look at the abundant work that some prolific artist has produced will only make me feel more the failure. I love appreciating the work of others. But this would not be the moment for it. I suggest, rather that we move in a completely different direction.
*Go outside! Work in the flower bed, sit at the park and feed the ducks, drive a country road looking for abandoned farm houses, visit the beach, go camping in a tent, or walk the dog. The point is to take yourself out of your normal environment. Let the creativity and spontaneity of nature surround you and remind you of what you love about creating.
*Rest. Simply rest. Maybe you are behind on your sleep. Maybe you just need to take a nap every day for a month. Maybe you need to stop pushing yourself so hard and let your mind and soul be calm for a while. Maybe you need to visit another place where you have no deadlines, no 'to do' lists, no oughta's or shoulda's looming over your heads.
*Talk with a friend. This doesn't have to be an artist friend. But it does need to be a friend that understands who you are as a creative person. It does need to be someone that appreciates what you have to offer. It does need to be someone that appreciates your passion to create. And the confidant does need to be a friend that will listen more than they will suggest solutions. I've found that often my mind works best when my mouth is moving. Sometimes we answer our own questions simply by hearing ourselves speak.
*Try something new - a new medium, a new technique. Revisit an old technique. Do this in the privacy of your own space and your own moments, free to make a mess because no one else will see it. I've found that may times when we are struggling, we've let performance worries creep into our thoughts. Experiencing creativity with no intention that this piece will ever sell or maybe not even be seen can break us out of performance fear and blocks.
*Take an honest look at what you've been making in the last year or two. Have you gradually slipped into performing for the market? Maybe you liked the projects at first. Maybe they seemed fun and easy to produce. But at some point, you moved beyond that level. The art that really comes from within you is something else. But you continue in the other direction because you think it will sell. That is a sure way to find your creativity to have grown stale. Find your heart, your creative soul. Producing what comes from within you rather than for the market is what people will be drawn to in your art - that something special that only you can add.
*Clean up your space! If its junky in your studio, if its crowded, you'll have too many visual messages coming into your mind. If its disorganized, the frustration and lost time spent searching for that special object or tool or image will quickly disintegrate any right brained thoughts you may have been having. The bonus of cleaning and organizing is that sometimes in the process you will find objects or images that you've forgotten you had. Inspiration will come sweeping in like a fresh wind with those now refound items.
*Most of all don't panic and be kind and patient with yourself. Life runs in seasons. This too will pass. If you are an artist, your creativity is still there whether you feel it right now or not. Know that it will return. It is a part of who you are. It IS who you are. YOU ARE AN ARTIST.
Wind and Honey Creations