Friday, November 12, 2010

The Dryness Of The Well

Having read a few of the extremely rare Artists blogs out there, I've noticed a recurring theme:  Artist Block.  You know what I'm talking about: you just don't seem satisfied with any of your paintings, and you don't know why.  You want to paint, but yet you can't figure out what you want to paint.  And when you do paint, you have no idea what you want it to look like.  It's an affliction that hits 100% of us at one time or another, and along with my fellow blog-ist, it's one I'm suffering through myself.

For the past twenty-seven years, I have kept a log of every painting I have ever done.  Now, up until these past four years, when I started to paint full-time, I've had to punch a clock while I raised a family, paid the mortgage, and met various and sundry other responsibilities.  With that in mind, I could only devote a few hours here and there to paint.  So, most years I only painted five or six paintings.  Some years, I would do almost a dozen.  Not very many paintings, to be sure, but it was all I could do.  However, sprinkled in those somewhat productive years were the occasional year when I didn't paint anything at all.  That's right--zero.  Nada.  Zilch.  Nothing.  What the hell happened?

I have a theory.  You see, I believe that us artistic types do not have an unlimited supply of creativity.  But what creativity we posses is stored in us, kind of like a battery or a well.  Every painting we do taps into that creativity and drains a little bit of it.  When that well runs dry after so many paintings, our creativity dries up.  What happens next is we wander around lost, despairing that we will never paint another good painting again.  We still paint, though.  One bad painting after another.  Oh, sure--we think we know exactly what we want to do when we're far away from our painting.  Then, we rush to it, firm in our conviction we know what we want.  But as soon as we put a brush stroke on it, we stop...muddled, befuddled, confused, back to square one.  Sound familiar?  Those blank years in my painting past were just like that.

So what happens next?  The good news is that it's not a permanent condition.  For me, something would spark my desire again, and off I'd go like I never stopped.  Actually, after having those spells, I found that I actually had reached a higher plateau.  Some of my best paintings were done shortly after I snapped out of my fugue.  In short, the well re-filled.  I have noticed my dry spells are farther apart now than when I first started to paint.  I think the more you create, the deeper you dig your well, so it takes longer to drain.  Right now, though, I'm hoping the waters of creativity fills my artistic well quickly, because I'm tired of hauling up pails of dirt! 



Virginia Floyd said...

Very nice post, Kevin. I start a painting with such anticipation and so often end frustrated and disappointed. What's the fun of that? But the next fresh canvas lures me back in.

Susan Roux said...

I too have noticed that following a block, art improves.

I don't agree with having only a defined amount of creativity in us. I think creativity is like love. The more we use it the more we have to offer.

With art as we continue through our artistic journey, we learn to observe and understand more. I think the block we experience is simply new information or observations that our brain is understanding, but not completely. Our creative side wants the brush to put this new information on canvas, but it cannot, due to an unclear understanding of it. As we continue to ponder these ideas, understanding becomes clearer and eventually it comes out of our brush.

Sorry to hear you're experiencing a block at the moment. Don't waste your energy thinking about the block. It only makes it worse. Go rake your leaves, enjoy the nice weather and observe nature. Therein lies the answer...

Good luck!

Kevin Mizner said...

Virginia, your painting is much like my golf game; I start out with such high anticipation, only to struggle in the end. But tommorrow's round will be better!

Kevin Mizner said...

Hi Susan, Thanks for the encouragment! I didn't mean that we only have so much creativity, and that when it's used up it's gone for good. On the contrary, it's an infinite supply. But I think it's like we use up the old water before we re-fill with a fresh, clean supply. In other words, I agree with you!