My last two years have pretty much been a creative dryspell. For a while I wondered, will I ever paint again? And then, one marvellous day, I looked at my paints, picked up my brush, and the old familiar rush was back!
Some things have changed though. I’ve learned to no longer take that process for granted. I’m no longer putting off the impulse to paint for the sake of something more “important” and I’m not being so hard on myself. I am just so glad to be painting that all that old stuff went out the window! I’ve let go of how I thought the process “should” be. Now, every little bit of painterly excitement is, well, exciting, and I actively find ways to give it the warmest welcome I can.
Some cool things I thought I’d share, and that I’m sure you can adapt to your various creative outpourings (let me know about the translation in the comments!)
1. Music. Painting is now officially a party. Dance – feel – paint – breathe – repeat :) Whenever I feel like it, or whenever I feel myself loosing painting-focus, I dance. It is so fun, and productive! (I find the music-feel-create-breathe rhythm works well while writing too – you can even sing while you type :) )
2. Output comes first, plan comes later. I welcome everything I paint. As long I feel like “adding”, I just paint and I don’t worry about organizing it. I’ve found there are phases to creative processes. In the outpour phase, it’s all about staying “with-it”, not letting your mind get in the way, not trying to figure it out or organize it.
3. In the “organizing” phase there is some critical assessment and some planning involved. However, there’s ways to work with what you created, instead of against it. The distinction is mostly feeling based but it’ll show itself in results that either look (and feel, yes ;) ) natural and surprising, or stifled and forced (ugh). It’s all about believing in the power of that initial creative impulse – do you have the guts to stay with it?
4. Creativity involves reorganization, so the trick is to be open to new structures… One way I’ve been working with this is connecting separate canvases to make bigger paintings, adding paper cut-outs from drawings onto paintings, and, I looooooooooveeeeeeeee white paint. It allows me to dampen and deepen layers that are somehow too much, without loosing their energy completely.
5. In the words of India Arie: “I’ve learned that simplicity simply means making peace with your complexity”. There are parts of the process that are just, well, complex. I’ll do something, walk around (and dance, yes), stare, not know, wait for knowing, do something, wait a bit etc… Very much the thoughtful artist with a beret kind of stuff (without the beret, or moustache, or drinking problem). It helps to be accepting of it: “Oh, complexity showed up, no problem”. This is usually where what you are creating really touches on other parts of your life, and it all becomes a bit entangled and deeply constructive.
6. When is it ‘finished’? My current criteria: does it feel like an independent being? Would it be able to walk when let loose? Can it breathe on its own? You kind of have to wait around and see whether its viable. And, whatever you do, as long as you’re not quite sure yet about its life-status, LEAVE IT WELL ALONE!