I have been struggling with artist’s block this fall and winter, and though I know I should draw more often, it’s been a struggle to get motivated. During this journey, I’ve tried various things to break out of it, such as: copying art demonstrations from art technique books, participating in Inktober, re-touching/re-working old paintings, and in December, working on a daily drawing challenge, featuring portraits and figures with just pencil and paper as a medium to keep things simple. The later project has been the most successful because it is simple to do a pencil and paper line drawing, in which I limit myself to 30 minutes.
Occasionally, I vary the medium and incorporate colored pencils or pastels into the figure and portrait drawings. To make the project flow more easily, I pre-select my images for portraits and figure drawings by doing Google image searches, either for figure drawing construction demonstrations or black and white photos from silent films, or even, famous authors I admire, such as Agatha Christie or Jane Eyre. At times, more current movies can also serve as inspiration, such as the movie, Swing Kids, (1993), which was a great resource for finding more dynamic action poses. Another method that has worked well has been to follow along with art tutorials on YouTube to learn how to draw figures, especially gesture drawings. My two favorite channels for art tutorials on YouTube are, The Virtual Instructor and Rapid Fire Art, which are free of charge and narrated in real-time, to facilitate instruction.
Some insights I have gained about my artist’s block
Maybe it’s the big changes I have been facing lately, such as leaving my receptionist job of 15 years and exploring other options for careers, such as Activity Assistant or Art Therapist that have kept me from being motivated to consistently make art. I’m not even sure who I am anymore if I am not working as a Receptionist, after 15 years of working in the Customer Service field. Or, could it be guilt, which could be genuine or otherwise, about abandoning household chores to make time for art), or something else entirely, that’s causing me to feel stuck in my art practice? Whatever the cause, I want to come up with some solutions, so I can move forward and make more art, and hopefully, at least some of the pieces will turn out the way I envision or will be at least good enough to post on social media. This year, there’s been a mix of both good paintings and some not-so-good paintings. The paintings I’m not happy with might get thrown out, or sanded and re-worked, depending on the state of the canvases. I feel dry and uninspired, and I feel I have reached the limit of my skill set in art. In fact, I feel I need more fuel for my creativity and knowledge base.
Tips for breaking through a creative block
While I am pondering these thoughts, I’d like to share some tips I picked up from an article, “How to Survive a Creative Slump,” by Our Daily Craft, on http://www.ourdailycraft.com/2017/02/21/survive-creative-slump. A few suggestions that the author offers to include: 1.) starting with a small creative project, 2.) “doing something fast,” 3.) reading a book that inspires you, and 4.) organizing or cleaning something in your home. For instance, the author suggested a few small projects to help jumpstart your creativity such as 1.) “sewing a cloth napkin,” 2.) “knitting a headband,” 3.) Paint on a 4 x 4-inch surface, or “writing a haiku.” Since I am not particularly good at crafts or anything DIY, which I learned after re-finishing some furniture and all of my kitchen cabinets in my new home, I have settled on painting a 4 x 4-inch canvas of Canada Geese, which I re-worked in oil paints about a week ago. Another suggestion that the author makes is to re-visit old projects that you had left unfinished. I certainly have a pile of unfinished works-such as unfinished drawings, pastels, and pages in my sketchbook where things just didn’t come together. Perhaps it would be a good problem-solving exercise to utilize my creativity, in coming up with new solutions to problems with composition, color, drawing, etc.
In addition, the author also talked about making something quickly-which I’m not sure I would do, since most of the problems I have had with my art have been poor planning. Another problem which doing things fast leads to is unsatisfactory art for me, when I don’t spend enough time checking the accuracy of the drawing. Maybe if I were an abstract painter I could get away with a more intuitive approach to painting, than a more structured one with specific steps, but I am not, so I am sticking with what works for me.
However, one thing I do want to try is to read a novel, article, or poem, to try and get some new ideas flowing. Some of my best works have been inspired by the poetry of Dickinson and Frost, which I made in to a portfolio of works during the worst parts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Maybe reading literature will also help me to become a better writer and get me out of this writer’s block I seem to be assailed with lately. How about you? Do you have any suggestions for breaking out of a creative rut? I’d love to hear! Just post in the comments section of this blog. Thanks for stopping by!
I have a confession to make; I haven’t been painting very much lately, even though I call myself an artist. In fact, it’s been almost a month since I painted a picture, or even wanted to work on a painting. Yesterday was my first day back at the easel, working on a complicated water lily painting. Although this subject seems simple, it has been quite challenging to execute. I have been trying to push myself beyond my usual comfort zone of placing everything in the middle of my artwork and to create alternative compositions. I have spent a lot of time, effort and thought to explore different compositions and value schemes to resolve the painting.
Sometimes Life Gets in the Way of Creativity
But it’s been an off and on the journey, with very little motivation to create again. This lack of motivation to be creative is, unfortunately, nothing new in my journey as an artist. Instead, it has been a frequent and unwelcome companion. For some reason, I no longer have that naive joy I used to have in creating art, where I was free from the brutal inner critic. Instead, now it seems that my artwork must have a purpose, in order to be worthwhile. Somewhere, perhaps buried deep inside me, is a desire to create, but that has to compete with a myriad of other priorities that fight for my attention, such as cooking, organizing, cleaning, to-do lists, etc. It’s a constant tug of war, deciding what my priorities should be. Other things that make me doubt the point of being creative and feeling like it’s a luxury to make art have been the drying up of art sales and commissioned work. In addition, I have had to cancel several art events due to weather conditions, or a lack of interest from others. All in all, it makes me wonder, what is the point? Does anyone really care if I make art or not? Does it impact their lives? Is it meaningful for me to make art, whether it sells or not? Is this a hobby, a business, or something in between? What is my purpose in creating art?
Ways I have been Making Time for Art
Despite my doubts about the validity of making artwork, I have been pushing myself to create art nonetheless, kind of like adhering to a fitness schedule. One of my methods to keep my drawing skills sharp has been to draw a dog portrait from a reference book called, For the Love of Dogs, by the photographer, Rachael Hale, five days a week and to post the results on Instagram. I try to keep the sketches simple, and I spend about 30-45 minutes on each drawing. However, I am not sure how to get back my love for creativity. Instead of taking time to ponder this question, I tend to spend my time reading or watching the British television mystery series on YouTube, called Lewis. But now I am starting to wonder, what steps can I take to start enjoying making art again? So, on that note, I would like to share some tips from an article I read on a website called, Skinny Artist, managed by Drew Kimble.
The author, of the article, “5 Ways to Rediscover Your Art and Reclaim Your Passion”, states that there are five techniques which can be used by artists to rediscover their creative spark. The techniques he lists include: 1. finding ways to nourish your creativity, 2. reducing distractions in your environment, 3.) locating a community of creatives, either online or in real life, 4. engaging in small creative practices on a daily basis, and 5., keeping your creative practice varied by changing up your techniques, media, etc. (Source: Drew Kimble, “5 Ways to Rediscover Your Art and Reclaim Your Passion,” www.skinnyartist.com.) In the interest of brevity, I am only going to share a few of Drew Kimble’s tips.
Nourish Your Creativity
Drew Kimble states that to keep your creative well flowing, you need to re-group by viewing as much art as you can. (Source: ibid) By observing works in art galleries, books, art magazines, websites, etc., it will help you to define the direction in which you would like your artwork to go, and inspire you with imagery to re-construct, abstract or re-interpret your artwork through the lens of other artwork. (Source: ibid) A quote from Isaac Newton helps to illustrate this concept: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Limit Your Distractions
In our twenty-first century modern society, we are frequently inundated with distractions, whether it comes in the form of cell phones, the internet, movies, hello, YouTube, etc. (Source: ibid) A cell phone alone contains a myriad of distractions including: “movies, instant messenger, arcades, phone games”, such as Pokémon Go, etc, etc. (Source: ibid.) This does not include other distractions, which may seem well-intentioned or important: such as cleaning, cooking or organizing our homes. And for most of us, we need to make a living outside of our art, unless we are retired, have a trust fund, or a well-off partner who helps to support our artistic careers, so there is also time we need to dedicate to our jobs. (Source: Ibid.) On the other hand, to be creative, we must carve out empty places in our schedules, or what I like to call, white space. (Source: Ibid.) Without stillness and solitude, it is difficult to create an environment conducive to creativity where memories, experiences, literature, song lyrics, cultural influences, history, imagery, etc, can merge to create the seeds of inspiration. (Source: Ibid.) In fact, Agatha Christie has been known for saying that some of her best ideas came to her for novels when she was washing dishes. She states, “The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” (Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/agatha_christie)
In addition, the author, Drew Kimble, suggests that keeping a “time journal” for many days can help him to identify what activities he spends his time doing. (Source: Ibid.) Another tip he shares is to schedule time for making art and to be gentle with yourself, even if you don’t meet your expectations and cross everything off your to-do list. (Source: Ibid.) Likewise, I have been trying to reduce the number of items I place on my to-do list, as far as creative projects are concerned. I’ve been realizing that most days, I can only do one project at a time, especially on days when I work at my part-time job. I’m trying to make Thursdays a day to spend more time on creative projects. One of the projects I hope to get started on, is my poetry illustration narrative series, an art project I have yet to complete because of its complexity. I also want to focus my energies on my daily drawing challenge, which features dog portraits. I’m learning that if I take on too many art projects, I have a tendency to leave these projects unfinished and then I feel guilty for being so unproductive. One other way I could make time for art would be to cut down on the time I allocate for entertainment, especially movies, which can take up a lot of my free time if I am not careful.
Conclusion: What’s the Point of Making Art?
In closing, I would like to return to some questions about the meaning of art, both to myself and to the society in which I live. Pondering the role of art in my society and in my life specifically, I read and researched some articles online to see what others had to say about the importance of art in our society, to address one of the main questions I posted about making art, which is, What’s the point? So here are a few thoughts from an article I read: “Why We All Need Art in Our Lives,” by Lesli Walsh, April 11, 2013, retrieved from http://www.michipreneur.com/why-we-all-need-art-in-our-lives/. The first point, the author, Walsh makes is that 1.) art is an integral part of who we are as humans, and that it can help us to create balance in our lives or to find other routes for self-expression when words fail us. (Source: Ibid) Point number two is that art helps us to understand how historical events impact people emotionally, and how it has shaped our own lives. (Source: Ibid) Thirdly, making or viewing art can help us to become more self-aware about our inner thoughts, desires, fears, etc, and gives us a chance to slow down and decrease the stress we experience from living in a multi-tasking, fast-paced society. (Source: Ibid) Through self-awareness, we can grieve losses and heal from traumas. Another value we can get from making art is that it can help us to develop critical thinking skills, by teaching us how to represent abstract thoughts and concepts in concrete ways through visual symbols. (Source: Ibid) Finally, by talking about the art we make, we can learn how to be better communicators with others. (Source: Ibid) One last thought about the value of art is that it can transcend cultural differences and give people a common language, where words are not necessary. (Source: Ibid) Thanks for stopping by and reading!
A Response to Last Month’s Post: How to Re-Prime Used Canvases
This blog post is inspired by a blog post from last month, entitled: Artists: What Should You Do withUnfinished Artwork? dated August 12, 2018. In this post, I wrote about the artwork that had been abandoned for various reasons. I also added a list of various highlights from an article entitled, “50 Ways to Use Your Unfinished Art.” Several suggestions for completing your artwork were listed in the aforementioned article including taking pictures of your artwork to manipulate it, cutting up the artwork and re-assembling it, throwing the painting away, etc. However, one technique that I didn’t mention for completing art work is to start over from scratch. For example, this could mean re-surfacing an old canvas by using sandpaper or even a power sander, depending on how thick the paint has been applied to the canvas. The processes for re-finishing canvases are different, depending on whether acrylic or oil paint was used, which is a fact that I learned after reading two articles on The Painters Keys website- Re-priming OldCanvases, and How to Resurface an Old Painting by Ericka Lancaster. I really wish I had known this sooner, as I am not sure how my old paintings, which have been re-surfaced with sandpaper and acrylic gesso, will hold out over time.
Consequently, I plan to do more research in the future, before I am embarking on a similar project with older canvases. I want to be certain that I can create quality paintings which will pass the test of time. Ok, so now to what I learned from reading these articles. For example, in the Painter’s Key’s website, the author responded to a query from a reader about how to restore an old canvas, so that it could be re-painted. (Source: http://thepainterskeys.com/reprime, Robert Genn, date of access 08/24/18). In response, the author stated that to re-surface an old oil painting can create some concrete and creative challenges because if the re-surfacing process is not done correctly, it can cause the paint to flake off from the surface. (Source: ibid) Therefore, because of this possibility, many artists choose instead to use new materials, i.e. new canvases or substrates. (Source: ibid)
Here are some tips for re-purposing oil paintings from the article, Re-priming Used Canvases:
Sand the surface of your oil painting until it is completely dull in appearance. (Source: Ibid)
I used a power sander with 150-grade coarse sandpaper, because it is easier to use than individual strips of sandpaper, and it gets the job done much faster.
After you sand the painting, use a microfiber cloth to get rid of any excess paint chips. For heavily encrusted paint, you can give the canvas or paper another pass with the power sander.
When the canvas is completely clean and you can see the tooth of it, use an “oil or alkyd-based gesso or oil primer.” (Source: ibid) You can use a scumbled technique and a rag, to cover the offending areas you don’t like about your painting, and leave other areas, untouched that you like. Using this technique is a compromise between using the old surface and the paint which remains, and painting a new layer of paint. (Source: ibid)
As an alternative, you can use a mixture of titanium white oil paint and linseed oil. You may add additional colors to the mixture if you would like to add an underpainting; such as burnt sienna or yellow ochre. (Source: ibid) This step will provide you with a middle value, with which to compare your other values and help to create color harmony in your painting.
On the other hand, re-priming or painting over acrylic paintings is a completely different scenario and process. For instance, “acrylic molecules remain sticky forever,” and you need to ensure that there is “no final varnish remaining.” Instead, acrylic paintings should be “cleaned outdoors with household ammonia and well flushed with water before applying a water-based gesso, thick or thin.” And unlike oil based surfaces, paintings with an acrylic paint can be re-surfaced with gesso as a priming agent. (Source: ibid)
Here are some steps you can follow to re-surface an old acrylic painting, according to the artist, Erica Lancaster:
Clean the old acrylic painting with a soft microfiber cloth until it is free of dust or grime.
Use sandpaper to remove the old acrylic paint with a light touch, while you concentrate on “heavily textured” sections of the canvas. If you can’t get rid of all the texture from the acrylic paint, don’t worry about it.
Go over your sanded acrylic painting with a clean cloth to remove any additional paint particles.
Paint your canvas with Gesso and use even coats. Remember to let each coat dry at a time before applying a new layer of gesso. This can take up to 24 hours to “cure.” If you want to thin out your gesso, you can add water to the mixture. Test your canvas and check to see that it is completely dry, before applying any acrylic paint. As a general rule, you want to have at least two dry coats of gesso on your painting before you begin adding acrylic paint.
Go over your canvas with sandpaper again. As to how many times you choose to sand the canvas that is completely up to you. Deciding on what amount of texture to give your paintings is a personal creative choice, and it depends on what type of “look” you want your painting to have, such as photorealism or abstraction. If you want a realistic look, you would want less texture and thin smooth layers of paint.
So there you have it. Two different approaches to re-surfacing old paintings, depending on whether you have an acrylic or oil painting on your canvas. This week’s artwork
features the creative process of my latest painting in progress, a water lily. My next step is to combine all these sources I created to make a completed oil painting, which I hope to finish in the near future! Happy painting and thanks for stopping by!
As I mentioned in last week’s post, I have been struggling with artist’s block this summer. During this journey, I’ve tried various things to break out of it, such as: copying art demonstrations from art technique books, re-touching/re-working old paintings, and working in a prompt driven sketchbook. Unfortunately, the later project hasn’t been working out so great lately. I’ve been procrastinating on doing the daily prompts, and have felt uncertain as to which mediums to work in for the sketchbook pages, should it be watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic, gouache or something else that I use? I have been unhappy with the colored pencils because they take so long to build up color and tone and I want to get some momentum and finish the nature section so I can keep moving along. It’s also difficult to correct mistakes with this medium, and I am finding that a lot of my prompts are not living up to my expectations. All of which keeps me stuck in neutral, and not making new work consistently.
Some insights I have gained about my artist’s block
Maybe it’s also the heat of the summer, which seems extraordinarily hot, even for Maryland. Or perhaps it’s the dislocation I feel in adjusting to a new house, guilt (genuine or otherwise, about abandoning household chores to make time for art), or something else entirely. Whatever the cause, I want to come up with some solutions so I can move forward and make more art, and hopefully at least some of the pieces will turn out the way I envision or will be at least good enough to post on social media. This year there’s been a mix of both good paintings and some not so good paintings. The paintings I’m not happy with might get thrown out, or sanded and re-worked, depending on the state of the canvases. I feel dry and uninspired, and I feel I have reached the limit of my skill set in art. In fact, I feel I need more fuel for my creativity and knowledge base.
Tips for breaking through a creative block
While I am pondering these thoughts, I’d like to share some tips I picked up from an article, “How to Survive a Creative Slump,” by Our Daily Craft, on http://www.ourdailycraft.com/2017/02/21/survive-creative-slump, by Sarah White, February 21, 2017. A few suggestions that the author offers include: 1.) starting with a small creative project, 2.) working quickly, 3.) reading a book you enjoy, and 4.) organizing or cleaning something in your home. For instance, the author suggested a few small projects to help jumpstart your creativity such as 1.) “sewing a cloth napkin,” 2.) “knitting a headband,” 3.) Paint on a 4 x 4-inch surface, or “writing a haiku.” (Source: ibid) Since I am not particularly good at crafts or anything DIY, which I learned after re-finishing some furniture and all of my kitchen cabinets in my new home, I have settled on painting a 4 x 4-inch canvas of Canada Geese. I re-worked this miniature canvas in oil paints about a week ago, and I am fairly happy with the result. Another suggestion that the author makes is to re-visit old projects that you had left unfinished. (Source: ibid) I certainly have a pile of unfinished works-such as unfinished drawings, pastels, and pages in my sketchbook where things just didn’t come together. Perhaps it would be a good problem-solving exercise to utilize my creativity.
In addition, the author also discussed making something quickly-which I’m not sure I would do
since most of the problems I have had with my art have been poor planning. Another problem which leads to unsatisfactory art for me is not spending enough time checking the accuracy of the drawing, as unfortunately happened with my latest portrait of Lincoln, which I decided to re-work and re-draw with oil paints. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out that well. Maybe if I were an abstract painter I could get away with a more intuitive approach to painting, than a more structured one with specific steps, but I am not. Since I am a more traditional painter, I am sticking with what works for me, which is starting with a drawing, adding three values in pencil to the sketch, and then making a colored sketch to base the final painting upon. Unfortunately, the more I tried to fix the drawing, the worse it got. In the end, I finally decided to abandon it, and start with a new sketch on a totally different substrate on a larger scale. It hasn’t become a painting yet, but I think I identified some drawing errors in the painting, by making a new sketch.
However, one thing I do want to try is to read a novel, article, or poem, to try and get some new ideas flowing. Some of my best works have been inspired by the poetry of Dickinson and Frost. Maybe reading literature will also help me to become a better writer and get me out o this writer’s block I seem to be assailed with lately. How about you? Do you have any suggestions for breaking out of a creative rut? I’d love to hear! Just post in the comments section of this blog. Thanks for stopping by!
After writing last week’s blog post about famous failures and depression, in which I compared the experiences of the famous failures, Abraham Lincoln and J.K. Rowling, I realized that I had failed to document a source for the statement I had made about her depression. Citing sources is very important to me since I come from an academic background. So, this week I am writing an addendum to last week’s blog post with some citations and some quotes from J.K. Rowling about her experiences with depression, and how she overcame it. How I made this mistake, I don’t know, since I spent many weeks proofreading the post, but there it is. Perhaps it’s like tunnel vision, the closer you are to something, and the harder it is to get perspective about an issue.
In addition, I’d also like to discuss another link between J.K. Rowling and Abraham Lincoln that I had inadvertently missed, which was that they both are writers. Abraham Lincoln wrote poetry and speeches, and some of his most famous writings were The Gettysburg Address (presented in November 1863) at the Gettysburg battlefield, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and his House Divided Speech, given on June 6, 1858, at the Illinois republic convention in Springfield, Illinois.(Sources: “This Day in History,” 19 November, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The History Channel,https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lincolns-gettysburg-address, accessed on 05/17/18, and “Lincoln’s House Divided Speech,” (1858), PBS.org, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2934.html, accessed on 05/17/18).
Likewise, J.K. Rowling is a fiction writer and the celebrated author of the Harry Potter book series. Rowling’s writing was a major factor in her recovery from depression, and I wonder, might she have been on to something? (Source: “How J.K. Rowling beat Depression,” Justin Bennett, How I Beat Depression, http://www.howibeatdepression.com/how-jk-rowling-beat-depression/, accessed on 05/17/18. It is possible that Lincoln also found relief in writing from his depressive thoughts.
For example, in an article by Joshua Wolf Shenk, “Lincoln’s Great Depression,” Shenk includes a poem that may have been written by Lincoln, though no definitive evidence exists, as the poem was unsigned. However, it seems likely that Lincoln might have written it because several characteristics of the poem are similar to Lincoln’s style with regard to “syntax and tone.” (Source: Joshua Wolf Shenk, “Lincoln’s Great Depression,” The Atlantic, October 2005 issue, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincolns-great-depression/304247/) In the poem, the unknown author wrote about depression and his/her intention to commit suicide, entitled, “The Suicide’s Soliloquy. (Source: ibid) The poem was published in The Sangamo Journal in 1838, which was a “four-page Whig newspaper in Springfield, Illinois”. (Source: ibid, and Joshua Wolf Shenk, “The Suicide Poem,” The New Yorker, June 14, 2004, Issuehttps://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/06/14/the-suicide-poem, accessed on 05/21/18,) Here is a quote from this poem:
“Here, where the lonely hooting owl
Sends forth his midnight moans,
Fierce wolves shall o’er my carcase growl,
Or buzzards pick my bones.
J.K. Rowling and Her Depression
Similarly, in her own words, Rowling described her experience with depression as follows: “Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced…It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” (Source: Justin Bennett, “How J.K. Rowling Beat Depression,” May 15, 2012, http://www.howibeatdepression.com/how-jk-rowling-beat-depression, accessed on 15 May 2018.) In a similar way, Lincoln described is depression as untenable: “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. I must die or be better, it appears to me.” (Source: Abraham Lincoln Quotes about Depression, http://www.azquotes.com/author/8880-Abraham_Lincoln/tag/depression, accessed on 05/18/18, and also, “Lincoln’s Great Depression,” Joshua Wolf Shenk, The Atlantic, October 2005 issue, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincolns-great-depression/304247/, accessed on 05/18/18.
According to the writer, Justin Bennet, Rowling experienced a depressive episode, and suicidal thoughts following the break -up of her marriage to a Portuguese journalist that ended in two years. (Source: (Source: “How J.K. Rowling beat Depression,” Justin Bennett, How I Beat Depression, http://www.howibeatdepression.com/how-jk-rowling-beat-depression/, accessed on 05/17/18.) At the time, of her divorce, she was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, with her small daughter, and a friend paid the security deposit on her apartment. (Source: CNN, “Harry Potter author: I Considered Suicide,” 2008, http://cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ?03/23/rowling.depressed/index.html, accessed on 15 5 2018.) She was unemployed and living on welfare benefits to support herself and her daughter. (Source: ibid) Seeking medical assistance turned out to be her salvation, although the first Dr. she went to seek help, unfortunately, dismissed the severity of her depression. (Source: Bennett) However, her regular physician prescribed cognitive behavioral therapy to help her to overcome her depression. (Source: Fox News, “J.K. Rowling Considered Suicide while Suffering from Depression Before Writing ‘Harry Potter,’ www.foxnews.com/2008/03/23/jk-rowling-considered-suicide-while-suffering-from-depression-before-writing.html). She was caught in “fearful cycles of rumination and doubt,” as she started writing her series of Harry Potter books, which she had originally “conceived” in 1990, while she rode on a train. (Source: Bennet, 2012). Her first Harry Potter book was published in 1996 and was titled, The Sorcerer’s Stone. (Source: CNN) And in fact, one of the characters described in her book called “Dementors,” were “hooded monsters,” that were symbolic of her depression, helped her to express her feelings about depression in a constructive way. (Source: Justin Bennet).
How Writing the Harry Potter Series Helped J.K. Rowling to Cope
In her depressed state, she thought that she had “nothing to lose,” by writing these books and that the worst that could happen would be rejection from “every major publisher in the UK.” (Source: ibid).
She turned writing into a daily discipline, and it became an outlet to help her overcome her depression, and the structure that this routine created provided her with stability during a very unstable stage in her life. (Source: ibid) It also helped her to stop worrying as she focused on creating plotlines and character descriptions for her Harry Potter books. (Source: ibid)
Is there Therapeutic Value in the Arts to help treat Depression or other forms of Mental Illness?
Could there be therapeutic value in immersing oneself in the arts, whether it is writing, music, fine arts, or creative movements, such as dance or sports? As for myself, I have found comfort in using drawing and painting as an outlet to express my feelings of grief, sadness, and anxiety. For example, in 2011, I started a painting series to document my father’s life, which I entitled, ALife Remembered. This painting series was based on black and white photos, which I used as inspiration for oil portraits of my father and the people and places he encountered during his lifetime. Similarly, J.K. Rowling found a daily writing practice to be of assistance to her in fighting her depression. (Source: “J.K. Rowling How to Deal with Failure,” Medium.com, https://medium.com/personal-growth/j-k-rowling-how-to-deal-with-failure-ff8c7cb0048, accessed on 05/17/18). Might Lincoln have also found solace in writing as an outlet for his feelings as well, while he was struggling with depression? I’m not sure of the answer, but all these questions are definitely food for thought. Could it be that creative expression has the potential to be advantageous to everyone, whether you consider yourself “talented” in a specific discipline or not? Maybe art for art’s sake is valid, even if your art is not award winning.
According to the authors, Stuckey and Nobel, (2010), there is evidence-based research which suggests that these four creative domains: visual arts, music, expressive writing and dance/creative movement, there is a positive and beneficial relationship to health and well being. (Source: Heather L. Stuckey, and Jeremy Nobel, “The Connection between Art, Healing and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature,” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, American Journal ofPublic Health,, 2010 February, volume 100 , issue (2):, pages 254-263 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/. Accessed on 05/18/18).
These authors examined the current understanding between “art and healing,” by studying various research and literature which documents this connection (Source: ibid) The goal of their literature review and research was to focus on the time period between 1995-2007 and to evaluate “the state of peer-reviewed research on art and healing.” (Source: ibid) They also sought to offer a concise summary of “both qualitative and quantitative research methods and results,” and to provide a description of all the main “categories of creative expression,” which have surfaced as enrichment to the
quality of life. (Source: ibid). The result of their research indicates that “in all four areas of creative expression,” significant indications pointed to a trend that showed that participation in the arts for enrichment’s sake has statically significant beneficial “effects on health.”(Source: ibid) However, the authors offer the caveat that there are limits to “many of the studies included in our review,” and it is therefore not possible to make generalizations about the relationship between the therapeutic benefits of engagements with the arts and one’s health. (Source: ibid) In addition, the authors also admit that their “sample of studies is not exhaustive, and other research has been added to the literature since our review was conducted.” (Source: ibid).
In conclusion, it;’s an interesting study nonetheless, despite its limitations, and it confirms my supposition that there could be a positive correlation between the arts and well being. I wonder if somewhere inside of ourselves, we really do know what is good for us, and just need to listen to that instinct more. What about you? Have the arts helped you get through difficult times or brought enrichment to your life?
If you are a creative type or if you like to make things, you have probably encountered the moment when the finished product you imagined, does not live up to your expectations. As an artist, I have experienced this frustration more times than I can count. Some paintings and drawings are simply learning projects and are difficult to salvage, while others can be fixed. I know it’s been said that you learn more from your mistakes than your successes, but when I get to a point in a painting or drawing and I realize that the painting or drawing doesn’t look right, it can be really frustrating. I start doubting myself; feel like giving up, or doing something that I am not good at, like cooking or cleaning. Since I know I am not a good cook, if it doesn’t turn out so well, it’s a waste of ingredients but I don’t feel as emotionally attached to the outcome as I would to a painting or drawing.
I recently read a forum question on the website, www.
Wet Canvas.com and the question of the day was,” When should I stop working on a painting?” I was intrigued by the question and wondered how other artists dealt with paintings that don’t go according to plan. I read about a variety of solutions suggested by artists who had hit the wall creatively. Some remedies were familiar to me, like my tendency to put the painting away and stop looking at it for a few days, weeks, months, or even longer. On the other hand, some solutions were not as familiar, such as displaying the painting on an easel in a living room and then taking time to look at it from time to time to diagnose the problem. A favorite technique of mine is to write a list of things I want to change in the painting, be it the drawing, colors, value, edges, etc. In my case, some of the art work I have abandoned was started about two years ago, and I am just now starting to look at the sketches and Photoshop files.
This week I took some time to work some more on my acrylic painting, Waiting: Creative Block. I realized that there were several things bothering me about it. The composition was one of the biggest glaring errors I noted in this painting. First, I started with revising the composition in Photoshop, taking out some photos while adding others, to try and simplify the painting. After that, I wrote a written critique and consulted a landscape painting art book, entitled, Paint Landscapes inAcrylic, by Lee Hammond, to search for tutorials on painting skies. Next, I watched a You Tube art tutorial, titled, How to Paint a Desert Tree, Acrylic Painting Lesson, by Schaeffer Art. My next step was to begin painting out the busier parts of the composition with gesso. After the first two layers of gesso had dried, I started drawing the new composition in with a white Rembrandt soft pastel, using the photo references I had collected to draw in the distant mountains, sand dunes, and sun. My final step was to look in my portrait painting book by Chris Saper, Classic Portrait Painting in Oils, from which I took inspiration for the figure in my painting. I have included the various stages of this painting from the start to my latest revisions on it this week. Thanks for stopping by!
For me, finding inspiration for my art work can be like chasing after the wind sometimes, or perhaps like banging my head against a brick wall, ad infinitum. While some people would describe inspiration as an aha moment, that seemingly comes out of nowhere, I believe it is more likely to be the result of a lengthy process of actively seeking new ideas, art techniques, or studying the art work of others, or simply a reaction or interpretation of our everyday surroundings or even our pasts that can ignite the spark of inspiration. Once brought to mind, it may seem sudden, but it really isn’t.
To try and stem the tide of artist’s block and the inertia that inevitably follows; I need to take the time to fill my creative tank by purposefully seeking inspiration in whatever form it may take. According to the Brittish periodical, The Guardian, one artist, Isaac Julien, described his “magpie approach” to seeking out new ideas. For example, he states that he is always actively seeking new fodder, from his immediate surroundings, such as people watching, viewing
Meanwhile, I am going to try taking Mr. Bebe’s advice and either make a trip to an art gallery or to visit a gallery “virtually” online, to see if I can regain new energy and creativity for a painting or drawing.