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What is Artist’s block?

This week I am struggling once again with artist’s block, and also writer’s block, so I am posting an older post about artist’s block for now. Meanwhile, I am going to be researching articles of interest to try and come up with new blogging ideas. I’m also including some paintings I have been re-working, in spite of the artist’s block. I am finding it helpful to re-paint and critique old works that I wasn’t really happy with. This week’s offering is a collection of Lincoln oil portraits I have painted a few years ago. Here is the older blog post I mentioned.

Last week I wrote about my struggles with artist’s block and I identified two specific types of artist’s block that were keeping me from producing artwork, and they are 1.) a mental block and 2.) an emotional barrier. Both of these symptoms seem to culminate in negative self-talk that makes me afraid to put pencil to paper. In spite of these things, I have been soldiering on. How about you? Did these types of artist’s block relate to you, or maybe you might be dealing with different types of artist’s block, such as work habits that don’t work for you, or personal issues, or a shortage of time, money, or resources, or feeling overscheduled? These types of artist’s block were discussed in the article: Seven Types of Artist’s Block and What to Do about Them by Mark McGuiness. Here is the website if you want to read more about the article:  http://99u.com/articles/7088/7-types-of-creative-block-and-what-to-do-about-them.

This week my main difficulties with artist’s block have been feeling overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions, and my work habits and time management, which are keeping me from being able to consistently produce art. Now that I have made the transition from a hobby artist to a professional artist, there are many more demands on my time than there was when I was just painting for fun. Now there are a myriad of tasks that I need to complete to keep my art business organized (such as taking inventory of my works, so that I know what is available and what has been sold), marketing my artwork and sharing my art show events with others via Facebook, personal emails or Instagram, and keeping my website updated with blog posts to keep people coming back to the site, just to name a few.

The ante has really been upped this past month because I have signed up for more art events, which is a good thing because it opens up the door for more sales and personal connections with clients and patrons, but it also means that my administrative tasks increase exponentially. To cope with the added stress, I have been trying to incorporate self-care into my schedule again, whether it’s taking time to journal, go for a walk, going to my favorite coffee shop, coloring in my coloring books, or just taking a long drive to get away from it all. A little anxiety is a good thing because it motivates me to work, but too much anxiety can make me feel paralyzed and unable to work. And as for feeling overwhelmed, I have been making lists of the most pressing tasks with the soonest deadlines to prioritize my to-do list, so I am not running in too many different directions.

The second aspect to my artist block is dealing with my time management skills and avoiding distractions which can keep me away from making art. Distractions can come in many forms, whether it’s social media, email checking, etc. And I might justify this by saying that it is for my business, and it might well be, say a Facebook post to advertise my upcoming art show at Art Pops! Everedy Square. However, I am learning I need to limit my time on the computer, both for administrative tasks such as data entry for inventory of my artwork, or conducting marketing campaigns on Facebook or Instagram.  I also am a person who lacks structure and discipline, so I have to create an outside structure for myself by creating deadlines for myself, writing to-do lists, writing due dates on the calendar and setting my kitchen timer for what I like to call pomodoros.

These pomodoros are 25-minute increments in which I focus on only one task, whether it’s working on a drawing to post for Instagram for my 100 faces in 100 days drawing challenge or updating my Art of Schmidt web site. Sometimes to maintain my focus, I also need to turn off my phone and not answer emails. Afterward, I take 5-minute breaks to re-group. To learn more about the Pomodoro technique, visit the following website: https://www.focusboosterapp.com/the-pomodoro-technique.    If I don’t apply discipline and self-control to my routine, I get really behind in my projects, especially since there is no one who will keep me accountable for these tasks but myself.  The insecurity and negative chatter I mentioned in my post last week can really make me want to distract and procrastinate on getting into the studio. I am trying to be more gentle with myself and allow the art to unfold

Abraham Lincoln 3, flat
Abraham Lincoln in purple, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2017, Jodie Schmidt.
Abe Lincoln, portrait in green-re-worked, flat
Abraham Lincoln in purple, re-worked, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Jodie Schmidt, 2018. This is the re-worked version of the above painting that I completed last week. I changed the color scheme from purples and blues to greens, blues, and blue-greens. I also added more paint and texture to the facial planes to create dimension and impasto strokes of thick paint. I’m happier with this more colorful result, and I hope to create more paintings of Lincoln with this more painterly approach. I used a painting demonstration book called, Classic Portrait Painting in Oils, by Chris Saper, as inspiration about how to create a light source and for color schemes. 
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This is a quote from Sylvia Plath, found online in a Google search, no copyright infringement intended.

as it will see it as part of a process of learning for me, and not an ultimate destination.

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Blog

What is Artist’s Block?

This year has been a difficult one with lots of transitions and changes. One of these big changes was my decision to drop out of the Human Services Associate’s degree program at Frederick Community College, in Frederick, MD. I made this decision after 18 months of double mindedness between feeling like I had to finish it because I didn’t have any other solid plans for my career, and feeling tired and unmotivated to complete the class assignments.  I felt really invested in finishing the academic program because I had already put in countless hours writing papers, studying and several fieldwork assignments. I also felt split in half between my desire to be a professional artist, and the need to carve out a definite career path for myself. It was a difficult decision, but I finally decided to drop out after some soul searching and talking with my academic advisor. In addition, the workload that this academic program demanded left very little time for creating art. And if I am 100 percent honest with myself, I have always wanted to take my art to the next level beyond just a hobby. However, I felt unsure of how to pursue this goal after I graduated from McDaniel College with a degree in Art in 2005, and it didn’t seem “practical” to pursue art as anything more than a hobby.  I also faced several professional setbacks with my art work when I got a series of rejection letters, both for art shows and for graduate school art programs.

Lately, I have been learning that incorporating creative time in my schedule is very important to me and my well being. Creating art work has been an outlet for me at various times in my life during stressful moments and personal struggles, especially during my father’s long illness and eventual death in 2011 from heart disease, complicated by a series of strokes and COPD.  Making paintings and drawings in oil, watercolor, pastel, and pencil, has provided me with a safe way to process difficult feelings and emotions. However, over the past few months, making art has been very challenging and more like a test of endurance and skill than the oasis or refuge it used to be. In spite of the difficulties, I have been pressing on with sketches and paintings to prepare for my October art show at the Frederick Coffee Company as Artist of the month, in addition to drawing every day in a drawing challenge I created for myself called 100 faces in 100 days, in which I post drawings of celebrity portraits on Instagram every day. However, the joy I once felt in making art seems to have deserted me.  I’ve been soul searching and asking myself, “What is going on here?” and “ How can I go from feeling like creating art work is my lifeline, to it has become my enemy and tormentor and relentless critic?”  After reading an article, entitled, 7 Types of Creative Block(And what to do About Them), by Mark McGuiness, I think I am beginning to understand that this lack of forwarding motion is the dreaded  Artist’s Block that seems to afflict creative types from a variety of fields such as musicians, writers, and artists.

This article mentioned 7 different types of creative blocks. However, the ones that I related to the most were “ mental block” and the “emotional barrier block.” The mental block is caused by a harsh critical voice which interrupts your creative flow with negative chatter and it often critiques the work in progress with a harsh rush to judgment. McGuiness suggests that artists should be curious and allow themselves to ask the question, “What if?” to break through the negative chatter and open up their minds to new ideas and approaches to making art work.  The second type of block is called an emotional barrier, and it involves the artist’s emotions and may have to do with the artist’s fears of failure or feelings that may be brought up by creating the art work. For me, I have realized that I have a tremendous fear of failure, and it is a subconscious feeling that comes up in the form of procrastination and avoidance when I have a custom art piece to complete or a celebrity portrait, to begin with, my drawing challenge, 100 faces in 100 days. I’ll justify it by looking for inspiration from art books or art work from the internet. Sometimes this is helpful to get me started on my art, and sometimes it isn’t.

This fear bleeds into many areas of my life, whether it is academic pursuits, art, etc. The fear of failure and my performance anxiety is so bad that I have already given up singing in the worship band at my church, and I don’t want to let that happen with my art work also. The only way I have been able to face this fear is to be intentional about doing the drawings or paintings anyway, despite my fears. I also find that setting the kitchen timer for 25 minutes helps me to get going on a drawing or painting because I know I have a limited amount of time in which to work.  It is interesting to note that McGuiness suggests that artists implement routines, and commit to doing their art work. When I started my drawing challenge in June of this year, I had not yet read this article, but the challenge of daily drawing with a pre selected subject that gets posted on Instagram has helped me to be much more productive. As for the fear of failure, it is still there, but I am trying not to let it keep me from doing the thing I love to do most and that is drawing and painting. Perhaps a little bit of fear is a good thing

because it keeps me on my toes and drives me to seek excellence in everything I do.

Pictured is a new work in progress, called Waiting: Creative Block, that is based on a photo collage I created in Adobe Photoshop using several photographic images from different sources. I traced the printed photo collage onto watercolor paper by placing a piece of carbon paper in between the photo collage and the Arches 140 lb watercolor paper, then outlining the image with a black pen. After I had transferred the image, I began painting in a burnt sienna watercolor paint to map out the middle values and darkest values in order to give the painting some basic shapes and to define the composition. More progress photos will be added later as I add in more details, lights, and darks. The piece seemed like a perfect complement to this blog post, because in it I wanted to translate the feeling of being creatively blocked by incorporating images such as a desert, mannequin forms trapped in cages, and plants and pregnancy images as a metaphor for the incubation of ideas and a time of waiting and stillness. Here is a link to the article I read in case you would like to read it: http://99u.com/articles/7088/7-types-of-creative-block-and-what-to-do-about-themThanks for looking!