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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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The Art of Finishing

The Art of Finishing

      This week I am returning to a favorite topic of mine which is the importance of completing a painting or work of art. I have several unfinished paintings and sketches pilling up in my studio lately. They are the remnants of ideas not fully thought out, false starts, or brick walls I didn’t know how to climb. In trying to figure out what caused this to happen, I have a few theories…Maybe life got really busy, I got stuck and didn’t know how to fix a problem with composition or color, lost interest in it, etc. I call these paintings and sketches, UFOS, unfinished objects. They clutter my studio, and remind me reproachfully that I have unfinished business. What to do, what to do?

       About two weeks ago, I tried to break this trend in my work flow habits, and I returned to a sketch that I have been working on and off for about a year. Facebook reminded me of this event this week with a post about the sketch, And Still I Rise.  The sketch is called, And Still I Rise, and it is based on a Maya Angelou poem entitled, And Still I Rise. This poem describes the struggle that African Americans have endured as a legacy of slavery, prejudice, and Jim Crow Laws of the South, and the power that they ultimately exercise when they rise above it. I’m sorry to say that my own ancestors played a part in the history of slavery and plantations.

        I’ve been looking at my various attempts to finish this sketch and make it into a painting, and the below photos demonstrate my struggles to complete the painting. Some of these struggles include: breaking out of old habits of just putting things in the middle of the page, or not really thinking about art as a story to be told, or not knowing what medium and color choices to use in telling a complicated story like this one. Ultimately, I decided to limit the color palette to burnt sienna, black, and white, with tonal values, so that the focus is ultimately on the symbolic content of the painting’s story line, such as:  the slave ships, slave manacles, (all to symbolize slavery), the phoenix bird (re-birth), and the sun (which rises every day). Two other central figures in this piece include a Caucasian woman, to symbolize the legacy of slavery and white prejudice, and the other, an African American woman, in this case, Maya Angelou, who serves as a representative of the African American population. She has risen above her circumstances and refuses to be beaten. Here are a few lines from the poem, which demonstrate Angelou’s indomitable spirit:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” (Source: Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org).

                 So why is this important? I feel that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and saw some growth happen, despite the frustration. Sticking with this sketch and making it into a tonal watercolor painting, forced me to re-think my art process and habits, and it has been helping me to define my unique voice as an artist, by making work that is content based and tells a story. It’s also been a good lesson in problem solving and determination. And I felt great when it was finally finished! Here are some progress photos, starting with the three value graphite sketch, oil painting, pastel, and finally the mixed media watercolor painting. The biggest inspiration I had in bringing this painting to a conclusion was Pablo Picasso’s, Rose Period. These paintings are limited in color and feature narratives about various characters, such as circus performers. Without the inspiration I received from this work, I doubt I could have brought it to a conclusion. All of which reminds me of an earlier post I wrote about the importance of copying master art works, in this case, they can provide new ways of thinking about value and color. I definitely want to keep studying the masters as I continue in my journey to define my voice as an artist. What about you? Do you have any tips for completing unfinished art?