Do you ever feel stuck with your art and just can’t get going?

Well, if you do please read on.

It’s been a hard 12 months for most people but as an artist I feel incredibly lucky that I have my creativity to keep me busy and occupied.  I’m happy in my own space and I can be on my own for hours at a time without the need for human interaction because I can usually slip into my own little world and totally zone out.  There’s often a couple of paintings that need tweaking, adjusting or starting, sketchbooks to be filled, collage papers to be sorted, and art materials to be tidied.  Usually the more creative ‘stuff’ I do the more ideas that get generated, and the happier I am to potter, even if it’s just clearing clutter in my studio.

But, I’m only human and there are times when I am in a slump and I literally have to drag myself out of bed. When I’m experiencing a creative lull and can’t concentrate on any one thing I sometimes resort back to a method that an old art tutor told me about when I was studying for my textile degree.

It’s so simple…….write on 20 x post-it note sized pieces of paper a different painting or drawing technique, a favourite art task, an art related question….anything to generate an arty thought or idea.  

Each post-it note is then folded up and put into a container to be dipped into when inspiration is needed. These get added to each time I read or hear about an interesting technique that I’d like to try later, but it’s also fun to do this little exercise with other creatives.  Chances are prompts you will never have thought of are added to the pot!

Here’s a sample of some of my favourite prompts that I use when I’m really stuck…..

  1. Make 20 A4 sheets of painted collage paper using neutrals
  2. Do a blind contour drawing of a flower/household object
  3. Set a timer for 10 minutes and do 20 x A5 drawings of a favourite subject using my non dominant hand 
  4. Cover some paper with ink splodges and turn them into faces/people/flowers/animals/abstract patterns
  5. Divide an A1 sheet into A5-ish rectangles and make a different mark in each rectangle using a variety of tools
  6. Paint a ground using a totally different colour to normal on 4 x pieces of card ready for some new paintings later
  7. 3 x random colours plus black and white – create some new colour mixes and put in my sketch book.
  8. Rip up a crappy drawing into roughly 10cm pieces.  Pick 1 or 2 at random and start a new drawing from these
  9. Set a timer for 10 minutes and draw a self portrait
  10. Play with some ink and bleach in my sketchbook

Prompt number 8

The list is endless and you can have fun making prompts that are relevant to your art practise or craft.

I keep the folded post-its in a ceramic jug that sits in my studio and when I’m needing a kick up the backside I’ll pull one out at random.  Just the act of getting on with something arty is usually enough to stop the procrastination, and I find the more I do the more I want to continue with it.  Often the prompt leads me down a whole new train of thought and before I know it, I’m back creating and feeling happy again.

When things are really bad and nothing seems to get the creative juices flowing, a cup of tea and a chat with friends works wonders.  If I’m still struggling I’ll go and do something which I really don’t enjoy…housework, ironing, cooking for example.  This is usually enough to make me want to get back out to the studio and I then feel so grateful for my love of all things arty!

My latest concoction that I’ve been using with some ink drawings is a rusty-vinegar liquid.  Put a small piece of iron (bolts, old nails, etc) that will rust into a jar and cover with distilled vinegar.  Leave this for a couple of days whilst the rust and vinegar react with each other and then put a lid on to stop further evaporation.  The liquid is a beautiful sepia colour and mixes well with normal acrylic inks and graphite, giving them a gorgeous, grainy texture. You will notice that the longer it is left to cure on the paper, the deeper the colour becomes.