My Artist Block: My Period of Loss
“Having read the following quote by artist Helen Frankenthaler, it struck me how an artistic block was more than what it may seem to most people, as just unable to create art. It is more than that. A real loss as an artist. This is Frankenthaler’s experience:
“Every so often every artist feels, ‘I’ll never paint again. The muse has gone out the window.’ In 1985, I hardly painted at all for three months, and it was agonizing. I looked at reproductions. I stared at Matisse. I stared at the Old Masters. I stared at the Quattrocento. And I thought to myself – Don’t push it! If you try too hard to get at something, you almost push it away.”
Quote: Helen Frankenthaler
I had heard that artists get ‘artistic blocks’. I did not really understand the depth or devastation on how this affects the life on the artist. I think (and hope) that blocks are permanent, maybe just a temporary moment that removes or shrouds your ability to create. I know I am not alone in this and, in fact, think it is more common throughout every artist’s life.
I really believe that artists create a dialogue which represent their internal and external world, feelings and thoughts. Art is my diary, who I am and the loss of painting was a shroud around my mind. It would not function.
What was my experience of an artistic block?
My own experience of such a ‘block’ was in the latter part of 2008. Before this, my painting was spontaneous and quick. On any day an idea or image would pop in my head, almost it was like a bubble popping and the painting would appear in my mind. I would spontaneously pick up my brushes and palette knives and create. The painting below (titled ‘Wash‘) was created before my block. I painted it in two days, in a spontaneous way, bouncing out of my chair and picking up my brushes. My block was a bubble made out of lead. I was like Superman, trying to see into a lead box and I too could not see what was inside. The free flow of ability was a huge loss to me. It was like loosing a huge part of my self worth and identity.
Above: ‘Wash’ sold by Degree Art Gallery
I found that POP moment is one of the most enjoyable part to my practice of creation. I had lost it along with my vibrancy in my mind. It was suffocated. Inaccessible. I know everyone has moments in life that are more productive than others, but my block was an all encompassing wall, a box. There was nothing. It was black and white, no colour. It was strange, almost alien! During this time, I created only 4 paintings, which is virtually nothing compared to my usual endless, creative process:
Above: These where titled the ‘Tones I, II, III and IV‘. The bottom left painting was sold during my solo exhibition.
The painting below is one of my black and white paintings shown above, which I later re-painted. When I began re-painting I planned to add an old, twisted tree in the fore-ground; however, as I painted a fire appeared. Burning the negative blog and putting it behind me. I see this painting as a visual metaphor of moving on, working through my artist block. Burning the negativity, ready for new work:
Above: My re-painted ‘Landscape Tones IV‘ signifies moving on and freedom
It took time to go away, but the block went POP … in a rainbow of colour …
Why did it go? I do not see it as as one thing, but a combination. I think the change of my artistic flow came from a great deal of changes in my life (marrying my best friend) and my environment (moving house). Once a ray of light broke through, the black and white bubble popped, back into a rainbow. It was like a rainbow of confetti in my mind. My mind cleared and in a few weeks the ideas returned, though it took a long time to pick my brushes up again. It was in 2011-ish that I started my ideas, but it was in 2013 when I returned to painting and exhibiting.
Above: ‘Halcyon Days’ with the 3 studies on display.
The 4 paintings above, though feature a level of deep feeling and mellacolly, they are moving into brighter colours. These where painted just after my father passed away. The definition of ‘Halcyon’ reflected my thoughts of my childhood:
“Denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful.”
Below are four of my paintings, illustrating how out of character the black and white paintings where in comparison to my usual colour palette in my mixed media paintings
Above: Left = ‘Pink Punk’d Panther’, Top Middle = ‘Torn’, Bottom Middle = ‘Wash’, Right = ‘Star Man’
My Advice For My Fellow Artists:
If you have an artistic block, I think Helen Frankenthaler gave sound advice. Go back to past masters or contemporary artists and re-discover artworks. I think bringing old memories of art into your life refreshes your mind. Visit museums, exhibitions, galleries and read about artists. I find that this helps you push forward from the inspiration of others. It might just pop that artist block “bubble” you have. I dearly hope it does.
I have written another blog about this, which I have called “Master Studies”:
Above:‘Composition VII’ by Wassily Kandinsky (1913) By: The State Tretyakov Gallery
All artworks & designs displayed are © Copyright by artist Laura H Elliott BA (Hons), Dip.
Quick Link @ http://www.lhe-art.co.uk
Blog & Website: https://laurahelliott.wordpress.com
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