Do you ever just sit down and suck? It’s a weird question, but think about it. Have you ever just sat down at your desk, or wherever you work, and were like, “I’m going to (draw, paint, sculpt, etc.) something awesome,” and then you try to do that and it does not happen at all. Now, I’m not asking if you’ve ever sat down to try something new and not been good at it, I’m talking about your tried and true method that you know you’re good at but on this night you’re just bad. It sucks. This happened to me the other night. My thing has always been drawing, that’s like my safety safe, I draw to express my emotions, clear my mind, to study the world, it’s what I do. But occasionally, the other night for example, I sit down and the wires from my brain to my hand get all crossed and I can’t do a thing. It’s frustrating as hell, but fortunately for me I have this platform to write about my frustrating art escapades, so I wanted to talk about this experience because I know we’ve all been there.
First things first, art is hard, super hard. So don’t get all frustrated when you’re off for a night here or there, this shit is not easy. I think as artists we get to a point where we’ve been good at creating what we create for so long that when it doesn’t click for a day or two we lose our minds. Being stuck or just not having anything to create is just a byproduct of the creative process, especially when creating original work. I’m going to sound like I’m beating a dead horse by saying this over and over, but art is hard, so you can’t get frustrated when you’re stuck. If creating art was easy, everyone would do it, so we can’t expect to be on top of our game all the time, that’s unrealistic in almost any profession. So what I want to talk about with being stuck is making it a learning experience, we always want to learn as artists. There’s a few things that I’ve found out that we can do when we’re stuck, and by no means is this gospel but, we can take the night off, take a step back to revisit the basics, or try something new.
Now I want to go into detail with each of these and they’re all super easy and brief, so we’ll start extra easy, just take the night off. Sometimes if it’s not working for you, you need to just take the night off, take some time to reset, try again with a fresh start. I got in trouble with this one in school a lot, but I had to explain to professors that if I just force myself to work, it’s going to be a worse result than if I don’t do it at all. Some people can’t work if they’re not feeling it, and that’s ok, just forcing yourself to get stuff done often means it isn’t going to be very good when it’s done. And unfortunately in art when we half ass it, or force ourselves to complete stuff, it’s noticeable. So sometimes we just need a hard reset, an hour, a day, a week, we need to just step away sometimes and reset.
But if you’re determined to work, another outlet might be returning to the basics. This one is personal for me, so story time. This past summer I was stuck in the worst way, not only was I struggling to make work, but when I made work, I hated it. Nothing was working for me, at all. So, rather than just beating myself up (anymore), I took a huge step backwards and just re-taught myself how to draw. I picked up some old books, I drew bones, I drew the human form, I studied art in a way that I hadn’t really before, all personally driven and old school. I’m not saying you have to do this, you might have your own route, but I went back to the very basics of drawing and art and I found myself as an artist again. Sometimes when your work isn’t working for you, you need a new method, you need to take an even bigger step back than just not working, you need to just re-evaluate yourself as an artist, it’s super beneficial. Think of it as like an artistic vision quest, on some spiritual nonsense, plus it’s way easier to create original work when you know the basics.
The final outlet that I’ve found, and there could be a whole lot more, is just trying something new. I feel like we talk about trying new stuff and experimenting a lot here at Pleb’s, but it’s scary and people are afraid to go down those avenues but there’s a lot of times that there’s nothing left to lose or the pieces are there. This is one of those perfect times! If nothing is working, if you’re stuck, why not try something new? What else do you have to lose? Sometimes we find ourselves in new processes, when you dial yourself into something without reserve, forgetting the safe thing we do because it isn’t working, you might find a new part of yourself and it might change you as an artist.
So, to summarize, art is hard and we’re going to get stuck sometimes because the creative process isn’t an easy one. But don’t just beat yourself up and force yourself to create crappy work, make it a learning experience. We always need to be learning, especially in our creative processes, so figure out what helps you when you’re stuck. Maybe you just need a hard reset, maybe you need to take an even bigger step back to relearn the basics, or maybe it’s time to just try something totally new. There’s always an outlet, there’s always a learning experience, make the best of your bad experiences because they’re often better tools than the good ones.