True Confessions of An Artist :: Excuses, Diversions & Remedies for Artist’s Block

Janice Tanton working on a sculptureCritics, colleagues & collectors alike have remarked that I create works FAST and am quite prolific (when I wannabe). I certainly don’t feel like either of those…Fast….or Furious. I guess it’s all relative. Reflecting back on my ability to be prolific – “they” may be right. In 2000, I actually created 48 paintings in a six month period that were all published and all sold out as soon as they were completed (with 2 little ones under 8). Last year, I finished 52 works in a one year period – with a full time job and three kids…however, I think both of those efforts just about killed me.) Not something I want to repeat, and I’m happy to say, I’ve ditched the full-time job in favour of the full-time studio.

The trick is…I don’t feel like I’m prolific or productive.  I am afflicted with the dreaded  BCS (Blank Canvas Syndrome) every single time I look at that big white space on the other end of my brush. Even worse, I have a nasty recurrent case of ABD (Artist’s Block Disease) that prevents me from even entering the studio.

“Baby, I Got Dah Blues….” :: Seasonal Upsy’s and Downsy’s

"Ashes" by Edvard Munch.
"Ashes" by Edvard Munch. 1894; Oil on canvas, 120.5x141 cm National Gallery, Oslo

Like Buddy Guy says, “Damn Right I Got The Blues.” There is definitely a seasonal pattern. I’m usually quite productive from September – November. It tails off over Christmas and picks up again in mid-January – May. This might just be a pattern formed early in life by attending school. In fact, I’d bet on that.

There are also hiccups in the pattern, kinda like an ECG. Times when I’m searching for something to come…..there’s nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch…. I am convinced that I’ll never paint another thing as long as I live. I convince myself I haven’t got a bone of originality in my body, and am the worst painting hack on the planet.  Not quite a positive, healthy attitude towards my work, I must say. I think a lot about this. I know for a fact that many of my friends – other artists, musicians, screen-writers and creatives at the top of their game have the same thoughts.

We all have our excuses, diversions and remedies. Since we’re sharing…..here are mine:

Sad Excuses - The Dog Ate My PaintingMy “Sad Excuses” – Ten Reasons Why I Can’t Paint

  1. I’m worried about my personal finances, a family situation or the overwhelming Meaning of Life and How To Create World Peace.
  2. I’m feeling sick.
  3. I have too many ideas.
  4. I don’t have enough ideas.
  5. I just want to watch a movie.
  6. I don’t think I’m good enough.
  7. I’m worried if the painting will “sell”.
  8. I didn’t sleep well the night before.
  9. There are too many things going on in the household.
  10. The project I’m thinking of seems too big and unmanageable.

My 8 Diversionary Tactics for Avoiding The Studio::

  1. I play on Facebook, Twitter or the web or write a blog article. (like now)
  2. I watch a movie or just listen to some music on the floor with my yoga roll.
  3. I go for a nap.
  4. I cook.
  5. I go grocery shopping.
  6. I email friends.
  7. I do laundry.
  8. I clean my house.

MuseMy 8 Steps To Drive The Creative Muses To My Studio::

  1. I have a clean house.
  2. I have the laundry done.
  3. I connect with friends.
  4. I’ve got the grocery shopping done.
  5. I’ve got some great meals ready for the family.
  6. I’m well rested.
  7. I’m inspired by a book, a movie or music.
  8. I’m inspired & encouraged by folks on Twitter, Facebook or my blog.

Notice the pattern here? I sure do, and my family hates it when I get into that groove where I “clean house”. I recognize now that I do it so I can have a clean slate to be creative. Things just don’t come to me when the house is a mess, and I’ve got outstanding things that need to be “in their place”.

It’s really quite simple. To be creative and prolific, I need to:

“Get rid of the things I don’t love to make room for the things that I do love.”

And what I do love…..is being creative in a space that allows me to do that.
Confession complete.

PriestGo ahead. You can tell me. Confession is good for the creative soul.

Absolution is certain.

What are your excuses, diversions and remedies?

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Teresa Moore

    Ditto.
    Crazy summer schedule is over. Drove two kids to uni this weekend. School begins for my other two and our exchange student tomorrow. This week I clean, organize and prep for my husbands 50th bday party. On the other side of that party is my time to paint and be creative. It’s so close now and I can hardly wait!
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Janice Tanton

      Make it clean, Teresa. Thanks for your confession. I absolve you. 😉

  2. Cori

    We are to much alike…I’m looking to find my creative space were I can shut the door play, dream and get some damn `art’ finished.

    1. Janice Tanton

      I think there is a time when we all feel that way – to really be able to silence that inner critic, we need some “silence” of our own. The trouble with it, Cori, is that there is some kind of guilt attached to it from time to time. That’s normal, and a good sign that we’re Human! 🙂

  3. Tracey Hewitt

    Well I’ll be….
    “I con­vince myself I haven’t got a bone of orig­i­nal­ity in my body, and am the worst paint­ing hack on the planet”
    You do that too??!! In fact, pretty much everything you describe here, I recognise – intimately. (Which would be why I’m sitting here trawling blogs for distraction, inspiration!)
    Thanks for sharing your tender places – makes me feel LOTS better that I’m not the only one!

    1. Janice Tanton

      I absolutely do, Tracey. I would say that most creatives I know do feel this way at one time or another. I think there is actually a psychological term for it, but for the life of me, it escapes me at the moment. I believe that connecting with each other makes it easier to deal with….which is what we are doing here! Paint! Create! JUST DO IT!

  4. Michele

    I still haven’t figured out why the days and weeks pass and I haven’t done any painting. I don’t know why I procrastinate. And it’s definitely not because I’m housecleaning, lol. HELP!

    1. Janice Tanton

      Michele….Get off the internet right now and go to your happy painting place. Please…..! The world needs artists. Just dive in. Don’t worry about what the outcome is going to be. Just enjoy the process and DO IT! Have faith, as it will all come to you right away. 🙂

      1. Michele

        Thanks, Janet! I painted yesterday, and after lunch (after I get off this computer!) I’m going to paint some more. 😀

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