Artist Block

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Do you find yourself staring at the blank white canvas perched on your easel, foxed at your inability to make a mark on it? Have you been mulling over your first brush stroke not just for a day, but for weeks, months or even years? Well then, Houston, we have a situation here! Time to sound a Code Red, for what you are experiencing is the Armageddon of the art world – the dreaded artist block. It is the apocalypse that’ll devastate and annihilate your artistic progress.

But relax! No need to panic, for it can be averted. As artists, we all have had those phases in our lives when we feel utterly confused, perplexed and frustratingly stuck. This is the time when innovative ideas seem to run dry and art inspiration is sorely lacking. It’s a common dilemma that can afflict all artists at some time or the other during their artistic journeys.  

What exactly is an artist block?  

Also known as a creative block, it is a period when artists cannot access their creativity and/or they cannot bring themselves to create a new piece of work. They feel like they have run out of things to draw. Simply put, it is a time when artistic drive is missing.

What causes an artist block?

The most common cause is a lack of inspiration or ideas. But inspiration is not the only problem, it’s also inactivity. If you are not practicing your art regularly, you will eventually run out of inspiration. So the key is to keep working and keep the momentum going. On the other hand artist block can also happen if you are mentally or physically exhausted. So do take care of yourself and take a break when you feel like you are burning out. Sometimes just looking at the world around you and enjoying it sights and sounds can help you grow as an artist!

How do you get rid of artist block?

Whether you’re uninspired, worried your work isn’t good enough or just can’t think of anything to sketch, the creative block is for real. But you must not let it get to you. Life gives us enough inspiration to be creative at all times. It’s up to us to find it and put it to good use. There are numerous ways to come out of this dry spell of creativity. Here’s how:

1. Create something on the canvas even if it’s just a simple sketch or a splash of colors. It is these marks and textures that will inspire you.

2. Travel or just go out for a stroll to the park or beach and look at everything afresh. The little subtleties of nature will appear to you in a totally new light.

3. Visit an art museum, gallery or online art websites that showcases art genre of your interest to draw inspiration from the old masters.

4. Enter an art competition to give you a goal to work towards and spark your creativity. Moreover, if you are selected and get to attend the art show, the works of other contestants will serve as a source of inspiration.

5. Read inspirational art quotes by the great masters of painting. It will not only inspire you but also motivate you once you get to know how they succeeding in combating their own lull periods.

6. Read art books if you are stuck with common issues like how to start a painting, what medium to use or how to fine tune your style.

7. Take a break if you feel you are experiencing artist burnout. It’ll give you time to contemplate on your status as well as progress as an artist. If you are just stuck on a particular painting, start a new one and toggle between them to keep the creative juices flowing.

8. Use creative exercises like drawing or painting your favorite subject for a month, making ten spontaneous paintings within a time limit, or recreating a series of an old painting in new ways each time.

9. Attend an art workshop where you can explore new techniques or media. You can also ask a friend or mentor to give you a creative challenge to work on.

10. Find a muse that inspires you andtake photos of this muse. Then go through the images and sketch or paint specific aspects of the subject in detail.

11. Clean up and revamp your studio or work space. A cluttered work area hampers creativity and kills inspiration.  

12. Take a timeout from email and technology and just focus on your creative practice.

13. Visit a library or bookstore and explore a topic or subject you’ve been wanting to paint.

14. Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs with a good workout, a solid meal, good sleep and some meditation.

15. Maintain a journal, scrapbook or notebook of your doodling and random musings that you can refer to later for inspiration.
Check out my blog post titled A Tour of My Sketchbook

16. Socialize and unwind with friends and acquaintances. It will clear your head and rejuvenate the creative center of your brain.

17. Take inspiration from other genres of art like literature, music, dance and even culinary arts for new ideas. 

18. Create a Pinterest board with images that inspire you and make note of specific characteristics that appeal to you about each artwork as well as how you can incorporate these features in your own work in your own unique style. 
Check out my Pinterest inspiration board here.

My Secret Tool

As an artist, I’ve come up with my very own fool proof solution to overcome my creative slump that seems to have worked for me each and every time, at least till now! I come up with my most creative concepts just before I hit the sack. As weird as it may sound, it’s when I close my eyes and shut my brain off to the outside world that I am able dive into the deep, dark abyss of my mind and conjure magical innovations. I also keep the notes app on my iPhone handy when I’m out on a long leisurely stroll. My best ideas come when I’m surrounded by nature because my mind is free to soar and explore new horizons.  Besides these two trump cards, my trusted sketchbook and Pinterest board have always got my back, so plan B is also in place!

I consider these a form of “therapy” when I find myself in the shackles of a creative rut. You are most welcome to try them out if you are in one too. This is my troubleshooting mechanism, maybe it can be yours as well!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-Artist%27s-Block

https://www.icreatedaily.com/artist-block/

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Art for a Cause

“You give but little when you give of possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Creating art can not only be satisfying, but also makes us ponder and reflect about pressing issues. This is why art created to raise awareness for a cause can work wonders. It can awaken powerful and lasting emotions that consequently lead to positive action. Most artists make use of this power not just to express themselves, but also to make a statement, or contribute towards a cause.

The mere creation of an artwork aimed at creating awareness or towards a charity has a positive impact. It’s always a pleasurable experience to be associated with nonprofit organizations and other charities that are making a difference.

Artists help charities in many ways depending on their personal choices and artistic skills. One doesn’t always need to create foundations, donate big pieces of art. When it comes to painting for a cause, the sky is the limit and no contribution is too big or small. Here are a few ways through which artists can make a difference:

  • Collaborate with charities that share a common belief or work for a common cause. Paint murals for them to create awareness.
  • Create awareness through your art about current issues like environment, health care, poverty, homelessness, animals, women’s issues, peace etc.
  • Conduct workshops in hospitals, libraries, museums, clubs, neighborhood religious and cultural groups.
  • Raise funds for the charities you collaborate with by offering a percentage of proceeds from the sales of your art through an auction or raffle.
  • Volunteer for an art therapy workshop. This will be especially beneficial for those struggling with emotional and stress related issues.

I have personally experienced the contentment and satisfaction that comes with creating art for a cause and contributing it towards the betterment of the society. It gives me great pleasure to share with you that some of the artworks from my recent COVID-19 series are up for exhibit and sale through the online Facebook portal of the art gallery, Nero Art Hub (www.neroarthub.com). A percentage of the sales from this series will go towards charity. Here are the artworks that are on display:

Another contribution of mine is an artwork from my Navrasa series titled Veerangana – The Unsung Heroes. I contributed this towards an online exhibition to commemorate Kargil Vijay Diwas conducted by Youth For Parivarthan, a non-profit organization. The painting is my tribute to not just the fallen soldiers of the Kargil War but also their families, who live on bravely with just their memories to hold on to. Here’s the artwork followed by the links to the exhibition:

(https://www.facebook.com/YouthForParivarthan.Official/photos/pcb.2833925406821188/2833924936821235/?type=3&theater&ifg=1

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDHCBADgnF-/ (scroll through the images to see my artwork).

Many artists have used their talents to help create awareness for a cause or contribute towards charity. You can do it too. All you need to do is find the cause that touches your heart and inspires you enough to create something artistic. In the words of Seth Godin –

“Art is an original gift, a connection that changes the recipient, a human ability to make a difference. Art isn’t a painting or even a poem, it’s something that any of us can do. If you interact with others, you have the platform to create something new — something that changes everything. I call that art.”

The Healing Power of Art

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Our world is currently in the grip of a nerve-racking pandemic, COVID – 19. Stress and anxiety have always affected people but with the uncontainable proliferation of this global contagion, more people than ever before seem to be falling prey to these demons.  People are now not only suffering from stress related to money and work but also having to deal with the adverse effects of anxiety caused by this deadly microbe.

So how does one handle these nerves? Here’s how I do it….I use the healing power of art. For me, art is therapeutic. It helps me tide over all those anxious moments that are eating away into my mental and emotional well being. Art therapy can prove to be profoundly helpful in dealing with not just the present day stressful environment of the pandemic ridden world, but also help relieve workplace anxiety.

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of therapy based on the belief that artistic expression has the power to heal our self-esteem and help us relax. Unlike other forms of therapy that rely on language as the foremost mode of communication, art requires something different, something unspoken.

How does it work?

Intensively focusing on an activity like creating art can relieve stress by distracting and refocusing the mind elsewhere. Art therapy can enable you to express what you feel without putting it into words and releases the anger, unhappiness or any other emotion within. You don’t necessarily need to be an artist to experience the therapeutic effects of art therapy. You can reap the emotional benefits of your artistic endeavors without having to worry about the aesthetic outcome. The mere satisfaction of creating something with your own hands will lift your spirits. Once you are done with your creation, you can look back at it and get an insight into the cause of your stress and figure out ways to avoid it.

What are the techniques involved?

Here are some suggestions that I personally found useful and interesting. Ideally, art therapy is best practiced under the guidance and support of an art therapist, so do consult one if my ideas don’t seem to help. Some of the images here are my own creations that have proved therapeutic for me in way or another. Others are purely for reference purposes.

  • Display your emotions on canvas

One technique is to segregate your negative emotions from the positive ones by drawing and painting them onto a canvas. All you need to do is divide a canvas into two, in one section draw and paint your negative feelings and on the other half paint and draw feelings that make you happy. This exercise will help you replace your negative sentiments with positive thoughts, thereby releasing any stress or apprehensions.

A display of my emotions on canvas
  • Digital Mediums

Another means of practicing art therapy is through digital mediums. All you need is an iPad or tablet, a stylus and any good drawing app like Adobe Photoshop Sketch or Autodesk Sketchbook. The best part about digital art therapy is that it’s easy to erase and start over! Another benefit of using digital medium is it increases concentration, focus as well as self-esteem, especially for children with autism.

A therapeutic digital creation of mine

·        Design a postcard you don’t intend to send

Sometimes illustrating all those pent up feelings about something or someone in the form of a postcard can helps deflate the problem. Designing the postcard allows you to activate different parts of your brain and helps it to relax. Once all the negativity is out on the card, you’ll find that it has lost its power to some extent.

Therapy through postcards (Reference image)

·        Cut and paste a painting to create a collage

Recreate a new artwork form a previously done painting by cutting it up and re-sticking it together in the form of a collage. This activity will motivate you to take risks and push yourself not just creatively but also in life.

Therapy through collage making (Reference image)

·        Create art in the dark

Creating art in total darkness frees you from that judgmental mind of yours that compels you to self critic your work. This in turn will also relieve the stress that comes with the judgment and criticism you have to face in other aspects of your life. You will be pleasantly surprised to see sides of yourself you never thought existed when you turn the lights on!

  • Try Mandala and Zentangle art

Zentangle and Mandala Art can prove to be extremely relaxing and therapeutic owing to their meditative qualities.  Both encourage deliberate, ritual creation and allow room for human error as no erasing is allowed. The entire process can be done in about 15 minutes and can be practiced whenever you want to.

·        Color therapy

Color has the ability to affect our moods and can be used to transform our state of mind. Colors can also provide an insight into your emotional state. By cutting and pasting images with colors that symbolize your current mood (for example red or orange if you are angry) can help you figure out why you’re feeling that way and work your way out of the mood.

Color therapy (Reference image)

·        Doodling

Doodling can be a very effective form of therapy as it allows your feelings and sentiments to flow out uninhibited. The possibilities are endless and ever interconnected line, mark or shape adds on to your story. It’s like you are pouring your heart out onto the paper which will eventually make you feel lighter and calmer.

·        Make a self portrait

Creating a self portrait of yourself from your past memories helps you recall the person you were and how you have transformed and grown with time. It makes you reminisce on your good as well as bad sides and shows you that you can change for the better.

Therapy through elf portraits (Reference image)

The best part of art therapy is that you can express yourself and vent out your sentiments without uttering a word. It can help you transform your negative energy into something positive – a piece of art. That’s why I love art. Not only is it expressive, it also heals.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate creative progress and artistic enrichment. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Some data is based on my personal experiences and opinions. As mentioned earlier on in the post, I am not a professional art therapist and the techniques I have shared below are merely suggestions. Do consult and practice art therapy under the guidance and support of a qualified art therapist.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/art-therapy-techniques_n_56562017e4b072e9d1c19f9b?ri18n=true

https://www.artitout.com/single-post/2014/12/04/Using-the-Feelings-Wheel