Studio Friday: Artist's Block

"You've heard of 'writer's block'. Well as an artist, I sometimes suffer from "Artist's block". What is this you ask? It's when you sit and sit and can't come up with anything. This can go on for hours, days, weeks even months sometimes. I want to know how you break free of Artist's block! " ~ Gabi

Once when I was in college I had a photography assignment due the following week and was really having trouble coming up with an interesting subject. I was hanging around the photo studio as I often did between classes, actually moping around is a better description. My professor just looked at me, shook his head, grabbed my arm and gently nudged me out the back door into the courtyard. He knew exactly what my problem was. He said "You're thinking too hard. I want you to shoot a whole roll of film without leaving this courtyard and don't come back in here until you do."

After spending a few minutes cursing him because it was a really small courtyard, I started to look around. And there was an interesting crack in the wall, the sun made a cool shadow in the corner, a leaf formed a perfect little still life on the pebbles. You see where this is going, of course. Within 15 minutes or so, the roll was shot and I was back inside ready to develop the film. My professor just smiled and didn't say a word.

These days I'm very easily inspired by the materials I use, so I don't find myself stuck very often. But, when it happens, I step back and stop trying so hard. Maybe I'll iron some just-washed fabric or sort buttons or update my idea books. Sometimes a trip to a museum or taking a walk outside helps if I need an extra push. Before I know it something catches my eye and I'm pulled back in.

My advice? Don't stress about it. Go do something else for a while. Even if you think it's lost, it will come back.

Want to read what others have to say on this topic? There's more here.


Unknown said...

A very intuitive teacher!! I've been guilty of thinking too hard on many an occasion & it never really helps...emptying the mind is usually a better idea...

Ouissi x

Anonymous said...

Oh what a great teacher you had in photography, so cool! I was not so lucky at all unfortunately. But the wounds are almost fully healed by now. ;-)

True for me, too, materials inspire me as well. It's the best! :-D

Anonymous said...

Oh, now that is very good advice. Stepping back and reevaluating is always wise. Great post!

AtPlayWithFiber said...

Great advice! We look at things too closely.

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

Welcome back, I enjoyed your story!

Happy creating!

Going For Greatness said...

Thinking too hard can really be a problem. SOmetimes the easiest way is to just grab something and start. STARTING is hard and the rest just flows in :)
What an awesome professor you had!

Anonymous said...

What a great post! Stressing about it doesn't help, but in a time framed work I guess it's kind of hard to step back and take a break. But worth a try!