New research is proving that the best way to get the creative juices flowing is regular participation in exercise. Making time for a regular walk may be just the ticket to new inspiration. Walking clears the head and starts the flow of endorphins. Everybody loves endorphins. Endorphins are those hormones that people dream of having more of. Endorphins are happy hormones! For more endorphins, get up and get moving.
The Telegraph has the story (here). Research recently published in Frontiers in Neuroscience reveals people who exercise regularly are able to perform better on cognitive tests. However, the findings also showed that going for a onetime bout of strenuous exercise won’t do it and may actually make things worse. The point is to exercise on a regular basis. The researchers recommend regular exercise at least four times a week.
Taking a look at what other artists are doing for inspiration will likely reveal that many participate in regular exercise. If not into regular exercise, now is a good time to start. Just don’t overdo it in the beginning. Make a plan to get into the habit of walking or running regularly. If already into walking or running and not finding inspiration it may be time to mix it up a bit. If the weather doesn’t permit an outdoor walk or run and the treadmill is the only option, go to the beach in the imagination.
Hanging a photo of the beach up in front of the treadmill can enable the mind to go there. Each step on the treadmill can be imagined as sinking into the sand along the water’s edge. Feel the water on bare feet. Smell the salt in the air. Hear the waves as they crash bringing fresh inspiration on the tide. Every crash of the wave is new inspiration flowing into the soul. With each step along the imagined beach, more endorphins will flow. As the endorphins flow, so do the creative juices. So what are you waiting for? Get walking!
Dry spells, days without inspiration, lack of incentive can happen at anytime to any artist. You show up at the studio, sit in front of an empty canvas or paper and nothing happens. Nothing is working. You looked to all your usual sources of inspiration and still nothing. So what now? You can give up and walk away or you can look to your fellow artists.
Stories are everywhere of artists who worked in groups. The Impressionists were noted for it. Monet and Renoir occasionally painted the same subjects. Picasso and Braque explored cubism together. The tales of artists gathering together in Paris cafes and bars are well known. The Abstract Expressionists frequently met in New York at various locations. Artists are gathering today. Are you one of them?
Gathering with fellow artists today does not necessarily mean physically meeting in a restaurant or studio. ArtopiaMagazine suggests, “Following artists on social media is a great source for finding inspiration on many levels.” Taking the time to “like” other artists on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, read artist’s blogs and check out artists websites are all ways to gather with other artists in today’s internet world. Artists are doing amazing things all over the world. All it takes is a couple of clicks to enter a world of inspiration from fellow artists.
Indiemade.com suggests joining a local art group and if you don’t have one, start one. Find a group of other artists and make plans to meet together. You can choose to take a meal together regularly just to discuss art in general. You could meet together for some Plein Air painting. Another possibility is potluck once a month rotating at each other’s studios. Find your fellow local artists and make a plan.
When you are blanking out on inspiration, look around at other artists and see what they are up to. If you find your fellow artist also in a blank place maybe you can inspire each other. And if not, you can always commiserate with one another until new sources of inspiration can be found. Nobody stays dry forever. Companionship during the dry times may help move the dryness on down the road.
During the hot summer days, the butterflies in the backyard got bored and decided to put on a few theatre productions to entertain the caretaker of the backyard. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was the first production. That was because the Monarch felt he could only play a part worthy of his regal-ness. The others gave in this time. For the next production, they may not be so willing to let him dictate the choice. We’ll see.
“The best cure for a dry spell is simply to keep at it. Good things are happening, soon to be revealed.” Eleanor Blair (from The Painter’s Keys)
Those first thoughts of panic when you find yourself in a dry spell can take over and consume you. What if you are never inspired again? What if this is it? Your artistic life is toast! You’re done. All the art in your soul has dried up and you will have to find something else to do. The love of your life has walked out the door. The cold hand of panic is about to get a firm grip on your throat. Everything you do is dry, dry, dry! You can go to the nearest bar and get stone cold drunk or you can sit down and take a deep breath. While taking that deep breath, check out what others suggest. Or wait until the hangover is over, then check out these suggestions.
Graham Mathews has several suggestions in an article for Artpromotivate. Number six on his list is to experiment with a different style or medium. Following this recommendation frequently leads to new discoveries that can change the course of your entire artistic direction. How many artists have you read about whose experiments in times of drought have resulted in the biggest breakthroughs of their career? If something is not working, that is usually a signal from the artist within that you are not listening. Trying something unfamiliar forces the outer artist to stop and pay attention to the inner one. A new direction can’t be put on automatic. It requires an effort on the part of the artist.
Another technique for breaking a dry spell is to return to original inspiration. PsychCentral.com has a blog post on creative block. Author Margarita Tartakovsky suggests stashing away anything that inspires you. Tartakovsky says tucking away interesting thoughts, quotations, films, ideas that strike your fancy can be a source for watering the drought. My favorite thing to do is collect images from magazines. I’ll tear out anything that even remotely looks interesting and put it in an inspirational images folder. Over the years, I have ended up with a number of folders. Sometimes I get a laugh from wondering why I chose certain images. But it causes me to rethink why I found those images inspirational in the first place.
Not giving in to panic is the best first step to getting through dry spells. Once you make that decision, trying some new things could be fun. It may keep you out of the bar. At the very least it will occupy your hands so they don’t continue moving up toward your neck region. While the hands are occupied, your inspirational wells are free to start working again. Once the wells are working, the water will start flowing. But if all else fails, you can try a rain dance. You never know. It may open up a new career for you as a dancer.
“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” James Abbot McNeill Whistler(from Brainyquote)
The main question most artists are asked is “What is your vision?” Artists are expected to come up with some lofty description of a complicated concept spoken in a manner intended to deliberately confuse, hopefully with a snobby accent. The more confusing the description means the greater the artist’s vision must be. Some artists agonize over an artist’s statement hoping for just the right definition of the perfect artistic vision. But do artists set out to develop a vision that fits within some high- minded description? Or do they simply take what’s inside and bring it outside for others to see.
Alain Briot, writing for Luminous-Landscape states of artistic vision, “It is something you see in your mind’s eye.” Artists can’t always verbalize what is in their “mind’s eye.” That’s why they paint. Articulating what is inside through painting, is how artists communicate. If they could verbalize this vision, they would be writers. Some artists are both writer and painter. Even then, it can still be difficult to verbalize what is an inner feeling or motivation that can only be expressed in paint.
Whistler solved this issue by naming his paintings with musical terminology. The painting shown is titled, Nocturne in Black and Gold—The Falling Rocket. Perhaps Whistler’s musical title was meant to inform the viewer of the painting as a dreamy night vision. The title directs the viewer with more intrigue than a simple title of The Falling Rocket. As a nocturne, the viewer associates music with the painting. Now the rocket is dancing rather than simply falling. The painting has more drama in the mind of the viewer.
Artists are paid for the vision over the labor. How that vision is or is not articulated can make the difference. People often don’t read a long artist’s statement. They will, however, read the title of a painting. So much more vision can be expressed through a title than through a statement. Concentrating on visionary titles over visionary statements may be a much more effective expression of artistic energy. And it will likely reach more people.
Here is Mr. Bean as an art historian describing Whistler’s vision in his most famous painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black—The Artist’s Mother more commonly known as Whistler’s Mother. I doubt this is what Whistler had in mind but you never know!
“The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself.” Washington Allston (from The Painter’s Keys)
Whether or not competition between artists is a good thing is the subject of opinion. Some believe competition inspires creativity. Others do not. Rivalries among artists are not new. Perhaps, it is human nature for some to be competitive. For artists, it can be a blessing or a curse depending on the individual.
Stories abound of famous rivalries. The competition between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci is said to have been fierce, especially on the part of Michelangelo. According to an article for The Guardian by Jonathan Jones, the competition Michelangleo felt towards Leonardo was so bitter, Leonardo left Italy for France to escape it. Leonardo strongly felt the need to be removed from the fierce rivalry.
On the other hand, Michelangelo, was reported to have been inspired by the competition he felt for Leonardo, Titian and other great artists. Martin Gayford revisits the Michelangelo/Leonardo rivalry for The Telegraph. Gayford states of Michelangelo, “his career was fired, and darkened, by bitter, personal rivalry with other artists.” Michelangelo was driven by a deep competitive nature.
Much of the art world is geared toward competition. Juried shows are everywhere and have a long history. Many artists repeatedly enter multiple juried shows creating for the themes of the shows. A theme can inspire artistic direction. Installations and exhibitions are based on the judgment of the installation directors and are also frequently based on specific themes or goals. Artists find fuel in these directions, as well.
But what of the artist who is not inspired by the Michelangelo competition? What of the artist who prefers the Leonardo escape? This artist may follow a different drummer or no drummer at all. While the outward push may be to travel with the competitive pack, the lone artist must be true to the personal inner direction. There is a place for both. One artist may lead the pack in Italy while the other follows the road to France. Great art is made in both places. It is up to the artist to choose. Michelangelo or Leonardo? You decide.