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“I haven’t been able to paint for so long, I’m not sure how to get started again and I don’t feel inspired.” I have heard this sentiment expressed to me by artists over the years, and I have also been subjected to feeling this way. Work, sickness or family matters can cut into studio time. As with any endeavor, lack of work makes one “rusty” and inspiration may be hard to find.
This summer, I was unable to paint in my studio for about two months. Taking care of my two granddaughters, ages five and two, while their mother was in her last trimester of a pregnancy with twin boys, left me with no time to paint. A big part of my new studio was turned into a daycare. After the twins were born early, we continued to take care of the girls until our oldest son’s marriage, where the girls were flower girls. Recently, driving the girls back to Texas completed our care for them. Having grandchildren that live so far away is very hard for us, so we rejoiced in the opportunity to have them in our care for so long. However, my long days of studio painting and writing and illustrating children’s books had to be put on hold.
In the once again quiet studio, I wondered what would be the best way for me to return to my previous schedule. For a long time I have created paintings whether or not I have felt inspired, so I can usually create paintings base only on discipline. While the girls were here, I thought of many paintings that I wanted to produce. After they were gone, the thought of starting on a blank white canvas was doing its best to intimidate me and I felt my discipline slipping. Realizing that this feeling was due mostly to missing the girls, I knew that I couldn’t give in to it. To counteract the reluctance that I felt, I chose to tackle a pile of partially finished paintings with the goal of just playing with them, not seeking to make them finished pieces.
Have you ever had the feeling while you have been creating a piece that you have lost direction? When I feel that way, I have learned to set the painting aside, sometimes for years, until I can see the way that I want to go. “Unexpected Visitor”, a painting of a snowy owl that I posted on my website shortly before the girls arrived, was one such piece. What better way for me to refresh on mixing colors and to reacquaint myself with the feel of various brushes than to see if something from my set-aside stack motivated me to play with it?
“Calm before the storm” was inspired by a photo that I had taken years ago at a prairie on the way to the Grand Tetons National Park. Enlivened with the feeling to create when I got back from the trip was soon replaced with the feeling that the painting just wasn’t going the way that I wanted. Since I had lost my direction, I decided to set the painting aside. I found out years ago that I tend to flounder aimlessly when I don’t have a clear direction, which taught me to not fight the feeling of indecision. “Lose my way, put it away” became a rule that I followed.
When I saw this piece in the pile, my interest was sparked. As I started to paint, the feeling of returning to “the zone” was most welcome. Changing colors created a new look that felt right and resulted in a finished piece. I have since tweaked a couple of other paintings and I anticipate starting a new one soon.
When faced with a return to creating artwork, try not to let intimidation get in your way. Play with a new technique, rehab a painting that has been set aside or try a new medium or support. Most of all, focus on the fun of creating and don’t give up, for if you explore new ideas or revisit old ones, you will find your inspiration returning.
Editor's Note: You can view Jan's original post here.