Even if he or she swore till they were blue in the face, I wouldn’t believe an artist who claimed they had never experienced a dry spell, never wondered whether they’d sapped their creativity dry and never avoided the studio for fear of facing failure. With decades of experience behind me, trust me, I’ve been there. But I always found a way to overcome those perilous times thanks to a few tricks I learned along the way.
These past few months have been particularly challenging for artists. Even though our profession is mostly solitary by nature, there’s a difference between never leaving your studio because you’re totally engrossed in your work, and being confined to one’s home and studio because of a raging pandemic. As the weeks of quarantine and lock down stretch before us, the majority of creatives have experienced a similar pattern: Initial euphoria and frenzied output–brought on by the specter of all that free time to experiment and create without pressure–followed by a drop in creative output as anxiety set in and the call of Netflix became louder and louder. So after binge watching our favorite shows and zooming till our eyeballs catch on fire, it’s time to get back to work. But how to get motivated?
I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to get those creative juices flowing.
1. Look at art.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing new under the sun. No matter what you like to paint or draw or sculpt, I assure you it’s been done before in an infinite array of forms. But know this–no one can do it quite like you. Your means of expression are uniquely yours. Looking at other artists’ work never fails to inspire me. I might get an idea for a new color palette or a new way to define an eye or a petal and right away, the neurons start firing and I’m off, imagining how to incorporate these revelations into my own body of work. Looking at art is not only an inspiration, it’s a hedge against stagnation. With over a billion users, Instagram is a treasure chest of imagery, but if you want more depth and focus, the world’s top museums have never been as accessible as now. Most museums now have virtual tours of their gloriously empty galleries (Mental Floss has a great line-up) or check out Google Arts and Culture.
2. Work begets work.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done.” (Andy Warhol)
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” (Picasso)
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” (Chuck Close)
All those famous artists couldn’t be wrong–they may have expressed it differently, but the bottom line is the same: Nothing’s going to happen until you start making it happen. Which leads us to Tip No. 3.
3. Start something with no defined goal.
No pressure. Get your hands dirty. When I’ve been in a rut, I force myself to start a little painting or a drawing or a gelli print, but the crucial ingredient is to keep the following narrative playing in my head: No expectations, I don’t care if this works out or not. I have no clue where this is going and I don’t care. This is for me and nobody’s going to see it.
It works every time. Before I know it, I’m having fun and getting into it.
4. Putter around the studio.
Step into your creative space, whatever that is right now, and start puttering around, skirting the edges, neatening up a stack of watercolor papers or tossing dried out gouache tubes. You’ll soon find unused blocks of vinyl for that series of linocuts you always wanted to make or you’ll trip over a half-finished, problematic painting that you’ll suddenly see the perfect solution for. I promise that you’ll soon be itching to try those water-based oils on the shelf, or you might even resurrect your origami skills when you discover the roll of origami paper you bought in Japan ten years ago. Your head will soon be exploding with ideas.
5. What’s under your bed?
Whether your stash of creative output is under your bed, in the garage, or neatly labelled and filed away in your studio, we all have works that are not seeing the light of day. They need to get out there, people! I have stacks of work that haven’t been sold or even exhibited yet–even though they deserve to be! So I scroll through the various feeds and newsletter I receive for Calls for Entry. What I’ve found is that because almost all calls for entry are thematic, at least a couple of my past works would be perfect candidates for some of the listed exhibition themes. I’m not suggesting artists spend their limited funds on entry fees, but right now, a lot of galleries are calling for submissions with small entry fees or none at all. I’ve had about a 75% acceptance rate for my submissions. It’s been validating and has inspired me to keep going.
Now get to work! No more excuses!
Behind the Mask by Lilianne Milgrom – All Rights Reserved
Desperate Man by Gustave Courbet – Wikimedia Public Domain
Guest Author Bio
Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an internationally acclaimed artist and author residing in the greater Washington, DC, area. Her works can be found in private and institutional collections in the United States, Australia, Israel, France, Switzerland, England, and India. Aside from her blog Art and Beyond she has been published in publications such as Ceramics Art and Perception, Ceramics Monthly, Bonjour Paris and the Huffington Post. Her upcoming novel L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece is due for release in July, 2020.
Sign up for updates on L’Origine’s release for a chance at receiving a signed copy of her debut novel described as a ‘fun, sexy and smart page turner’. ~ Keren L, NYC.
Blog / Website: lilianne milgrom