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Weekly Blog on creativity and what it takes to be an artist by David Limrite (artist, teacher, mentor & coach)

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET STUCK (Part Three)

David Limrite-Artist, Coach, Mentor, Teacher

A couple of pieces in my studio that I finally consider finished. I certainly struggled with them and was stuck many times while working on them.  


My students have heard me tell them over and over, "Do not create and finish a painting in your head." In your mind you can start and finish a painting in a straight line. But in reality, as you know, a painting takes right and left turns; it goes through twists and turns; you change your mind once you see what happened when you tried painting the background red. Rarely does a painting unfold in a straight line.

So get that idea or concept out of your head and on canvas or paper as soon as possible.

Begin to paint, let go and hang on for the ride. Let preconceived notions fall by the wayside.

Let go of what you think the painting was going to look like.

Let go of what you think you should do to it or how you should do it.

If it is about fear, move towards it. Don't protect yourself from the unknown. Take a risk. Try something. Anything. It doesn't even matter if it works or not. You're stuck, remember? Anything is better than nothing at this point. If what you try works, great. Keep going. If it doesn't, try something else. Your failed attempts will add up to aesthetic layers until you get to where you want to go.

If you are fearful, that is where you start. And you work on it anyway.

If you do not feel up to the task, that is where you start. And you work on it anyway.

Try a color you don't normally use. Apply the paint without a brush. Take some sandpaper to it. Draw on it if you have been painting. Paint on it if you have been drawing. Focus on creating shapes. Try some different kinds of brushstrokes or mark making. Add a different medium to distract you. Turn your painting upside down and continue painting. Work faster than you normally work.

Variety often does the trick.

You can always cover up anything you don't like with additional layers later.

Try as hard as you can to not become attached to whatever the painting is or is not becoming.

Stay open to all possibilities.

Stand back from your work a lot. Every 5 or 10 minutes. Look at what is happening. Really look. What is working now? What is still not working? Step back up to the painting and attack the areas that are not working and leave the areas that are working alone. If you keep working on areas that are already working, you will surely overwork them and they will go stale.

Be patient. Make a few more marks. Step back and assess again. Dive back in again. Stop. Look. Take a break. Walk away for a few minutes.

I work really fast and furious in short, intense bursts. I step back a lot. I take lots of short breaks. I walk outside to get some fresh air. I drink lots of water. I work on more than one piece at a time, bouncing back and forth between them. All of this works very well for me. It is my process.

You do what you need to do.

The work will reveal itself over time in ways that you can't imagine. This is part of the fun. If you let it be. In the end, your painting will tell the story of its creation and its creator.

There are no mistakes, only unfinished paintings with options, opportunities and choices.

Stick with it when the going gets tough. Accept the journey. Say YES to it. Put your heart and soul into it. Remain calm and in control of your mind.

Above all else: DO NOT GIVE UP.

Read "What To Do When You Get Stuck: Part One and Part Two."