"Slump? I ain't in no slump...I just ain't hitting. Yogi Berra
This summer, I found myself in a place that-for me-is highly unusual. For a period of several weeks it was hard to focus on the act of painting, let alone getting my gear together and schlepping it outdoors where I would be battling the elements, or facing the challenges of a completely new studio work.
It all started in July, when , as we know it gets hot as hell here in Arizona. We planned a trip to Virginia, to visit our son, and I sent my plein air gear ahead, looking forward to lush, cooler green ( very green) landscapes for inspiration. Well, when we arrived, the temps were still 100 plus degrees, with 85% humidity! Egads, mind you, I have painted under many conditions, but that's one I don't recommend.Needless to say, my output was confined to a feeble attempt.
When we returned, I thought I would go through my photos, and sketches eager to start on some painting projects in the comfort of my air-conditioned studio. My half-hearted fits and starts, when looked at with a critical eye, just did not measure up. Quite discouraging, as , quite honestly, the work really stunk. I really just didn't feel like painting.
The days actually stretched in to weeks. I mentioned this to a close friend who commented " I don't EVER remember your going through a period where you weren't inspired by something."
Compounded with this were a few rejections, and the slow sales that have been plaguing us all. ( Mind you, I had a few nice acceptances, but why IS it that the negatives seem to take over the good stuff? All of this added up to a case of " just what is the point?
I posted a brief mention of my dilemma on FB, and I did get some great feedback.Some of the suggestions were:
"Try a different media"
"Experiment with technique", both of which I practice as a matter of course, to avoid going stale;
also: "Give yourself simple exercises"- good,
" Sculpture"- I don't know about that one,;I have a whole studio full of paints, boards, papers, etc. that I was just not using- and besides- my previous attempts looked like the god-awful creations in the movie Beetlejuice...remember those?
and, I do have a few of my own like:
"Clean the studio"- works great sometimes, or:
"Prepare boards or canvases"...
I did work on my web site, so that was good.
So, I dug out my watercolors, ( which, as primarily a pastel and oil artist these days was different ) and went out on a hike , still in my black and blue funk. Needless to say my efforts that day were awful.
My biggest fan, dear hubby Wayne came up with a suggestion; to just go out with a sketchbook.
"Just draw, hon".
I've often said that this is what artists do not do enough of. Granted, I do almost always start out my major pieces with a preliminary sketch, and often do thumbnails with my plein air work...
But, just draw.
I have, for my entire career, had the habit of always having a small sketchbook with me. Unaware models have been in airports, restaurants, and, perhaps my favorite, the movie theatre, waiting for the lights to dim.
Of late, because I've been working hard on sharpening my plein-air skills, and the desire to continue raising the bar for my work as a whole, I've put great pressure on myself. It just wasn't fun. At all.
So, I allowed myself to not even worry about the next painting. I sat in the afternoons, and just leisurely drew the objects around me. The joy of watching how light filters through ice cubes in a glass was simple, but quite welcome. In the evening, I sketched my hubby as he watched television. No pressure.
This past weekend I went for a lovely hike. I let go of the voice that always says "I should be out here painting, or " where is a good spot to set up"?
I had my water, snacks, and a sketchbook. that's IT.
I enjoyed the simplicity, and surprisingly, I found I seemed to notice a lot more.
This doesn't mean that I've given up painting in any way, shape or form. It has become too large a part of my life. ( Maybe that was part of the problem.)
It just means that by getting back to basics, I can go back to the studio with literally , a clearer picture of " making art."
The current projects are coming along. Yesterday I went out and produced a decent plein-air piece. Sure, I'll have some stinkers along the way, but this break from forced creativity, in addition to the constant pressure of self- promotion, marketing, and competing in this crowded art- biz was just so necessary.
So I drew myself out of a slump.
" I never ever thought I was in a slump. As far as I was concerned, tomorrowI was always going to get my hits, regardless of what I did today." - Yogi Berra
Oh, sure, I'm certain that I'll still have some stinkers; as artists we all do, and I don't care who you are. This is part of the art game, and something I've always been able to deal with. I just put them aside, and look at them a few days, or even years later.
This time was different. I'm still working things out, but I realize that life is too short and precious to not simply, visually enjoy the moments we are given.
...and I can just feel some real gems coming right around the corner.