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Artist Block and Burn Out

Stefan Baumann

Blog #8 of 17




October 7th, 2019 - 11:55 AM

 Artist Block and Burn Out

The evenings are staying light later allowing us to enjoy more time with our horses. We also are taking advantage of the mild winter weather and are burning brush in large burn piles to clear areas for spring pastures. For those of you who don’t already know, The Grand View Ranch is a first generation horse ranch on 10 acres in Hammond Ranch near Mt. Shasta, California. Several years ago, we acquired several horses and began building a wonderful home for them on the hillside of our property. Every aspect of creating the ranch has been more difficult because we have had to cut into the hill to make flat areas. Also, since this soil is filled with volcanic debris, it is difficult to shovel the dirt out of the ground because of all the rocks. It very hard work! So, it is a real treat to have an opportunity to visit with friends around our campfire.

Artist Block and Burn Out

This week the topic of artist “burn out” came up in my classes and in my phone coaching sessions. Several students told me that they were experiencing fatigue when it came to painting and that they didn’t feel inspired to paint. Many felt guilty and even felt embarrassed and frustrated that they felt that way. Some had even had fears that they might have to give up art altogether. I asked some of our Campfire friends if they ever felt that way and surprisingly, they all said they felt that way at one time or another. They started sharing their stories about what they experienced, why they felt that way, and what they did to get out from under the gloom and doom of ARTIST BLOCK AND BURNOUT.

Insecurity of being found out

I use the words “block and burnout” together because they are often the consequences of the same issue. Artist block is real. As artists, we want to create great work. We pour our innermost thoughts and feelings onto our canvases, send them out into the world, and then find ourselves at the mercy of others who view and judge them. The reactions vary from indifference to praise. And though we look confident on the outside, we are not so confident inside. We live with the insecurity of being found out. Our paintings and ideas are bantered by Facebook and Instagram. We are judged to have value by how many likes we receive. And, many of us may have been told that we would never become a successful artist, and deep down we have feared that they might have been right.

Artist block happens.......

Some artists feel inspired to paint all the time, and then find themselves empty of ideas. Often artists prepare for an art show or two, and at the same time enter a new group of paintings to a gallery, present two workshops while traveling back to back across the country on a plein air 20-day tour. All these activities involve moving paintings from house to studio, and studio to shows. All of the above activities can lead to creating artist block that can take days, weeks or even years to overcome. Artist block happens when artistic creativity, energy and desire to even hold a brush disappears, and even the thought of going in the studio sends the artist into a panic. Artists feel the need to work because commissions are waiting to be finished, but nothing inspires us. The artistic well is empty.

Stopping art altogether

I know all about artist block. Over the years, I have experienced artist block myself and I have also coached many artists through these trying times. Artist block or burnout is common. It hits every artist at one time or another. Often artists try to get on track by changing mediums, teachers, or by stopping art altogether. Instead, artists need to acknowledge that they are experiencing artist block and take some time off to recover.

Quit art altogether.....

Just like any job, it is important to know when to stop. For example, when you have an art show of your work, come home from a workshop or convention, or you have just traveled for a week of plein air painting, it’s important to immediately schedule a vacation for yourself from your art work. Close your studio door and stop thinking about everything that has to do with art. Or give yourself permission to just quit art altogether for a week or two. Enjoy other things in the world that don’t involve art. Art can be an all-consuming activity. Taking a break sometimes can change your perspective as well as filling the well of creativity.

Artists can feel desperate

Also, you may want reevaluate your direction as an artist, but don’t you allow yourself to retreat altogether. Some artists decide to take a break from art and then stop painting all together. Artists who stop creating art because of artist block and fatigue often find it hard to return because the years go by so fast and it is sometimes difficult to return to an activity that created a frustrating block in the first place. Some artists might try to return to art five or even ten years after they stopped creating. These artists can feel desperate when trying to regain momentum and excitement about creating art again, and often regret ever stopping art altogether.

Finger painting

If you are feeling like you’re experiencing an artist block, take a break and then work through it. Spend time at the easel for inspiration to grow. Go to the studio and pick up a brush. Make a mark on the canvas or paper. Have no expectation and no agenda. Fall in love with the pure energy of color and the magic of pushing paint around again. Approach the canvas with new eyes. Try finger painting with oils, use a palette knife, use different methods of expressing yourself, reset your focus and inspire new ideas. Just Don’t Stop. The world is waiting for your vision of all that is beautiful that you see as an artist! If this does not work, call me I will be glad to help you find you way back to your art!

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