The creativity train left the station, and you weren’t on it.
It just happens sometimes.
At the moment, I am working on a collection of small paintings for my studio sale in November. Things have been progressing along great, each painting is unique and beautiful. I have eleven almost finished small artworks. But today, I have to face the truth that one of these little masterpieces is a complete failure. It just hasn’t worked, right from the beginning, it was a difficult piece.
I splash paint around, and you might be a writer, but the creative process is similar and some days our inspiration seems to have gone on holidays. Why is it that our creative productivity can be so fluctuating and how do we cope when something completely fails?
Why? Is the hardest question.
I use a technique of pouring fluid acrylic paint onto the canvas. This approach creates a beautiful organic flow that makes a fabulous background. Then the second layer will determine the purpose or message for the painting. Sometimes to enhance the story of the art, I will add a reference or symbol. At other times, the multiple layers of acrylic paint and iridescent inks are so beautiful that adding anything else is unnecessary and would spoil the painting. I am very comfortable with abstract art.
This approach is usually very successful for small canvases. A combination of colours are used to express the emotion of the painting. But with this particular canvas, the colours didn’t mix well at all. There was no wow factor or anything special about the first layer. I thought I could improve on it with the second layer, but this too failed terribly, and I just couldn’t work out what was wrong.
It is so frustrating when you can’t figure out why one piece ends up as a huge belly flop. I had eleven other small paintings on the go at the same time, and they were moving along very nicely. I could see the specific direction and purpose for each painting, and maybe that was the problem?
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, no matter how hard we try.
I don’t accept defeat easily. So I tried adding a stencil to the composition, surely this will give the painting a more defined direction; but no, it still looked terrible. Perhaps adding collage paper? Maybe it was the colours putting me off. Perhaps the colour palette was not harmonious and I thought a new layer of paint right over the top would solve everything. But it didn’t.
There are always projects that just don’t work. For one reason or another. Maybe it is the moment of creation. You know when you are ‘in the zone’, your fingers will fly across the keyboard and you can’t get the words down fast enough. One idea will lead to the next, and by the end of this moment, multiple scribbled notes become the beginnings of future potential articles. Then at other times, the creativity train left the station, and you weren’t on it.
Perhaps the painting had no purpose? Maybe the message or voice of the art was unclear? This can cause confusion or an unsettled foundation. Your creativity is an expression of who you are. It can be an open dialogue of your emotions at the time of creation, even if you are trying not to let it show. Your spirit, or spark of life, is the very essence of your creative energy. Picasso said, “every painting is a self-portrait.” Your DNA will be infused with your creative expression, good days and bad. Maybe you are just not in the mood.
What to do when it all goes to crap.
I am pretty stubborn and I can paint over something multiple times, but there is a point when the canvas actually has too much paint, and it looks terrible. The composition is unredeemable and I need to let it die.
Maybe your article was weak to start, your direction was unclear and each successive paragraph added to the obvious disappointment. Adding new characters didn’t help and all the tried and true ways of fixing your story fell flat. Just accept it, sometimes your brilliant idea just doesn’t work.
Take a step back — I usually tantrum and have a good scream. I use to throw myself on the ground and cry, but I have outgrown that stage. However, I do still get very irritated and I have to remove myself from the project, and the people around me.
Walk away — Give yourself some space from the problem piece. Clear your head. I find going for a walk really helps to clear my head. Get out of your space, get your eyes off your screen and get a bigger view. Go and find the horizon line. It can be both physically and mentally refreshing.
Start again — Preferably on a different day. It is amazing how different your energy can be the next day. Maybe you need a good night sleep to recharge your battery. Sometimes sheer tiredness can diminish your creative energy.
Have fun — Catch up with some friends and enjoy some downtime. This will help release the endorphins in your brain and you will inevitably feel better. Then you can tackle the problem with a more positive approach.
Find fresh inspiration — Music, or a movie, tv series, a new book or even meditate. Indulge in your go-to relaxation method and disconnect your mind from the problem. You will still be subconsciously considering it, but when your mind is relaxed, you are more likely to arrive at a solution. Especially when you are not purposely thinking about it (this happens a lot in the shower).
One last chance
Only when you are relaxed and have had a break, then you will be ready to face your disappointing piece. Look at it square in the face and decide if it should live or die. I decided to give my small painting a hit with a defibrillator, and it had one last chance to breathe before I ended its existence.
This last chance was only because I had a friend come into the studio and save it. I asked him what he thought, and showed him all twelve of the paintings. The one I was hating was his third choice. What the heck? I was ready to exterminate this one. He said that because it was so different from all the other ones, he was drawn to it. It was a much darker and stronger painting. Most probably because it had so many bloody coats of paint on it.
Anyway, it was rescued.
Perhaps your article needs another reader besides yourself. Maybe a fresh set of eyes will help you to decide its fate. Someone else might be able to see a solution for the area you are struggling with, or they may agree with you, and decide to scrap it completely. You won’t know unless you ask.
It happens to all of us, don’t give up.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everybody has these moments of disappointment. It is a part of the creative process, and we can’t have the amazing inspiring moments without the frustrating ones as well. That’s just how it goes.
At the end of the day, it is only a painting or a written piece, we can start again tomorrow with a new idea, and hopefully one that might arrive with a load of friends ready to party.
“Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while one is working.” — Henri Matisse
Froyle is one of my newest writers, but has an immense talent. Her art work is inspiring as are her written articles. With her work Froyle brings a passion of art to her readers. She writes in manner anyone would be engaged. To check out more of her articles find her on Medium.