Painter’s Blocks

Painter’s Blocks

February 10, 2019

Painter’s Block - 

The pebble in your shoe or the boulder blocking the path and why they are just a figment of your wonderful / limitless imagination 



-Variable overload 

  Materials can be overwhelming when there are too many options; brands, paints brushes, surfaces, easels, studio lighting etc. And the intimidating myth that you are only as good as your materials. 

I say your only as good as your mastery of the tools you have. Sharpen your skills by limiting your pallet and tools (perhaps 3 colors and 3 brushes) staying consistent with your surfaces and changing your materials one at a time. Start CHEAP!! To avoid fear of wasting expensive materials, primer cardboard, watercolor paper or scrap wood. RUIN them and move on, your only objective is to play with and master your tools.



-Understanding the rules in order to breath them

The rules are basic concepts of how vision works, how humans see depth through light/shadows, color temperatures and object edges. They don’t necessarily have to match reality, but relatively relate to each other in order for others to be able to read your artistic language. This only applies if your goal is to communicate something specific. In which case remember your not painting the object per say, your painting the lighting effects on the object.

The most basic of color “rules” when attempting to render depth (or 3 dimensions on a 2 dimensional flat surface) is the relation of color temperature:

When the light source is warm, the shadows on objects will be cold.

When the light source is cold, the shadows on objects will be warm.

Setting up your painting pallet to keep warm and cold colors separate will be invaluable.




-Mental / physical balance in your body

Subtle imbalances can have drastic effects on the results of your work. Before you sit down to create, check in with yourself. Get still, breath and be honest with yourself. Have you done the obvious in personal care. Enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, sunshine, mental and physical connection with other humans. All necessary to put your best into anything. 

How do you feel about your project? Your never painting just the object or idea, your painting how you feel about it. Creating is infusing a piece with your emotions, the audience will pick up on those emotions and either be attracted to or repelled by them. “Good art” is infused with good emotions.




-Creative space

Your stuff and space is an outward reflection of your inner mental space. Organization and tidiness reflects mental balance, it doesn’t matter which happens first (inner or outer) the other will follow. 




-Inspiration / motivation to start

Don’t feel like swimming? Jump in!! Action brings about inspiration. Start without being inspired. The timeless, effortless flow state will catch you quickly. How? Build enthusiasm, listen to music that jazzes you up. Do a warm up exercise. Pick a color, create an abstract, do a sketch of something in the room, google a random word and sketch the first picture that comes up, copy another artists work. Brainstorm and create a list of ideas to serve as a menu and close your eyes and point. It doesn’t matter the subject, just start. 

We are creatures of habit, our brains have an elegant autopilot and we are in control of the habits it learns. Driving, riding a bike, dance steps, typing etc. Remember that practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. If you’ve developed handwriting, you can develop an artistic style.

Flow state is easiest to reach when we are challenged, just not too much. Shoot for 5% challenge. Too difficult isn’t fun. Stay near your skill set but not too far in it, too easy isn’t fun either.



-Judging you work

It doesn’t matter if your judging your work a success or a failure, either way your killing the fun. With success it’s easy to fall into repeating what “worked.” With judging it a failure, momentum will be lost and quitting is inevitable. Keep your focus on the joy of creating, the headspace or flow you feel in the moment. Or simply except that every piece will be a failure in some way, the success is in showing up and producing. Be willing and excited to fail! Fail fast and fail often. It’s how we learn, modify and improve the next one. Never EVER go back and attempt to “fix” a piece. Today your not the same artist that painted it yesterday. You’ll cause it to look as if two artists were fighting over it, tension and frustration will be its title.

And remember, you’ll get it next time ;)



-Misplaced focus / goals

ZOOM OUT!! It’s all to easy to be hyper focused on a piece, it needs to be a masterpiece or have deep meaning or perfect technique. This only causes pressure. And only procrastinators work well under pressure, not professionals. Drop the idea of what you want the final piece to be as soon as you begin. Play over pressure. 

Realize your are not your art. Greek cultures invented the idea of the muse. An entity of sorts, separate from you, the thing that causes inspiration. The brilliance of the muse is that it makes your art impersonal. Becoming through you not from you. Just show up, start, and the muse is to blame for the outcome. 



-Creating for the market

So you wish to sell your work. It’s all to easy to recreate what sold last year, or to paint what you think people want to buy. Unless you paint for you, it will be inauthentic. What do you want to hang on your wall? It’s your job as the professional to give people what they didn’t know they needed. To cause aesthetic arrest in them at seeing the unexpected. 




-Stuck in the details

Stand farther away, table between you and the canvas, pallet across the room, larger brushes. Save the detail work for the last 10% focal point of your composition. Over detailing  or consistent detailing over the entire piece is the surest way to that “cheesy” look.



-Expectation of outcome

Of course it can be helpful to have an idea of how you want the end result to look before you start. Once you do start, letting go of that idea can be just as helpful. Plans change, directions deviate, be flexible, adapt and respond to each phase of the work as if you still at the starting point developing a new vision. 



-Overworking piece 

Stepping back and knowing when to quit is crucial. The only ones who know where the edge is are the ones that have gone over ;) I would advise pushing pieces too far to learn where overworking starts to set in for you.



Put in the time

Keep it fun

Don’t judge your work

Start without being inspired 

Master your materials 

Just Start painting and to hell with the consequences!!



It’s crucial to know and reevaluate the following questions:

—Why do you create? 

—What do you want out of it?

How do intend to get it?


Use the myth that artistic skill is a god given talent to your advantage. Yes it ignores all the struggle and learning curve that had to be overcame to develop said “talent”. And there may be something of a given talent in the ability to fail without loosing enthusiasm. 

Artistic talent is mythical and magical to those that don’t understand it. These are excellent qualities to be known for  ;)


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