Artist’s block…

“This time I was sure it would be easier” – how wrong could I be?

It’s not unusual after getting ready for an event to have a bit of downtime. (That seems more forgiving than ‘artist’s block’) Often it takes me time to get going again. A while ago I made a tapestry for a goddaughter and thoroughly loved making it, because all I had to do was pick it up and keep going. Making art isn’t like that – it’s much more complex. This is both the joy and the difficulty.

not a manufacturing job

This time I also had plenty of reasons to keep me out of the studio: my daughter is finishing primary school and it has been a whirlwind of the usual sports days, a river rowing regatta, painting the set for a fabulous year play (making a space ship anyone?). Not to mention keeping up with Brexit news, and Wimbledon, ahem.

Stuck getting stuck in…

I know from experience that the time after you have brought work together can be tricky. This time I was sure it would be easier; after all I have half finished panels all ready and waiting for me to go back to them – what could be more tempting?

Except that somehow my heart wasn’t in it. That’s not a good place to make art from. Often it’s your head that stops you and I’ve got pretty good over the past few years at finding ways to overrule that quiet voice that continually comes up with reasons why you shouldn’t be painting…. you need to do more research, a visit to the the art shop to restock is essential, do you know what you are going to make (why on earth would you want to know in advance? And yet that seems to be a big one!)

Maybe I was kidding myself. I had a trip with a friend to visit the new Switch House recently opened at Tate Modern… nothing.

I tried starting small and picked up my sketchbook again; not even to draw but with collage…great for half an hour, but then… nothing.

I got lost in editing hi-res image files for a project I’m involved with and although it was good, absorbing, slightly mindless work and made me excited to see my pieces on a large scale…. did it get me enthused to pick up a paint brush?… nothing.

Hmm. I went back to an inspiration board I had made a few months back. Not a vision board exactly, just a slightly more thoughtful and edited version of the regular pinboard in my studio / front of the fridge. What visually inspires me; strangely things that haven’t yet made it into my work, but that’s OK, it’s all bubbling under. Surely that would do the trick? Well, sort of.

Instagram Alice Sheridan

At this point I actually asked for help. And all the wonderful giving, thoughtful artists I am in touch with on Instagram chipped in with their support and suggestions. With thanks to everyone who replied (you can see all the suggestions on the post here ) I wanted to share a selection of the great ideas offered, you can click the names to find your way to their own websites.

Say you are going to create something ugly and then there is no pressure and beauty will come.
Lynette Melnyk

As an artist who regularly suffers and makes the mistake of procrastinating far too much, the only thing that gets me going is going to my studio, even just sitting. Eventually something happens and then I struggle to leave!
Cloe Sparrow

Photograph things around you that are inspiring without analysing why. Try another medium.
Deborah Moss

Spend an entire day on your art – pick where where you want to go, not where you left off.
Kim McAninch

Dive in. Co carefree. Don’t deliberate too much, have fun then edit.
David Mankin

Mow the lawn; nothing like a monotonous job to make you want to break free and create. Draw a page of straight lines!
Louisa Crispin

So did it work?

Well, yes! Not so much the individual suggestions, but the recognition that this hiccup was commonly felt by many, if not all creatives. So I turned to a painting that left me with a slight niggle, something wasn’t quite settled and after time spent with it hanging and considering what I needed to change, I just started by mixing the paint and doing what needed to be done. It only took an afternoon.

Accepting the creative cycle

Studio time will be impossible over the summer, so I shall truly feel I have forgotten how to paint by September. But I know this is all part of the cycle: making art is not a manufacturing job.

Something is created of course, and that’s part of the thrill. Doing battle with this element of facing the unknown and accepting that it doesn’t actually get easier is part of the job of being an artist. It’s why people pay to buy art – it’s done for them!

Over the summer I shall be filling my creative bank with sketchbook work. Ideas will mull (probably in wine or over long walks!). I’m looking forward to using different materials on paper again and seeing what rises to the surface.

If this rings any bells with you, I would love to know what methods you have for overcoming artist’s block, or whether we just need to accept that it’s part of the process. Please comment below…


3 replies
  1. Nadine
    Nadine says:

    This post has really resonated with me! I find myself entering a new chapter of family life with both my children now at school as of September!. My time is finally starting to return to me, but I’m easily distracted from the art I’d love to create. It’s been a long wait, seven, eight, maybe even nine years! But funnily enough my acrylics are still just about useable 😉
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Alice
      Alice says:

      That’s an exciting new chapter Nadine! It also feels as though suddenly you should have endless ‘free time’ (ha ha!) but somehow you are still just as busy. I tried all sorts (this is an old post but it shows that you are not alone ) If you are determined, you will find a way to make it work – if you can find an evening class one day a week that could also be a great way to make sure you keep going, and meet up with others. Keep me posted!

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