View Full Version : Mental blocks?

12-16-2002, 11:26 AM
I have been having so much trouble lately. Nothing I start works out. What happens when you go through this if you would have commissioned work? LOL OMG What a mess you'd be in LOL
Has this happened to someone with a deadline and how did you solve the problem?

I'm thinking about going back to oils for a while. But what happens if the same thing happens there? Maybe it's Christmas

12-16-2002, 12:14 PM
been there a few times myself.....it will pass...but if you have a commissioned work that needs done....first is there a deadline? if so see if it can be changed. If not don't worry.
I have found if I don't have a connection to the work (personal, or a feeling of what the person is wanting) I have trouble with it. There have been times with a commisssion I go back and take to the person to get more of a feeling of what there connection to the work is. When I did the New York Damm painting the photo was old and I had a hard time getting in to it...but after talking to the person about the painting and why she wanted it .....it made all the difference to me. It was for her father, They had the land there for 40 years in there family and had sold it...for me just getting some back ground and feeling to the work helps....

I hope this helps you...


12-16-2002, 01:40 PM

I'm so sorry you're having a lull. Yeah, it's happened to me too. Fortunately, I don't usually have deadlines for artwork. I had a tough time for a few days recently and posted about it to the oils forum. Many people there had great advice, including a visit to the Creativity forum. Here's a link to the thread if you want to check it out:


Best wishes for quick inspiration,

12-16-2002, 04:47 PM
Luvy, see if you can get hold of a copy of a book called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It is a 12-week "course in discovering and recovering your creative self". It dispels the "I'm not talented enough" conditioning that holds many people back, and causes dreadful mental blocks, and she gives some interesting ideas for dealing with these mental blocks. This involves a bit of work other than painting, in the form of other types of exercises and ideas, and you just might find it very helpful if you are prepared to take it on board. Even if you don't use it as a course, just reading it will give you help I think.

Have a look at my post in Decoratorgirl's thread. There is an extract from one of the passages in the book. It will ring loud bells for you.


Anna Marie
12-16-2002, 05:46 PM
I have been to that mental block place and it is not a happy place to be. Commissions often get you focussed otherwise you just have to chill out the best way for you. A walk, a swim or give yourself a day out to a favourite place and inspiration , a tricky little blighter, will come and find you when you least expect it!

12-16-2002, 07:40 PM
Treat yourself to something "totally unpractical"! LOL....I love to sneak off to an afternoon movie...hide a green apple in my bag with peanut butter crackers...and munch my way thru a thriller...or a romantic comedy.

Gives me a creative boost....not sure why it works...but doing something a little unorthodox breaks the cycle of...painting like I've done it a thousand times before! Often, our energy is so divided at holiday time that painting becomes a chore, too.

A break for me is usally a painting trip!! I love to get away and just paint for a couple of days without any distractions....sometimes I'd like to rent a cabin in the mountains...and just sit on the porch for a couple of days staring at the scenery. That would be nice!

Just let me know when you want to join me for some "block work"!

12-16-2002, 07:44 PM
Well luckily I don't have commissions to worry about. Just wonder if when you are to that point do you still get these blocks?

Jackie Yep I'm feeling pretty badly lately. So unsure of myself. I can't do landscapes and that's all there is to it. I keep trying and trying. Some don't get any further than some background before I rip them up because that's not right. I need a break from landscapes. I don't have that book but I have plenty of books I look at when I get like this. But then I try to apply what I read and nothing works. But I can't take time away because I get bored easily. But yet I know I need a real break. I'm working on a flemenco dancer right now So hopefully this one will turn out half way decent and will give me the boost of confidence I need again. You're right I'm probably my own worse critic. But I don't know if I believe my friends when they like something. Is that normal too? I always think I could have done it better. I have few things I've done I'm really thrilled with.
I've never had to learn something that really has no end. I mean like if you do bookwork. You know it's done LOL

Well thanks everyone Hope I'm the only one with this problem at the moment. I need to paint because it's my relaxation but lately I'm not relaxed LOL

12-16-2002, 07:54 PM
Luvy....I've read this post and read this post and tried to think about how to reply. You've gotten some really great advice. For me, when I run into that block, I usually revert to trying something new. New compositional matter, a new technique that I've never tried before, even a new medium that I've been considering and just haven't taken the time to try. I pull out all my art books and spend an afternoon or evening reading and looking at the art of others (that really helps to get me inspired).

Oftentimes, though, I just don't feel like being creative, like it's almost a chore, and that's when I'll just plain and simple, take a break from the studio, get out of the house, and go have some fun. I find that a couple days away not thinking about art and all of a sudden I find that I'm anxious to get back to the studio again! :D

Mikki Petersen
12-17-2002, 02:07 AM
I don't take commissions yet, but before I retired, I ws constantly running against deadlines. I designed software solutions for a major metropolitan hospital. I loved my work and was well thought of for creatively handling problems. Periodically, though, I would have a loss of faith in myself and just block up completely. I learned that the harder I pushed against it, the worse the block became. At those times, I would reorder my schedule, put my projects on hold and go offer to assist a colleague with opne of their projects for a day or two. The change of focus would take the pressure off and in no time I would be actively involved with something and begin feeling better about myself again and soon be itching to get back to my own work.

I believe that when you get to pushing too hard, you begin to get hypercritical of yourself due to the stress. Suddenly, nothing you do seems adequate. To keep pushing only perpetuates the problem and reinforces those negative feelings. So go do something else you feel confident about or that makes you laugh, or helps you get your perspective back.

We here at WC! have a wonderful tool for breaking these blocks in the Projects! Forget about landscapes for the moment, go find a project challenge that just strikes you as fun. Play with it and read the whole project thread. Come back to this forum and talk about the experience or PM someone you really trust to talk about the feelings.

I'm struggling right now with portraits. I find I'm biting off begger challenges than I'm ready for. So, I'm backing off and doing silly caricatures or portraits of noses or mouths. Maybe a full blown landscape is too big a bite at the moment for you. Try doing a still life of leaves or an unusually shaped rock. I have a few crazy pictures I can post, one of a fallen tree that looks like a prehistoric lizard crawling out of a pond, another of a stump covered with ferns that looks like a moose head. Find something happy to play with and good luck. Sorry I'm so wordy, but this subject is near and dear to my heart.

12-17-2002, 03:57 AM
You know what, Luvy .. we all have something we do better than some, and something we do worse than some. There is NO WAY I could ever, ever, paint a decent portrait, for instance - so I never even try any more. If I spent all my time trying to do portraits, I would be in exactly the same boat as you, completely frustrated.

I think a project is a great idea. Here's one for you. You did a great job on that strawberry. Why not do a "fruits" series of paintings. Working in a series is very rewarding. I once did this, it was great fun too. You cannot help but get better as you go along. You can get some lovely melons, and instead of just painting a whole melon, buy two, and cut one up. Then create a still life set-up, with one whole melon, and one or two slices alongside it. Painting the inside of a melon is terrific - the seeds are lovely when you have a section to do. Same applies to lemons - they are lovely shapes, but cut up a couple and do some sections along with the whole pieces. Pears make terrific subjects - no two pears are the same shape, they have "personalities", like people! You could exaggerate all the different shapes, they are fat and funny.

Just imagine ... a whole row of paintings, each one showing one kind of fruit, in lovely jewel colours, a red strawberry one; a yellow and green melon one; one with gorgeous red apples; sharp acidic-yellow lemons; bumpy greeny-yellow pears. I'd love those on my kitchen walls. You could have fun with the colours of the backgrounds. When you set up your still life, you could use different colours of fabric, or even gift wrapping paper with patterns behind the fruits. You could spotlight the fruits, so that you get wonderful light from one side, which will throw interesting shadows onto the surface below them. You could put gold leaf around the fruits. You could collage tissue papers around them. You could paint the background in flat colour - perhaps using "colour complementaries" as your theme, so you set red apples against a green background, and oranges against a blue or blue-grey background. You could work on a strong colour paper, like red, or black paper, as I did with my dancers - that would be WONDERFUL for fruits. There must be all sorts of other ideas to try ...it is fun to set yourself a project like this.

Why not forget the landscapes for now and go back to them whenyou feel MUCH stronger. Or don't bother with them at all. I have an artist friend, who NEVER paints a landscape, wouldn't dream of it. But she paints lovely flowers, and simple still life pics - a couple of flowers in a little white cup, for instance - just beautiful. As I said before, we all have different strengths.

Do see if you can find that book I mentioned, and do have a read of that post I mentioned too. You truly are NOT alone with mental blocks. Fighting through them is hard - just try not to give in to your internal Censor, he isn't right, you CAN paint. I've seen you do it.


12-17-2002, 06:39 AM

You have received some absolutely wonderful advice -- and Jackie's last post has even got me wanting to paint some fruit or veggie series just as she has described -- and I love painting landscapes.

But I, too, agree that everyone should paint only what they love, and then sometimes, you just happen to slide into painting some other type of subject matter before you know it. I'm like Jackie in that I don't like to paint portraits, I feel strees everytime I try it. But I do keep trying them periodically, just like taste for different foods, sometimes it changes.

You already know that you just need to take a break from the schedule of painting -- try as Carly said to do something just for yourself -- make yourself laugh, visit a gallery, see a movie, whatever it is that is just sheer pleasure for you. When I take a break from painting -- a couple of days, I am always just chomping at the bit to get back to it. I will have several paintings floating around in my head. It seems everything I look at reminds me of a painting I could do.

So --- TAKE A BREAK! Do something fun!

Enjoy the Holidays!