The Lows and Highs of Art Making

I’ve been struggling for weeks with a new piece in process on my design wall. That sounds a bit overly dramatic perhaps but when I hit this indecisive stage, it feels frustrating, discouraging, hopeless and never ending.

Indecision on the design wall

Indecision on the design wall

Indecision on the studio floor

Indecision on the studio floor

An internal negative narrative throws a pity party:

“I really have no idea what I’m doing.”

“(name of respected artist friend) will think this is stupid.”

“I did have some good ideas once but that well is dry.”

“I’m just rehashing old ideas.”

“I’m not really an artist.”

When I’m in this pathetic state, it’s reflected in what I’m trying to create. So I get stuck in a cycle:

1. Arising through that unsure-worried-about-what-others-will-think filter, an idea comes to mind and this idea has the whiff of desperation. (Nothing good follows from this -EVER)

2. But I think, ‘Eureka,this just might work!!!”

3. I throw up fabric on my design wall and sketch, frantically hoping some combo will jump out as “The One”.

4. It doesn’t. My award winning internal critic makes sure of that.

5. Rinse and repeat.

And then in some oddball moment (middle of the night, in the shower, sweeping the floor…), the solution/direction/choice bubbles up from that place of magic and inspiration and authenticity. And-kapowee!- I know it and feel it viscerally. “This really is “The One”!

And then it’s a JOY to move forward!¬† I’m excited and I’m driven and I’m happy. Maybe making art is all about chasing this elusive feeling.

So how does this shift (and (so far!) at some point it DOES shift)? How do I suddenly feel reconnected with what it is I want to be making? Boy, I wish I knew! Taking a break from a piece helps. Meditating helps. Looking back through old sketchbooks helps. Looking at other art helps.
Sometimes remembering the original tiny seed of an idea that got me to start the piece helps. That seed usually came from an authentic place.

What helps you when you’re stuck?

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3 Responses to “The Lows and Highs of Art Making”

  1. slaia Says:

    The photos speak for themselves. We have already spoken about what being stuck feels like, and so I know that you are no longer stuck. Hooray!
    The reference to authenticity feels just right. It is also important to remember that only you can do your work – that is, if it is really coming from that authentic place it is beyond external debate, it is simply yours and that’s all that is needed.

  2. Nancy Curry Says:

    I am not a quilt artist, but I a paper/mixed media artist. I usually throw myself into doing prep for other projects to clear my mind. Or I leave what I like to do and get excited about something not in my wheelhouse. That helps me.

    • karenkamenetzky Says:

      Hi Nancy-thanks for sharing your strategies! I realize another way I get myself moving is to do busy work in my studio-sort and fold fabric, organize my threads…my studio usually has many areas of chaos that offer me that opportunity!

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