Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Handling A Fallow Time for Creativity

     A few weeks ago, I showed you this photo from our trip to Maryland and commented that the clouds to the north at this Chesapeake Bay park were a dramatic contrast to the clear sky to the south at the very same moment, shown in another photo on that post. Recently, my creative skies have been on the cloudy side. Not totally bleak, mind you; there had been plenty of beauty in life just as there is in this scene. However, the creative process--my painting in particular--had gone somewhat stale.

     During the last couple of weeks, I have not felt like painting, and when I forced myself to the easel, the results were not satisfying. In addition, instead of being relaxing and absorbing, the painting process felt tense and unproductive. I gained renewed admiration and respect for professional painters, writers, and many others who create for a living and do not have the option of taking a break from the process as I did. Their self-discipline is inspiring--and difficult to emulate.

     When farmers let fields lie fallow for a season, the soil can renew and the new crop planted afterwards is healthier and produces better. It is definitely too early to tell if my (relatively brief) fallow creative season will lead to anything remotely similar. The good news is that the lull is apparently past for now, and painting is fun again. I am working on several pieces that I will show Linda Blondheim soon via photo images for her illuminating e-critique response. Whatever blocked the creative painting process resulted in unsatisfactory efforts for a time, but now it feels as though I have pushed through those particular difficult areas and am moving forward. 

     Possible responses to fallow periods include spending time away from the activity, as I did, or trying an oblique approach to the work. I could have shifted to goal-free sketching or tried a series of brushwork or other basic exercises to loosen up and move on. That might have been better, but for some reason seemed too much "like work". I am fortunate and thankful that giving myself a break from painting helped me return with joy. It did require getting behind myself and pushing at first, but the fuzzy feeling has passed and the clouds are parting.
Question of the day: How have you coped with the inevitable enthusiasm gaps in your work or hobby activities?


  1. I don't think I cope well with them, Mary. I get so down on myself all of the time and lack of creative juice just lends one more reason to despise myself. Yes, I am that bad. Not a pretty picture, but one that is true.

    And I am always redecorating that blog. Sometimes it is the only creativity I manage to muster. I just redid it this a.m. and I think I actually like it enough to leave it alone for awhile. LOL

  2. Your blog always seems fine to me, Sherry, but if you enjoy redecorating it--go for it :>). I think you are stronger than you give yourself credit for sometimes. In spite of those low times of self-doubt, you always pick yourself up and move on to the next creative project you have in mind.

  3. You have a positive outlook and that is very important. Sometimes I just take a break from art. A good friend says when she gets stuck she goes shopping! That would be expensive in my case. Ha!

  4. Shopping wouldn't do it for me--I shop when I need something and don't usually find it serves as entertainment. To each her own, I guess. It's good to know that you also sometimes take a break from art, because you are very productive, Jo. You are definitely right about maintaining a positive outlook, which helps in any undertaking.

  5. Hi Mary,

    I have also been in an unproductive painting spell the past 2 weeks or so. It is unusual for me, but I just go with it. I have a big art event that is coming up soon and have been focusing all of my attention towards that (not the painting part of it, the making of displays and setups, etc. That stuff takes so much time!). I have learned through experience that if I am not in the mood to paint, it does not happen. I don't fight it, I just go with it, and before I know it, I am re-inspired by just the smallest thing, and back at the easel in full force. Not saying everyone is the same, but that is how I have found it works best for me. (I think my non-productive spell has just about run it's course). Can't wait to see some of your new creations.

    Oh, one more thing. Travel to new places ALWAYS gets me painting again.


  6. It is interesting and encouraging to hear more about your creative journey, Lisa. Thank you for your thought-filled response. I am excited for you and your big art event--if wishes were wings, I'd swoop on over to Hawaii, cuz I'd love to see your work in person. You are right about the making of displays taking mega time and energy--also publicity, flyers, or anything else connected with art events. All necessary tasks, however. All my best to you!