Creative cycles

My creative process seems to be, for a lack of better terms, bipolar.

In a “manic” state, I’ll start several paintings at once, clean and organize the studio just to mess it up again, cut wood for stretchers, start several other non-art related projects, and generally stay up at all hours to add ‘just another layer’ to a painting (which is big, for a mother of a toddler). This will last for a week, two at most.

In a “depressed” state I won’t even step foot in the studio, even to finish paintings that only need their final touches. Stretchers remain unbuilt. Those other projects I started? They’re not getting finished anytime soon, much to the frustration of my loving husband.

The latter happens much more often than I’d prefer. I try to stay occupied doing other productive things, like working in the garden, or (heaven forbid!) cleaning.

Of course, this all goes out the window when I have a deadline to meet. I find I’m the most productive when I have a show to fill, a market stall to tend, or a commission to complete. I have always worked well under pressure.

 

I’m curious to know if anyone else experiences this cycle. I quick Google search establishes that there is a known connection between mental illness and creative output. Those results were less than helpful, as I am almost positive I don’t suffer from bipolar disorder itself (although I don’t think my doctorate from the U of Internet really qualifies me in making that judgement). I really had to dig deep to find anything related to what I am experiencing.

Nischala addresses cyclical creativity in her blog Verve and proposes a few hypotheses on the cause. Are we naturally inclined to rhythms and cycles? Are we not being inspired on a daily basis? Or are we missing that thing that brings out the best in us?

I think it could be a combination of all three, and thankfully all three can be counteracted.

By being aware that we as humans are prone to rhythms and cycles (and by being aware of your own habits), we can anticipate creative highs and plan for the lows.

If we are lacking inspiration, we can actively seek it. Go to shows, read other art blogs, doodle in your sketchbook, or write in a journal. Just a little everyday can make all the difference.

The last requires a little self-reflection on what motivates you, because it will be different for everyone. As indicated earlier in my post, my creativity peaks when I have a deadline to meet. This means that I need to set goals for myself that are directly linked to my output. Many artists would be abhorred at this notion, as having goals and deadlines to meet can stifle the creative process. A deadline means all the difference for me, however. Even simply discussing a commission with a potential client gets my creative juices flowing and sees me spending more time in the studio.

 

All in all, the most important thing is to be self-aware. Know your habits. Get inspired. Be motivated.

 

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Lately I’ve been finding that my recent work has been getting a lot of attention, but they would not be what they are without my student works. So in an effort to promote those early works, I bring you my featured Retro Art of the Week!

Day One

Day One, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 72″, 2007

 Inspired by: God creating the light, and separating it from the darkness, on the first day of creation.

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Goals are great, but painting is better.

2012 is more than halfway over.

What? How did that happen?

It’s July (late July!), and I’ve come to the startling realization: I have not completed a single painting in 2012. Not. A. Single. One.

There are other goals that I have accomplished on the “art career to-do list”, this new website being one of them. I have started quite a few paintings. I am developing and sorting through my thoughts and ideas while attempting to prepare a halfway decent artist statement that won’t have galleries laughing at me. I’m getting my inventory and accounting sorted out. I’m keeping my eyes open for calls and opportunities to further my career. I’m even raising an active 18-month-old.

But all of that means nothing if I am not down in the studio, actively creating. How can I sell myself and my work, when I’m not putting any effort forward into developing my practice? How can I submit to galleries when I don’t even have an adequate stock to fill a show?

Looking around for opportunities is great. Being able to take advantage of them would be better.

Note to self: Finish a painting by the end of the month. You’ve got at least 5 to choose from.

Starting out...

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