We've all been there. You've happily started a new painting, things seem to be going well enough, and all of a sudden, WHAM. You're stuck.
Maybe it's that you no longer have enough time, perhaps you're feeling trapped by perfectionism, or maybe you're worried that you could potentially ruin the painting if you were to continue. Or perhaps, in the worst of cases, you just don't feel like working on it anymore.
Artists, I have been there. I have started paintings full of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm, only to run out of steam halfway through. Over the years, I've become better at identifying the why behind my sudden inertia, and I think all of it boils down to one simple word: friction.
I believe that friction can be split into external and internal factors.
External friction may be caused by environmental factors (such as a messy workspace), time management (not enough hours in the day), or other pressure points that interfere with your ability to pick up the brush. Some other examples might be sickness, missing supplies or materials, other commitments, or family responsibilities.
Internal friction means that there is absolutely nothing outside of you holding you back, it's purely a mental block. Perfectionism, fear, or lack of motivation hold court in this category, and it doesn't matter if you have the perfect studio setup and a completely empty calendar devoted entirely to painting...when internal friction kicks in, you may still struggle to pick up the brush.
Feeling uninspired makes painting seem like a chore, so how do you push through?
I've identified 3 possible sources of friction that could be holding you back, and have offered some possible workarounds below. If you'd prefer to watch the Youtube video, you can watch it here:
Ahhh, perfectionism. That whackadoodle idea that you can only create work that meets a certain ideal, even if that ideal is impossible to achieve. I could write an entire essay on perfectionism and why it's the definition of self-sabotage, but I also wish to reiterate that I experience this all. the. time.
What's helped enormously is sharing the entire process through my social media, and actually talking about the mistakes that I'm making in my YouTube tutorials. For example, in my Botanical Sketchbook video, I discussed the fact that I made a bunch of mistakes in creating the spread, including accidentally positioning all of my writing on an angle...oops.
But if the idea of publicly admitting all of the things you're doing wrong makes you cringe, here are three words I like to chant to myself whenever I feel perfectionism creeping in:
Progress Over Perfection.
The ultimate goal for all artists should be growth. The growth itself doesn't need to be linear, and sometimes it may be in a slower season, but you should always be growing. Perfectionism threatens your ability to continue advancing, because it traps you into obsessing over an ideal that may or may not even be attainable.
I'm not saying to lower your standards...having a high calibre of work is an achievable goal. But if perfectionism is stopping you from picking up the brush, change your goal to achieving progress in your work as opposed to a perfect outcome.
Is this painting better than the ones you've created before? Did you try something new that perhaps didn't work, but you learned from it? Are you challenging yourself? This is all indicative of progress, and should be celebrated. Focus on that, and allow yourself to release your expectation of perfection, because a perfect painting probably doesn't even exist.
Have you ever found yourself saying, "I want to work on my painting, but I'm afraid I'll ruin it!" So you'd rather leave it in its semi-finished state than see the process through, because a potentially good half-done painting is better than a potentially ruined completed work?
Fear prevents us from picking up the brush by dangling all of the horrible what ifs in front of us.