Fall­ing in love again

Lost the spark? Even pro artists get fed up with art now and again. Ju­lia Sa­gar finds out how to turn it around when you hit a wall

ImagineFX - - Imaginenation -

The way to find your mes­sage is to paint the things you’re afraid oth­ers won’t like or understand

We’ve all been there: those dark days, weeks, months where it feels like you’re forc­ing your­self to draw or paint. When the de­sire to cre­ate new art­work evap­o­rates, leav­ing a residue of laboured, un­re­ward­ing pieces saved on your PC, and you star­ing at a blank can­vas.

The good news is that it hap­pens to ev­ery­one. Whether you’re a sea­soned pro­fes­sional or just start­ing out as an artist, chances are you’ll lose your way at some point – per­haps mul­ti­ple times. So what hap­pens if your art spark fades in 2016? How can you get back on track if the cre­ative juices stop flow­ing?

Last year, free­lance Berlin-based artist Jana Schirmer faced ex­actly this prob­lem. “The rare times I’m com­ing up with a per­sonal illustration it feels like I’m forc­ing my­self to paint,” she wrote in a Face­book post that at­tracted an out­pour­ing of replies from es­tab­lished artists around the world. “I also dis­like the style/stuff I’m do­ing right now,” she con­tin­ued. “Be­ing an artist feels com­pli­cated for me, so I pro­cras­ti­nate a lot… I need to get back into find­ing the fun again.”

If you feel as though you’ve lost your artis­tic voice, the key, says il­lus­tra­tor Wi­nona Nel­son, is to stop wor­ry­ing about how or what to paint, and fig­ure out why you paint. What do you want to say? It’s an im­por­tant ques­tion, even if you’re not strug­gling with mo­ti­va­tion – and Jan­uary is the per­fect time to re­flect on your mo­ti­va­tions. Wi­nona knew there was a prob­lem when she re­alised her mes­sage had be­come, “Look what I can do!” in­stead of ar­tic­u­lat­ing a deeper truth. To tackle the is­sue, she took a step back and thought about what was truly im­por­tant to her, not what would im­press a client.

“The way to find your mes­sage is to paint the things you’re afraid oth­ers won’t like or understand, which in my case come from my dreams and my iden­tity as a Na­tive Amer­i­can and as a woman,” she says, adding that it worked. “Those more per­sonal pieces are the best re­ceived, de­spite those fears, and led to more sales and new clients than my more stan­dard port­fo­lio pieces or pre­vi­ous client work.”

She advises fol­low­ing your feel­ings, be­cause your vis­ual voice is sec­ondary in im­por­tance when you’re search­ing for a deeper truth. “Fear is a good place to start, be­cause if there’s some­thing you’re afraid to ex­plore, it’s the thing clos­est to your heart,” she adds.

3D artist Vic­tor Hugo un­der­stands the pres­sure of los­ing your voice. He re­cently suf­fered an en­tire year of paralysing cre­ative block. The Brazil­ian artist works across ev­ery­thing from ad­ver­tis­ing to comics, books, games and more, but when he started to lose mo­ti­va­tion, un­fin­ished projects be­gan pil­ing up. “What hap­pened to me was I started so many projects,” he says, “but then I had a con­sid­er­able num­ber of let­downs and I be­gan to feel that ev­ery project would be an un­fin­ished one. At one point, I had 18 un­fin­ished projects.”

start­ing over

It took a dra­matic sug­ges­tion from his wife – to throw away ev­ery­thing that was hold­ing him back, in­clud­ing his com­puter and un­fin­ished work – to turn things around. “I did it! I mean, I didn’t set my com­puter on fire or any­thing like that,” he laughs, “but I deleted all my projects. I still re­mem­ber the weight of the un­nec­es­sary re­spon­si­bil­ity com­ing off my shoul­ders. At that mo­ment I re­alised that in­stead of do­ing 20 projects, it’s way more pro­duc­tive if you fo­cus on a sin­gle project and try to learn some­thing from it.”

“Some­times you just need to let it go,” adds con­cept artist and in­dus­trial de­signer Ge­org Löschner, aka Papa Bear. “Your brain is a mus­cle and it needs time to turn things over sub­con­sciously, so trust your gut feel­ing,” he says. “If your body and mind have been scream­ing ‘No! I can’t art to­day,’ take a break. Con­tin­u­ously try­ing to push through by any means is definitely not the right way to avoid blocks or burnouts.”

Ge­org ex­pe­ri­enced a “heavy block­ade” dur­ing his in­dus­trial de­sign stud­ies, while making the tran­si­tion back from dig­i­tal sketch­ing to us­ing pen and pa­per again. “I sucked big time at the be­gin­ning, which robbed me in­stantly of all en­ergy to pursue the mat­ter,” he says. “But learn­ing to let go, and take fails or blocks into ac­count is a cru­cial as­pect of our job. Ei­ther tackle the prob­lem from a com­pletely un­trod­den path, or push it aside and come back to it later.”

Chris­tian Alz­mann, se­nior art di­rec­tor at Acad­emy Award-win­ning mo­tion pic­ture vis­ual ef­fects com­pany In­dus­trial Light & Magic, agrees. He rec­om­mends tak­ing a break and do­ing some­thing fun. “Try some stud­ies or sim­ple sketches. If you draw, try

I deleted all my projects. I re­mem­ber the weight of un­nec­es­sary re­spon­si­bil­ity com­ing off my shoul­ders

sculpt­ing; if you sculpt, try paint­ing. All of those skills will help you in the long run. Also, in­spi­ra­tion is every­where: go to the zoo, bake a cake – shake it up. And en­gage with your com­mu­nity. Shar­ing sto­ries, tech­niques and tricks is price­less.”

dead­line in­spi­ra­tion

What if you don’t have time on your side? What if you’ve got tight dead­lines to meet and am­bi­tious, tal­ented artists just wait­ing to step into your place and shine?

“When I don’t have time for a trip to the beach or a hike in Yosemite, I go to my art books and find in­spi­ra­tion from some of my favourite artists,” says Chris­tian. “When I re­turn to what I’m work­ing on, I try to find some­thing about the im­age that looks like it might be fun and con­cen­trate on that. If I can make that small piece of the im­age work, I’ll be in­spired to bring the rest of the im­age up to sup­port it.”

Chris­tian’s best ad­vice is to ac­cept that cre­ative block hap­pens and stop putting pres­sure on your­self. “It’s in­evitable,” he says, “but my big­gest les­son is that the block in­evitably passes, too.”

Find­ing a process to help you deal with it and pull you out of a cre­ative funk can make it all worth it, he ar­gues. “Some­times, in that funk, you find a re­newed or slightly tweaked version of your art that helps push you in a new di­rec­tion. When you’re in the zone, try to re­mem­ber those things that really in­spire you and let them help you find the pas­sion again.”

First Fire: Guardian of the East­ern Door is based on a proph­esy of Wi­nona Nel­son’s tribe, the Ojibwe, that fore­told the com­ing of the Pale Peo­ple.(3bn).

“I needed to find the fun again,” says Jana.

Ge­org Löschner aka Pa­paBear merges me­chan­i­cal, bionic and in­dus­trial in­flu­ences into his art­work.

Vic­tor Hugo cre­ated Spew in 3D and tweaked it in Pho­to­shop to look like a paint­ing.

To cre­ate this project, Vic­tor fol­lowed a draw­ing tu­to­rial

by Loish – us­ing 3D tools in­stead of tra­di­tional tools.

Witch, by Chris­tian Alz­mann, who says that cre­ative block

is “in­evitable.”

In Ge­org’s piece Nova Bion­ics, the

hand has had a “tool up­grade”.

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