Although we spend all our time "speaking" through the computer, her words always seem to bounce off the screen and incorporate themselves into my life. Just like Amanda, they are filled with hope, adventure, passion, a sense of fun and lots of love. What an incredible experience it has been to share in the magic of her journey thus far. Thank you for allowing me, for allowing all of us to be a part of that.
Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Amanda about what it takes to bring about those days we all long for - good studio days - and she had some insightful advice for us all. It gives me great pleasure to present a piece written by Amanda.
Do you ever wonder why your creative work flows smoothly one day, but slows to a painful trickle the next? Here’s a peek at how I deal with both situations, followed by three suggestions for priming the pump.
Bad Day in the Studio:
Step 1: Stare at blank canvas. Sketch a timid line. Erase with vigor. Become paralyzed by the shrill voice of Ms. Inner Critic.
Step 2: Miracle of miracles—an idea sneaks through. Sketch again. Begin to add layers. I’m cruising—but then something shifts. Each stroke of paint, every blotch of color looks contrived. Smear on more—nope, that just makes the mess even muddier.
Step 3: Sigh, cry, or scream, depending on mood. Stomp out of room, mutter something about “What was I ever thinking,” and eat some Twinkies.
Good Day in the Studio:
Step 1: I’m calm, relaxed, sketching thumbnails in my journal. No thinking or planning yet—just shapes, lines, and swirls. After a while, one section starts to surface above the rest. Hey, that looks possible!
Step 2: The paint is flowing, colors are dancing—I’m in the zone. Ms. Critic is still mumbling insults, but I’m too entranced to care.
Step 3: The artwork isn’t quite finished or “right” yet, but no worries. I take a break, set the canvas up against the opposite wall, go make a cup of tea. Later (maybe five minutes, or five days), I wander back into my studio and catch a glimpse. Oh! That’s what’s missing. A few strokes later, a line here, a dab there, and voila. Art.
How can the second scenario happen on a more regular basis?
--Begin from a standpoint of play, curiosity and wonder. Sometimes I love sitting in front of a blank canvas and just winging it, but nine times out of ten, I end up playing it too safe, afraid of “ruining” a good canvas. A great way around this is to begin with thumbnail sketches in a dedicated play space (an art journal, a scrap of paper, whatever works for you). For me, this usually means filling a sheet with little squares and doodling in them. Since I’m not trying to create Art-with-a-capital-A, I feel safer taking risks and experimenting. It’s much easier, then, making that leap onto a larger substrate, having begun from a place of inspiration rather than fear.
--Keep rules of design in mind, but also remember your own “rule.” This one has two parts. First: sometimes Ms. Critic actually has a point. That nagging feeling might mean I need to incorporate a certain design principle (balance, rule of thirds, etc.). When I’ve begun from a more positive standpoint, it’s easier to hear the constructive criticism and block the rest. Second: sometimes the rule I’ve forgotten to utilize is my own. What makes my artwork unique? What speaks to me, or through me? Right now, I’m especially moved by vibrant color, texture, graphic patterns, and a hint of text. Have I incorporated these “rules”?
--Focus on the artwork’s journey, not its destination. In my “Bad Day” example, questions about the work have taken over (what will others think? When will the piece be finished? Will it be saleable?). The “Good Day” approach focuses instead on questions within the work (what color works best? Should I try a bolder line? How about strengthening this element?). A “Good Day” is much more likely to push my artwork to a new level. If I’ve begun with a sense of play, been willing to take a few risks, and have obeyed my unique “rule,” the work might even end up somewhere completely unexpected—which, in art, is my favorite place to be.
I hope these thoughts have been helpful. As artists, we all come up with ways that work for us. Have you discovered a tip or trick to keep your creative work flowing smoothly? Please share!
Amanda, thank you for sharing this post. Your tips are an inspiration and a reminder to let yourself go, explore, play, take risks and enjoy the creation of art. Your artwork, like your writing, is a testament to the beauty that can happen when you believe enough in yourself to just create. Please don't ever stop sharing or being exactly who you are!