Friday, 21 November 2008

Muse, oh muse, where for art thou?

You've got an hour/ day/ week off where you can dedicate time to painting. You sit down in front of your empty sheet of paper/ canvas and ....


After weeks of not being able to paint you FINALLY get the chance, and your muse has gone walkabout. So what can you do when this happens?

1. Relax, it will come back eventually. It's like spilled milk. You can't change the fact so you might as well take a deep breath, recognise that maybe today is not going to be the day for painting, and get over it.

2. If you can't paint, go and do something else. Why waste a couple of hours bashing your head against the proverbial brick wall. Be practical. Do that website update you've been putting off, go watch a movie, do a puzzle. Just stop sitting there hoping that inspiration will magically happen by staring at a blank page. It will frustrate you no end, and at the end of the day if nothing has happened, you may feel worse than when you began.

3. Flip through an old sketch book. If you're feeling uninspired, go back and see if there's a half finished sketch that needs some shading done, or a painting that needs details added. Looking at your old stuff can inspire new stuff.

4. Write out a list of things you'd 'one day' like to paint. It can be anything from illustrating a specific book, to something vague like 'a blue elephant'.

5. Pick a topic you're interested in doing some paintings on and research it. Just because your painting muse has gone walkabout, it doesn't mean that you can't be planning future work. Do a google image search, follow links, look at technique articles. It doesn't matter if you start out researching 'The sleeping beauty' and end up at 'Martian icecaps'.

6. Join in an art challenge. Some great ones are
- 100 Themes Art Challenge - this is about interpretation of a single word
- Illustration Friday - a weekly challenge site-
- Speed painting challenges on most good art forums - particularly useful for digital artists

7. Experiment. Work through a tutorial you've had bookmarked for years. Don't worry if you're copying a painting in order to learn a new technique - this is how many artists learnt their trade. Just focus on keeping your skills up to scratch. This is about doing art stuff, but not letting your brain get in the way.

Your muse may be nice and come back half way through the first 10 minutes of the movie you've switched on. Then again, it might be vindictive and take a holiday in Barbados for three months. The point is, when you force things in art, it doesn't always work. The more you try and make it happen, they more you may dislike what you're producing and get miserable. Artist block happens to the best artists. It doesn't mean you suck, it just means that you aren't necessarily meant to paint at 2pm on Tuesday afternoon! So don't give up, just relax and fill in your time while you're waiting for Muse to come back.

Or fire her, and hire a new one!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The healthier artist - 10000 step challenge

Working in IT, I'm pretty much tied to the computer. I get up, go to work, switch on the computer and sit there for 8-10 hours a day with the occasional interruption by a meeting or visit to someone else’s desk. On my down time when I work on my art, if I decide to paint/ work on website updates/ check emails/ visit forums, again I’m tied to a desk.

All this desk time is not really conducive to an active lifestyle and can cause health problems, and exacerbate stress. But there are a number of things that you can do to help keep from seizing up or becoming unhealthy. This is one idea that you might like to consider as it’s cheap, easy to get involved with, and takes little effort:

My work is currently taking part in something called the '10 000 Step challenge'. The idea is to aim for 10 000 steps (the equivalent of 8km walking) every day. This is the recommended goal for an ‘active adult’. You use a pedometer, a conversion chart and a group of people to heckle support you and you track how you measure up. I must admit I’m a bit up and down at the moment, but I’m definitely averaging 10000 steps every day.

Here’s another article people in sedentary work might like to read: 7 important steps for a web worker