Painting By Numbers; A Way to Overcome Art Block?
To say that the last couple of years has been "rough" is an understatement. For all of us, we have had a pandemic to cope with, the restrictions, the illness and even some who have lingering symptoms. And then there are those of us who have our personal issues that have piled on top of that. Some of these issues may have been stressed by the pandemic, and some were inevitable and were going to happen anyway, but whatever they are, they somehow they feel so big right now.
These last few years and the last few months in particular have been rough for me in that way, where life threw things at me I didn't expect and I've been so overwhelmed. I have described some days to be like walking through Jello, like something is in the way and every step and movement is difficult and you can't quite see things clearly, so the motivation to do things is low.
For me, that has also meant that motivation to create art has been low too. I haven't posted any new work since early April because my creativity has been drained. I am busy caring for my kids and caring for others; working; and stressing over and grieving a life that isn't what I thought it would be.
So how could I have time for art? At one point I wrote in my book that you just need to make time, but I was failing at that. It was hard enough to do everyday tasks. How can you create when the creativity is lacking, when there is no time and you are running on fumes?
To be honest, I didn't for a while, but I did have to tackle some self-defeating thoughts and this is how it happened for me this time.
A few months ago I went to one of those bargain bin stores where everything in the store is the same price depending on the day you go and I lucked out and picked up several paint-by-number kits. I thought they would be great to give as gifts or even to just use the paint brushes. There were some really nice pictures and I got a couple by one of my favourite artists, Leonid Afremov, and since it was the final day, I picked up 4 kits for a great deal!
These kits sat on a counter for a while and I eyed them from a distance thinking I would like to paint one of them, but I questioned, "Why would an artist waste their time with a paint-by-number kit? I should be creating better art than that!" I continued, "I can't sell a kit painting, what's the point?" This narrative continued in my mind and in the end, I did neither. I didn't create art and I didn't paint-by-numbers.
Slowly, as the weeks and even months passed by, I started to realize that maybe, if I at least started the art kit that I would actually be painting and that could be a good thing.
So I started and painted a bit one day. And a bit more a few days later, and other days when I had small amounts of time. Until today, when I finally finished my painting. (You can see my finished painting in the picture in this post)
I love my painting for a couple of reasons; it is an image I painted which is fashioned after one of my favourite artist's pieces, and I feel that I learned a lesson too. I learned to let go of my pretentious and self-defeating thoughts these last few months and I took a step, however small, in the direction to start making something artistic. In the end I was still able to feel a sense of achievement and it helped me to de-stress too.
Part of the reason I wanted to share this story is to encourage anyone else who may be a creative type of person to know that it is ok to make art even if you need help, or even if it does not seem like what you would normally do. Move past any self-defeating thoughts and work toward something you love to encourage you through a difficult time. And it is ok to invite a friend along too!
Try the little things: say "yes" to a paint night, colour in a colouring book, paint-by numbers, craft with your kids, play Pictionary, or even paint a wall (As a side note, one day I did help my sister paint walls... all the same colour, but I was actually painting and I felt that sense of satisfaction with that as well.)
Do whatever you can to start the process to soothe your soul instead of blocking yourself from things that can build you up.
I don't know what I will create next, because life still continues to throw challenges at me. I may make some new and unique artwork, ... but I do still have 2 more of the art kits hanging around at my house in case I am not there yet, so we'll see.
What are you working on and creating today?