When it rains, it pours.

February 13, 2007

Hello, gentle readers. Thanks for putting up with my week off; I’m back and raring to go, promise!

This week’s post starts off with this last week; I don’t know about you, but I wound up going through a two-week period of feeling lost. I’m sure you’ve all felt it before; one day you’re on top of everything, and then the next you feel stuck. The art’s not fun, it’s not coming out the way you wanted it to, illustration jobs feel like a chore more than a pleasure…it’s scary times. If you’re like me, you don’t feel particularly marketable to any other job field, so that’s doubly frightening.

So what do you do? I’m really curious what others do, so please comment if you can; but I’ll go into what I’ve tried to do to stave off the beast of burden known as a dry spell.

1) Don’t beat yourself up about it. These things happen, so you kind of just have to deal with them; (I think) it’s a natural process. Most likely, it’s temporary; accept this and try and work around the feeling.
2) Let yourself breathe. There’s a chance you’re overworked and overwhelmed; and if you need some time to recover, do so. If you have a free moment, take it and hold it captive for you and you alone. I needed sleep and lots of it, but I took it when I could because ultimately I felt better, and dreamed up some good ideas in the process. Take time: don’t feel guilty about it– you need downtime as well– as much as we might want to be sometimes, we’re not robots.

3) Write a list. For me, this is exceedingly useful. Not a list of things to do– that’ll depress you when you’re not in a creative mood– it’ll feel like a death sentence. Instead, write a list of why you’re feeling stuck. Look at your work– what do you like about it? What feels like it’s not working? Have you whittled down and lost something along the way? Try to be as objective and specific as possible– don’t just say you hate everything and that you suck. In my situation, I started noticing that I felt like I was getting too tight with things, and repeating some things as an easy way out– I missed spontenaeity and some of the sense of humor I used to have in work. And I miss physicality– after working to create final digital pieces only for so long, I missed making screenprints; and so I laid down a groundplan for what I wanted to try and incorporate more of (working with physical art, trying to experiment more with shapes and contours as separate entities, more patterns, etc), which I’m hoping to enact soon.

4) Sit down and make some art– just for you. Nobody needs to see if you don’t want them to- no art directors, no editors, nada. Just work on something totally for fun– experiment, play, and see if stretching your arms in a different direction will point you into the right way.

5) Change your surroundings. I set up my studio differently, and while I felt a bit disoriented at first, I found it easier to concentrate.

6) Indulge your senses. Read a book, take a daytrip, go outside for a walk, cook something special, listen to something new– we’re creatures with urges to sense our world, and sometimes if you let in something new or interesting, it’ll start spurring you onto a new idea, or added motivation.

That’s pretty much all I know to do– I hate when I get into these patches, but they happen and I’ve learned to accomodate them. Not that I ditch jobs I already have– I power through them and give it my best, but the prize at the end is getting to figure out why this spell is happening– usually it signifies something, something needing to change and evolve, so it’s all for the best.

————–

As a semi-shameless plug, there’s been a lot of Meg-related art stuff for sale or view on the net lately. I’m linking them here!

10 Beasts! letterpress set from Tiny Showcase/Fantagraphics

Rampage Surprise to-do notepads on POGONIP (my new etsy shop)
Rampage tee on Threadless Select

WILD KINGDOM comic for Nerve.com’s special comic issue

———-

On Thursday, I’m going to post some questions more than anything else. I need to start compiling some things, so hopefully your opinions can make a difference!

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7 Responses to “When it rains, it pours.”

  1. Oh yes there are many times we get burned out and need to recharge. It’s important to think about what is going to fill your tank so you can get back at it. Here’a my list o’ suggestions.

    1. Sleep. We are all deprived of it. Get some, it’s the best antidepressant available.

    2. Stop Trying So Hard. When we focus on something too much, we actually block it.

    3. Find a Friend. Who is a tonic to you? Everyone needs a couple of people like that. Get with them.

    4. Try a new medium. There’s always some mileage in that. Grab your camera and go downtown. Maybe construct images with food and then eat them. mmmmmm…..

    5. Give yourself an assignment. 700 hoboes and 100 pirates have been done. What about 77 Cyborg Gorillas?

    6. Steal something. Like jazz artists do standards. Illustrate some Classic theme with a new twist.

    7. Life Drawing Session – it’s been a while hasn’t it?

    8. Get away from that computer, go outside.

    9. Clay or plasticene. Is there a better therapy?

    10. Random Provocations. What if I worked blindfolded today, or only drew with my feet?

    Hope these help.

    Yours in creativity,
    Geoff Campbell.

  2. Oh yeah one more. Give your head a shake and thank your lucky stars you’re not an accountant. No offense to accountants, I just can’t think of a job a creative would enjoy less.
    (Reminds me of invoices I need to send out by the by.)

  3. I am actually just out of a bad period that stayed for a couple of days. I agree on the tips you made; re-furnituring my room is one of my hobbies actually – once in a while I freak out and have to move around tables and desks, even if it´s late at night. It REALLY helps.

    Also, changing my way of drawing is helpful too. Some ways of drawing feel more natural than others to me; and if I come back to a style I love I feel completely liberated. Going for a walk at night often helps a lot too.

    I am glad to talked about this because when I am down I feel like every other artist in the world pumps out quality material all day long but me. And there is no easy way out like “Just do it!” – and usually I think it´s a severe crisis, until, a few days later, I find myself back on track again. You´re right – accepting this is very important.

    Cheers, Frederik

  4. Bjorn said

    Do smth else!

    Take up typography, design a new layout for your website. Or go out an photograph. If you are like me you can’t do smth that is not creative. I need to have my mind at work at all times, even when I’m stuck. Inspiration is everywhere you just have to go out and find it. And the latter is not hard for people like us, right?

  5. Emma said

    1. See friends, the conversations will get you out of your own stuck thoughts.

    2. Buy a new pen, gold paint, something fun and silly to try out. Make a mess. Play.

    3. Get inspired. Browse through some illustration portfolios of other people, because it gets your thoughts going. Might not work if you are wallowing in self pity.

    4. Dig up your favourite illustrated children’s books or something else from your own childhood. They create a layer of comfort around you. Feel at home.

    5. Read.

    6. Take a bath, pamper yourself. Eat some Ice Cream. Watch a movie.

    then — resume working.

  6. Frank said

    I like the idea of addressing the artist’s slump rather than the block. I find that I have to tackle the slump more often, and it usually comes when I’m wallowing in self-pity because my work isn’t really quantifyable. Like, I don’t have a stack of income taxes reports to file like my accountant friend. I can’t see that pile getting smaller like he can.

    So far, here are the things that I find that work for me:
    – Do something quantifyable! File those invoices, balance your checkbook or Quicken, do the laundry, whatever.
    – Clean. Seriously. This is probably the best thing that works for me. It gets my mind off things, gets my hands busy and makes me a lot happier about where I’m living or working (or both).
    – Take a drive or a walk. Driving is super theraputic for me and is almost meditative.
    – If I’m in an idea rut, I try to do observational drawings. Don’t worry about those silly “idea” things. Just draw things in my sketchbook like cups, trees, people walking by, etc.

    I find that I get in the slumps whenever I lose my perspective. The best way to get back at that is to meet up with other people and just have a beer and chill out for a bit. Remind yourself why you’re so lucky to have the things that inspire your work.

    And then take a nap and hug a puppy.

  7. Kat said

    Hi, don’t want to come off sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, I’m not but sometimes I like to just get feedback from people who cannot draw or are not artists. It’s just and ego booster really but doing so can really make you appreciate the talents you do have. I usually ask for the opinions of my family and close friends. I don’t go showing any Joe on the street my work. It’s just really nice to hear people comment on certain things, show real interest in how you did something, and just let you know that you’re lucky to be doing what you love. I mean I love giving feedback to my cousins who are musically gifted (Ha, I’m definetly not) and it feels great to boost their egos when they’re feeling down.

    I also like to just stop and watch some cartoons and draw my own. Funny drawings are so theraputic. They don’t have to be perfectly proportioned or even nice looking. Being able to laugh at yourself and your work is a good thing. I draw comics about what happened on a certain day in my diary if I feel like it. Something nice to look back upon.

    Also look back at your old artwork. Can be from back in the day when you were in highschool, to college, to a year ago. Seeing how much you have progressed in time is a real eye opener. You appreciate how far you’ve come and how hard you worked to get so far.

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