So, you’ve been inspired lately and you’ve worked on translating the idea in your head into a creative medium. You work on it for awhile and although it seemed like it was going well, you hit a wall and everything you do seems to take it further and further away from your vision. This is the point where you need to walk away.
I’m presently between events and generally not feeling especially inspired–which I’ve found is my favorite time to tackle the sort of mind numbing creative work that usually gets shelved when I’m frantically inspired and have no time for the mundane tasks like swatching colors or fact checking my character sheets to make sure I’m not changing a minor detail on a minor character I’ve sort of forgotten about who has decided to make a surprise appearance in the plot. As a result of this shift in mental/emotional weather I have been revisiting some of my art that I think is fairly bad because it veered off course from my “vision”.
What’s interesting is that in doing this I have been finding it incredibly freeing to return to these pieces without the attachment I felt when I first created them. Because I had hit a wall and deemed them ugly I felt free to do whatever I wanted and didn’t believe I’d mess anything up if my experiments yielded even worse results. Which got me thinking about this situation we all find ourselves in when we fail at something. However, I think that in creative ventures we often put our failures into the attic like some sort of Dorian Grey painting we think will allow our new art to become more and more beautiful while our ugly art becomes more and more ugly and reviled. Our sketchbooks become finished things put away and left as something to compare our new work to in order to witness how far we’ve come. Our old stories that didn’t work leave us grasping for new ideas that will surely be better.
Truthfully, I have a lot of work like that. It moves with me because I am not a minimalist and I enjoy my relationship to my stuff because although I don’t yet have a use for it, I am aware that someday I will. But, specifically I’ve been experimenting with Gesso lately and decided to play around with some Sharpies and Bic Markers I’ve had for awhile without being sure what I wanted to use them for. I tried them out on Gessoed paper and appreciated how it stopped the bleed through. And then, because I didn’t feel like sketching a new piece, I went through my mixed media sketchbook and began using the markers to add vibrancy to a piece I had enjoyed working on but couldn’t make work. Without any expectations I began to enjoy myself and what was beginning to take shape. And then I started to alter another piece and another.
Time had rendered my work separate from me and I could see things I had not before. The modifications and layers were minor on some pieces and dramatic on others but gradually I began to understand that finishing what you start isn’t just limited to banging your head against a wall as you try to finish something you’ve started. It also applies to beginning projects and shelving them without any intention and then returning to them when you feel less bound to results and more able to embrace process.
This doesn’t just apply to visual art. I’ve been Sisyphus with my book for years now. The hundreds of thousands of words are circling around a coherent story but I’ve recently had to accept that everything that came before is the foundation for a more focused fourth (or is it fifth) draft that I’m gradually working on now. We become very fixated on end results in our fast paced world but as a result we discard so much that we regard trash simply because we don’t yet know how to transform it into something useful. But, creativity provides the way here, it is worth starting something that you don’t finish and then picking it up when it has accumulated some dust and finishing what you started with all the experiences you’ve had between then and now.