We’re all familiar with writer’s block. Movies, such as “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson, love to shine a light on the wretched soul and anguish of a writer who cannot write. I suppose if you’re a writer with writer’s block, the answer is to write about it.
What about other creatives like painters, jewelry makers or ceramicists?
I asked artists not only about what they did to get out of a creative rut, but what inspired them to create in the first place? From the immediate response I got (15 responded via email in less than three hours), I’d say it’s a subject that all creatives are very, very familiar with.
Lisa Morales is a 2D collage artist living in Pearland.
“For me, personally, when I get a creative block, I know it’s my brain saying, ‘I need a break,’” Morales said. “I have learned not to worry when this happens. If I just get out of the studio, get out of the house or get out of town for a few days, it isn’t too long before my mind says, ‘I have a great idea, let’s get back to the studio and make something.’ ”
Jeff Woodruff, a metalsmith and jeweler in Austin, was much more succinct about his block.
“I just procrastinate,” he said.
On the creative process, his tendency to be more verbose is obvious.
“I keep extensive design notebooks,” Woodruff said. “I document everything I touch in the studio. I have an
extensive pipeline of works. I organize photos into a design folder on the computer sorted in subfolders by year, month and item. That’s really a journal. I pull images out of the monthly journals and place them into a ‘design book’ that is organized by type – earrings, drawings, etc. – and by project. So I have an ongoing project of transforming the way I wire wrap jewelry. The images associated with this process go into the textured wire or framed wrap folders. Sifting through this makes me crazy with ideas. I then go back to playing video games. That would be a productive night when I have a creative block.”
Francisco Mireles is a jeweler.
“As a jewelry artist I find inspiration pretty much on everything thing that catches my eye,” he said. “Personally, I like minimal and geometric shapes. That being said, sometimes buildings, machinery and shapes in nature have helped me get inspiration.”
Mireles takes his lead from writers to escape creative block if taking a walk doesn’t help.
“I heard a writer say that the best way to get new writing ideas was to keep writing,” Mireles said. “So that’s what I do now. I keep making designs even if I’m not completely satisfied with the result. I’ll leave it on the side and make another one and another one. By the end of the day, I’ll have a creative brainstorm that is very helpful.”
To get past her creative block, Holli May Thomas took a tip from Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist Way.”
“How it works is you take yourself out on a date to an activity or location related to your interests or what you are working on,” Thomas said. “For example, I am thinking about a new series related to reading so I am visiting public libraries in the Houston area that I have never seen. I visit various sections and sit on the floor with books I have found on the shelves and spread them around me to peruse the pages.”
Doni Langlois creates functional and decorative pottery.
“I’m inspired by witnessing surprising or joyful, hopeful things in nature,” Langlois said. “Robins hopping along looking for bugs. A trill from a cardinal in the morning. Chrysalises transforming to butterflies.”
I can really relate to Langlois’ cure for block.
“Show up. The muse is never always there – but you have to be there working when she comes,” Langlois said. “So, I may clean up the shop, work on a different project in a different medium or what often helps the most is to go back to something I’ve done before. Any of those things can jar loose an idea!“
Finally, I asked my friend, Martin de Vore, to give me his top-five list of movies about artists. I couldn’t get past the plethora of movies about writer’s block, you know.
“I have always loved movies about artists and have seen about 50 or so,” de Vore wrote in an email. “These are a few that I enjoyed for multiple reasons and watch routinely when I need to jump-start my creativity.”
Look up these artists on my website and to read even more accounts of creative block.
Here is a list of the top movies about artists, according to de Vore.
- “Lust for Life” (1956)
A film about Vincent van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas (who does an awesome job) as van Gogh and Anthony Quinn as Paul Gauguin. It was filmed on location in France and The Netherlands. A big bonus is that technical advice came from people who knew van Gogh.
- “Moulin Rouge” (1952)
An embellished account of French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. José Ferrer does a good Lautrec, detailing all the issues he had to deal with. Like “Lust for Life,” technical advice came from people who were still alive who knew Lautrec.
- “Frida” (2002)
A biography of artist Frida Kahlo. Salma Hayek was the perfect Frida.
- “Artemisia” (1997)
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was one of the first well-known female painters. The movie tells the story of her youth. Interesting look at a female painter during the Renaissance.
- “Modigliani” (2004)
American-French-German-Italian drama starring Andy García as Modigliani. Modigliani is based on the life of the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani and his contemporaries in Paris of the 1920s. My favorite scene is when Modigliani and Picasso go to meet Renoir.
- (bonus) “Berthe Morisot” (2012)
With Marine Delterme, Malik Zidi and Alice Butaud. A French biography on the French impressionist painter Berthe Morisot and her relationship with Manet.
I have a favorite go-to art film as well. I find the soundtrack as inspiring as the movie.
“The Moderns” (1988)
With Keith Carradine, Linda Fiorentino and Wallace Shawn. A struggling artist is hired to forge paintings, causing him to cross paths with his ex-wife and her powerful new husband.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards, find him at ArtValet.com.