Wednesday, April 22, 2009

artists block

I'm drawing like a drunk gibbon at the moment. My pencil and I seem to be having some major translation issues. I say one thing... it skips off and throws me a moonie from across the paper. Erg! My very wonderful and talented friend, Faye, says it's all about cracking that first picture and then things will be easy. I know she's right. However, it's always a tad worrying to have 'artists' block when you have deadlines. I also know it's because the drawing is 'official' that it's not going well. I could go away and merrily draw 20 kids that AREN'T in the book, but the one that IS just won't come out of my 2b!

I have developed rituals to combat artists block (I tend to do stupid things, like tidying my sock drawer too, but they never help!)
1. I pick a film that I've seen over and over before, and which bares some similarity to the mood or theme of the work I want to create. Either that, or if I'm drawing children, I watch Teachers' TV to refresh myself as to how kids move. I find drawing with only half my attention on the page cuts down on the amount of neurosises my brain can throw at me. Before long, I usually haven't a clue what's going on on the screen and have a full page of pics.

2. I listen to Harry Potter. I listen to audio books throughout the entirety of a project. It helps stop my brain going, 'Is it lunch time yet? Is it lunch time yet? Is it lunch time yet?'

The only part I do in silence is the storyboarding, as I find that requires more active thinking. However during the rest of the project, if things are going badly, only The Fry will do. I've probably listened to the Harry Potter series over 20 times now. It's my comfort listening and it's got a pace and tone that suits ANY project. I've not found anything else like it for the ability to throw it on and get on with work. I never seem to get sick of it and it generally gets me through the tricky beginning and tedious end parts of a project just nicely.

3. I go out. This one I always forget about, as it seems like a reward. And I shouldn't be allowing myself rewards if I'm not working now, should I? However, I realised in the last project that I couldn't keep drawing children without reference. I wasn't allowing myself to go out, so therefore I wasn't getting the reference and my drawing was suffering. Although I enjoy lifedrawing, I don't often remember to take a sketch pad with me and I'm pretty pants at it. What I do tend to do though, is to pay attention when I'm out. I'm quite good at remembering a movement and storing it in my head. If I'm around kids enough, I find it relatively easy to imagine them doing different things, even if I haven't seen them doing them, because I remember the 'gist' of the child. It's when I become disconnected from this 'gist' that I'm on a losing streak.

So, yesterday I watched the horror that is 'My Girl.' Today I listened to Harry Potter. It's not true to say that I've made NO progress, but it's been slow, slow, slow. So, tomorrow, I shall go to the kids playground and draw there. Dang, I hope it's sunny...


M.M.E. said...

Haha, I know how you feel. This happens to me with every project. My roommate learned quickly the signs that I was battling my drawing (usually pencils were thrown and threats given to inanimate objects). I'll be sure to go look at your site. I've started to consider the world of children's illustration. Now I just need to tweak my style. You're welcome to come look at my online portfolio. I'd love some professional feedback other than my professors'.

April Jarocka said...

Phew! And I thought it was only ME!! Interesting to see what stimulates people. I have to have the room I am working in tidy and organised, fresh drawing pad at the ready. Other times it's music, usually the ambient kind.
Thanks for sharing.

cassia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cassia said...

lol, April. Before I did my MA, I almost felt like this block was a sort of embarrassing complaint, not to be mentioned in polite society! Having met a lot more artists, I'm pretty sure it's something we all get to degrees. The more I do though work-wise, the more I have confidence in myself to say, 'meh! It didn't work today... but it will tomorrow!'

What's your favourite work music?

M.M.E. thanks for popping by. Your work is lovely. Beautiful draftsmanship. The one's that work best for me are the one's that have more definition between foreground and background (or background and area you want to 'throw light upon'), such as 'The Huntsman' and the Red Riding Hood series. Always remember things need to be that much more defined for reproduction, particularly if you're thinking of going into 'paperback' territory. :0) Brilliant horses too- most difficult subject of them all?

Coreopsis said...

I enjoyed reading about how you deal with "artists block"--so true what you say about how children move.

Hope today goes better. Sometimes you have to work through all that slowness before things start flying again.

April Jarocka said...

depends. I have a load of interesting items on my playlist at Ugly Rabbit, or I will sling on a cd.

cassia said...

Coreopsis, you're completely right- the slow spells are all part of the process. I think of it as 'digesting' a project! Thanks very much for your well wishes- they worked wonders. Today was much better!

Lynne Chapman said...

This is all SUCH good advice! I know exactly how you feel too. Our own brain is always our worst enemy, putting the mockers on a drawing just because it 'has to be done'.

Isn't it interesting too how 'the best job in the world' can be so painful and un-fun, just at the point when you most need to be really into it?

I must try HP - I tend to use radio 4 plays (the funny ones are the best) or podcasts of Mark Kermode's film reviews. Anything to make me smile and ease the tension!

I'm very jealous that you have a children's pose memory...

cassia said...

yes it is odd. I heard something about how when a writer can't write, it's because the brain gets stuck trying to create on the wrong side! I always forget which is which, is it the right brain that does all the fancy creative stuff? So, for some reason, it temporarily stops being able to use the right brain as it should. And the left brain, the logical analytical side gets left holding the pencil and going, 'oooh, er...erm...not really my area, but I'll give it a go!'

Now, I may have got that completely wrong, but that IS how it feels isn't it? It's like you're still there with all your good drawing intentions, but someone else has taken over your body and they've only just learnt to draw stick men!

Faye said...

The left/right side of the brain absence sounds very familiar! My standby drawing stories are Black Books, The League of Gentlemen or Jim Henson's The Storyteller! I have no memory for movement AT ALL, which is why all my people always look like they've just had a lobotomy. Am taking life drawing lessons to try and counter this, though - and dude, I've told you this a million times, but your work is delicious, your characters are ready to jump off the page - bloody amaaaazing talent xxx

Sweet Pea said... is a great source for audio books too. I can't listen to stories when I am sketching - everything gets all messed up and I can't concentrate but I can happily paint to them.

I know what you mean about watching something familiar. If I am struggling with ideas, I will put on a familiar, cozy movie, tell myself that there is no pressure and that I am just doodling, and eventually, hopefully, something good comes.

Love your blog and your art :)

cassia said...

Faye, you're too kind, The Storyteller is awesome, I miss your blogs, and can't wait until we both live in The 'Bra so we can go life drawing together.

Sweet Pea, that's the second time someone has mentioned to me this week. I may have to go have a gander.

Isn't it strange how we all do the same thing, and yet we all need different stimulation to do it? I can rarely listen to music when I'm illustrating- otherwise I illustrate the mood of the music rather than the story, making happy characters sad, or sad characters happy!