Many creatives are discouraged by a lack of constant inspiration for their work. Days come and go when nothing of substance has been created in the studio, and we all have the tendency to get down on ourselves about not producing. While I totally understand this phenomena, I have also come to realize that there are methods of preventing creative stagnation. I don't know if my methods will work for everyone, but I will attempt to outline what keeps me productive.
The photos accompanying this post are from a visit by my friends Bryan and Mae to my studio in Traverse City. It was a few years back, but the images still reflect my creative process.
+ Chill out
First of all, you are not going to get anything done by stressing out. I should know, because I stress about creating- all the time. Nothing productive comes from worry, so take a breath and start over. Do something relaxing- go for a walk, try yoga, or eat a bowl of ice cream. You will feel much better. Don't try to create when you are stressed (unless you dig that sort of thing).
+ Establish a RoutineSome times the world gets in the way of our process... so it can help to have routines that separate your creative work from the rest of your life. I always start with a few physical acts. I put on a tea kettle. I light incense. I put on a record. They are all mundane physical acts- but they have become a sort of ritual that tells my mind it is time to paint. I make sure my computer is FAR beyond reach, so I don't get distracted.
+ Know Your ElementsIn Her book "A Room of one's own" Virginia Woolf discusses the needs of creatives. She mentions that, for her at least, financial independence is key to her ability to create. While that holds a bit true for me, my needs are a bit simpler. For a good day of painting I need: a clean floor, tea (and lots of it), a record player stocked with Cat Stevens, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, etc. and incense. These are a few of my creative elements. It also helps me to have friends around. Many people paint solo- but I like to have others to talk to while I work. I also need a sink handy because I wash my brushes after each use. I am one of those overly-tidy types when it comes to painting.
+ Re-fuelCreativity is not a one-way street. For me, taking in creativity is about 80% of the process. I know that art books, music, taking a walk, going to a museum, discussion with friends, or even watching a vintage French film... are all things that will re-charge me and get be back to work. Sometimes a few hours in a well-loved novel is the best way to recharge. It is important to know when to take a break. I take far too many, but at least I know I am headed in the right direction.
I am currently back in the studio preparing for my next exhibition "Bless Monsanto" that goes up on Saturday. This will be a collection of recent paintings that exploring the politics of nourishment. So if anyone happens to be near Northern Indiana in the next month, be sure to check it out.
What about you? What helps inspire you? What do you need in order to create?
Jonathan Randall Grant