Never Moving Beyond Liking the Idea of Being Creative

Liking the Idea of a Creative LifeWhy is it some people are in love with the idea of painting and drawing, of being creative, but only ever talk (with great enthusiasm, and often at great length) about doing so, never taking the first step towards doing so? It’s too easily more comfortable never to try than face the possibility of failure (and success).

Fear your expectations won’t be met, that your paintings or drawings won’t be “good enough” (“What is it?“). Fear others will laugh at the results, or be patronizing (“That’s delightful dearest”). Fear of being perceived as wasting time and money. Fear you’re not as creative you think you could be. Fear you create something wonderful by accident and can’t repeat it.

There will always be a gap between what you’d hoped to create and what you do, something else you could’ve done to a piece. That’s not the same as never achieving paintings you’re really pleased about. It’s an idea/goal for next time.

There will always be people who don’t get it (neither the desire to do it nor the results) as well as the “my cousin thrice removed also paints pretty little pictures without any effort at all” brigade. Smile (in the British stiff-upper-lip tradition, not a manic grin) and move on. Their judgement of what you’re doing is inconsequential. It’s your time and money, you can decide how to use it. Someone criticising is wasting their own time.

Creativity, like most things, needs regular exercise and stimulation. Skills and techniques take time to learn, they’re not going to fall on your head like rain and soak into your brain without effort. Professional artists don’t display unresolved and failed paintings, that’s why it seems everything they produce is of a certain standard. The elephant in the studio is that these fears never go away completely, and new ones come along, you just squash them under a growing pile of artwork.

19 Replies to “Never Moving Beyond Liking the Idea of Being Creative”

  1. Because like me, dear Natalya Kalugina, your imagination, even very rich, is full of real objects or scenes. Can we really escape from that situation? If we love life, it is nearly impossible. I think that one of the main purposes of an artist is to understand, is to be deeply aware of the world into which he or she lives. And when a painter represents an object or a landscape or a face, he can say: “all right, this is what I see with my… brain, with my mind, with my eyes. I do not dream, it is for real”. That was the quest of Giacometti for instance, when he painted figures. He wanted to be as closely as possible of the real, tirelessly. Painters are looking for the real: what it is really. Unfortunately, our eyes are two biological eyeballs and we can legitimely ask if they really show us the true real. That is the misfortune of the painters. But that is why they continue to paint.

  2. Working from the imagination doesn’t mean something’s inherently more creative. Ideas have to come from somewhere. There’s so much inspiration in nature, for everything from realism to abstract, why not use it? Painting how we experience “reality”.

  3. Yes, indeed. I read that classical artists of the pre-photografic era created first cardboard models of the scenes with tiny dolls instead of figures. However level of creativity in let us say “Lions Hunt” By Rubens seems to be beyond the possible. I do not know if Valejo uses PhotoShop or 3D Max. I suspect- no. OK Valejo is actualy realistic even academic in his works. Turning upside down the motto of late classicism and romantism to “make real beautiful” he uses the same tricks to create “unreal and beautiful” All his forms are based on real objects or associated with them. Still there are artists though far not either Rubenses or Valejos by their mastercraft, creating absolutly increadible things having no analogues in reality.
    Here is one of such artists just to illustrate what I mean

  4. For me, the best examples of all are Miro, Kandinski and Rothko: their evolutions from reality to abstraction are fascinating. What is incredible is that we can see their tipping Moment, in each of them, during their pictorial evolution; there is suddenly a painting that is a decision-taking as an illumination, a moment of eye-opener. This is one of the mystery of Art.

  5. I find it relatively easy to create a figurative painting that looks like what it is but what I find so hard is taking the work beyond that. One of my tutors once asked me “where I was in the picture?”. I suppose that’s what trying to find your own voice is all about…at the moment it sometimes seems I’ll never progress beyond a whisper!

  6. this may not be the thread but my hubby recently got new glass for one of my old paintings around 7-8yrs. old which he’s broken and it had set out in his framing shed when I saw the painting out of the frame I wanted to change it, he said no you do that all the time. I said not with this one it was one from a “new series of paintings at the time” I took it back to my studio and worked back into not a lot of time because it was teatime.
    Next day I went to look at it and I thought brilliant how much I have learnt in those yrs. I’m just luvin it with new eyes and its so fresh hell I’m good

  7. My goodness this hit a really raw nerve…!
    I so so soo want to paint..
    I buy the canvas (it sits there all white and blank)
    And I buy the oils..
    But I never ever start.
    Why? I can’t draw/paint. Of course I’ve always desperately longed to.
    Can’t afford classes.
    And if I just ‘go for it’? Well, just what was said..I will be so upset if it’s a heap of rubbish.
    Excellent article.

  8. Jax! There exist an easy solution. I had the same fears, when just started. I cut off covers of pizza boxes and painted on them. In a month or so I switched to canvas. To day I watch the same approach – my 78 old relative paints on peaces of boxes, keeping canvas untouched though she makes lovely paintings.

  9. Natalya, what a good suggestion! I am just rigid with fear I shall find I cannot put the things down that are in my head and clamouring to get out..

    1. Hi Jax, it sounds a little as though your fear may be around what other people think about the results as, if you’re putting your ideas down in a way that you feel expresses them, that’s really all you need to achieve. I think quite often we’re paralysed by whether other people will judge our efforts as “good”. However, all judgement is only other folk’s opinions and who are they to judge what you feel or what you are saying? It’s whether it works for you that’s important.

      Another issue can be when we want to or feel we should produce “finished” paintings. So much of painting is about playing and trying things out whether the wonderful wealth of materials on offer or our own ideas. See – I can talk a great painting!! My advice is “just do it”, any effort is a start and has to be better than no effort at all. It’s too easy to procrastinate and waste time and we only have one life.

  10. Yep, perhaps it is fear of not only what ‘I’ will see on canvas..but what others will see. Perhaps I should just go for it..and have fun! It’s taken me years you know..just procrastinating..silly me!

    1. Yes – go for it, Jax! Each thing you do will teach you something and even if only a tiny bit of something “works”, for whatever reason – that’s a great feeling. You might enjoy starting with something you can work loosely and be expressive with like collage, charcoal, pastel or just mix it all up. However much you do it it’s a constant learning curve but that’s what makes it so fascinating. Have fun!

  11. People understand the concept of a diary/journal being private and not being able to look at it. Call your sketchbook a journal and tell them it’s off limits. But use a large mixed media one not a tiny one, A4 at least not A6, so you’ve space to work in. Or a pizza-box sized crate (with a lock?) to keep inquisitive eyes out.
    Buy sketchbook (UK)

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