Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Robert Genn on "Beating Painter's Block"

How to beat painter's block

Dear Sherrie,

A lot of stuff has been written about writer's block, mainly because writers write. At the same time, there's been a surprising lack of guidance in the parallel condition of painter's block, mainly because painters paint. While many fight it daily and some never experience it at all, I always thought I might try to do something about the shortfall. Here are a few thoughts:

The sheer size and daunting length of a novel do not equate to a small easel painting that may take only a short time. Painters, identifying bite-sized projects suited to their current spans of concentration, can go from one work to another, randomly or in rapid sequence. Short-duration projects are block beaters. Painters can take wisdom from prolific haiku masters. Reducing individual project size compounds satisfaction and helps stickhandle the way. Rather than three medium-sized paintings a month, think of 30 small ones. Smaller works are more readily chuckable.

Another block beater is the "Working Without Plan" system. Blocks often occur in the planning stage and ideas get aborted before the brush hits the canvas. Just as writers learn to start writing before they know what they're writing, painters need to squeeze out and simply begin.

Further, blocks occur through the commonplace error of letting the cat out of the bag. Verbalization eviscerates desire. Talking blocks action. It's been my persistent observation that mute artists are more consistently productive than verbal ones.

Then there's the tyranny of the jaded brain. "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt" haunts both the mature and the overeducated. This form of ennui requires a reinvestment in innocence, a return to the childlike view and a simple commitment to play. Not easy for some, but doable. Just as the block itself can be a self-delusory avoidance activity, the release to play is just another self-delusion needed for creative growth.

Painter's block is a kind of creative blindness. Fortunately a temporary disability, it obscures the limitless depth of human invention. The reasons for the blindness vary from artist to artist, but all forms can be neutralized, if not beaten, by rest, change, action, going smaller, going kiddie, and being quiet.

Best regards,


PS: "The block is an entirely imaginary, self-inflating disease afflicting both nothing-to-say professionals and not-knowing-how-to-say-it amateurs." (Ray Robertson, novelist)

Esoterica: Page Fright--Tools, Tricks and Fetishes of Famous Writers, by Harry Bruce, is the latest book to probe these mysteries. He thinks creative folks need to make a leap of faith and begin to feel that nothing but the successful execution of their chosen art can deliver true happiness. Seeing our art as "important" can both stymie and empower us. If day-to-day happiness is important to you, the theory goes, not conquering these stupid blocks invites a perennial state of misery.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

He Can Who Thinks He Can

"He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't. This is an inexorable, indisputable law."
~ Henry Ford

Coach Sherrie says: I am not a fan of Henry Ford, but this quote is oh sooo true.

See It to Be It!

"When you see a thing clearly in your mind, your creative "success mechanism" within you takes over and does the job much better than you could do it by conscious effort or "willpower."
~ Maxwell Maltz

Believe In Yourself!

"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy."
~ Norman Vincent Peale

Monday, September 21, 2009

TQ says "Don't Wait - Schedule It NOW!"

Don't Wait -- Schedule It Now...

So You Just Can't Find The Time.
Is That What You're Saying?

You never will find the time for anything. If you want it, you must make it. Go to your calendar and block it out now.

"One of these days" is none of these days. Make a decision today by writing a start date into your calendar.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Live Life On Purpose

"When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous."
~ Wayne Dyer

Sunday, September 13, 2009

TQ says "Record What You've Done."

Recording what you've done is the first step in improving how you'll do it the next time.

"We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning."
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Keep Your Limitations? Or Let Them Go?

"When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them."
~ Peter Mcwilliams

Coach Sherrie says: This is soooo true in so many ways, in so many situations. Let's all keep moving forward, not only as individuals, but also as a country and as citizens of the world!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2 of Jill Badonsky's Muses

Jill asked us to write about how we would use the muses to help ourself or a client:

Spills- I would ask the client to imagine not caring about the end result, to just do the process for the fun of it, to feel the joy in watching their unique gift unfold before their eyes. I would ask them to be more loving and gentle with themselves. I might guide them through writing a poem about their perfectionism or about self-love.

Audacity- I would have to work on this myself as my audacity has only been used in appropriate situations. ;-> In most situations, I am very fearful of others’ judgements about me. I like that Jill (as Audacity) says “being genuine frees others who need a beacon to guide them” and “Our consequent power dwarfs the effect of opinions, criticism and negativity.” I also like the example of Madonna, reinventing herself. I would also mention MJ and the Beatles. I will meditate with the intent of absorbing that audacious Beatle energy. I will be an inspiration to others (someday).
I realize I am already becoming more audacious and helping others will only give me more audacity.

Do One Thing Everyday

"Focus on one goal at a time. If you want healing, financial success, better health, a new career, love, a new house or peace – your goal can come true. Do one thing every day that will help you achieve your dreams."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Can She Be Helped?

Yesterday, Raymond Kowalski of Cleveland, Ohio, wrote: "A woman in my classes refuses to take suggestions. She likes the way things are and says she doesn't need improving. She says she doesn't have time to learn basics--composition, color theory, design, technique. She gets excited watching a demo, then ignores what she might have learned. She devotes a lot of time to her art, but she's not really improving. I'm at a loss to help her. Any thoughts?"

Thanks, Raymond. I've had the runaround from the same woman. It's quite endemic these days, with all the talk of freedom of expression and painting from the heart. All this heart stuff is one of the main reasons there's so much substandard art around. It's enough to make you think it doesn't matter.

Accepting that many folks are just in it for the fun of pushing paint around, here are a few things you can do to get the girl to raise her standards:

Without focusing on her, give short, low-expectation exercises that run against people's standard repertoire. Make them time sensitive (finish in twenty minutes) or media limiting (use only three colours). While telling students they can go their own sweet way if they wish, make the exercises fun and be prepared to give out cigars. Draw your students in with a sense of exploration and excitement. Give them the idea they've nothing to lose.

It's a fact of life that some people don't want to learn. But I don't believe in just coming out and telling people their art is poor. You have to let them discover that for themselves. A useful ploy is to praise the work for whatever virtues you can find in it, however slim, then ask them to tell everybody how it might be improved. Teaching art is an art that sometimes requires a slightly devious approach.

Many workshop students have a problem with the instructor-student axis. You need to invite other workshop participants to quickly chime in with their opinions. Further, you can sometimes effectively influence a student by quietly giving attention to another student who sits nearby. Other times, when addressing the whole group, you can hammer home specific points by making thoughtful eye contact with the slower learners. No matter how flawed, everybody is special.

Best regards,


PS: "The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they're learning something else." (Randy Pausch)

Esoterica: In the conduct of your own affairs, understate and over-prove. Give well-planned, information-rich demos. Let folks make up their own minds and take what they want for themselves. Make your comments short and precise. Tenderness and your own humility count. People are human beings first and artists second. Thankfully, some will pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, no matter what you have to say. And while there will always be those who stay put, a properly conducted workshop can be a place of miracles. "The burned hand teaches best." (J. R. R. Tolkien)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

You Are What You Do

"Understand that you, yourself, are no more than the composite picture of all your thoughts and actions. In your relationships with others, remember the basic and critically important rule: If you want to be loved, be lovable. If you want respect, set a respectable example!"
~ Denis Waitley