All artists, be they poets, songwriters, singers, writers, dancers, painters, sculptors, photographers and so forth, have periods of what is often called artists block. At these times The Muse is somewhere else and creativity is at a standstill. These poor souls are usually found in a cold sweat; inspiration replaced by perspiration. Its like the old saying goes, The race is over and youve been ridden hard and put away wet! Nobody seems to have an answer to this dilemma. There are no formulae because all people have their own personality and are in a different space when the great computer between their ears lets them down.
An artist friend of mine in Manitoba has dry spells that last as long as six months. They usually happen during the winter when physical activity is at a low due to cold outdoor temperatures. What eventually gets his spirits up and his creativity flowing is his first game of golf! Whats that got to do with painting and art? Dont ask me; I dont play golf.
What does it for me also takes place outdoors, but I dont have to wait until spring. I grab my oil paints (watercolours dont like rain) and head out the door with no preconceived destination in mind. I just wander until something grabs my attention. It could be anything: a sparkle in a stream, perhaps, or a bright bit of stubborn colour that has hung on to a willow through the winter storms; maybe even the way the snow has settled on a cedar bough (as in the accompanying painting).
Breaking my artists block by taking my oils and heading outdoors is a kind of double whammy that has a lot to do with nostalgia. Some forty years ago in Manitoba, when I first began painting, it was in oils. Every once in awhile my artist friend (the golfer) and I used to head out into the Canadian Shield to paint for the day. On the way we would stop for the necessities of life: fresh bread, some cheese and a bottle of red wine!
Thus it is, when I try to get myself going again, nostalgia becomes a big remedy. The old eagerness to emulate The Group of Seven or the French Impressionists returns and using oils once again increases the challenge and spurs the whole effort along. The accompanying painting came out of one of those efforts.
The original oil sketch was totally unsuccessful as a finished product but it got me painting again as well as doing the same subject in a way I had seen but never tried. Watercolour paints were poured layer upon layer on to heavy paper until, after several attempts the result dazzled our eyes. We liked it so much we did a print of it. Not a bad way to end a dry period.