A Year Without Art


A Year Without Art

The Artist Block and Overcoming it

by Muhammad Hilmi


In preparing to write another article, I was in the process of putting together a couple of art pieces for my portfolio. I originally intended to write about careers in the arts. I was reminded that my creative process itself had long periods of hibernation—I had, at some point, gone through a year without art. It was perhaps both of my own will and inner workings of my subconscious, but without counting the pieces I have done for my job I neglected my own personal work. This might seem totally contradictory as I am currently part of a design team.

A general sentiment is shared amongst artists, designers and writers and that is that any type of creative block stagnates the creative process or flow. So, how does one exactly deal with something like this? Is it simply a lack of motivation? Inspiration? There were many times that I would fantasize about putting images to paper, but I had chosen to restrain myself from the creative process as the underlying feelings of insecurity about my own work remained intact, and the ever constant self-criticism challenged whatever progress I would have made in dealing with a creative block. I was mired deep in the muck of cant’s, dont’s and what-ifs.

I was fortunate enough to have broken out of that haze. It took a little bit of everything—the motivation and most importantly finding inspiration to want to draw and the need to express something visually on paper. Without the motivation and without the drive to actually see it through, all endeavors remained passive. Breaking out of creative blocks is something wholly personal and individualistic. There is no right way to do art, and the same subjective experience of art-making also extends itself to the entire gamut of the creative process including any hiccups that an artist might experience.

It was important to come to terms that I have never really been a full-time artist in the sense that while I may consider myself a creative person, I didn’t always engage in the creative process. There would be stretches of months where I did nothing. I consider that time a purge of sorts, a way to distance myself from the work. Having distanced myself from the creative process, I was able to recover from an exhaustion of the artistic flow but the landscape of the process itself shifted. It allowed another perspective for a new method to develop in dealing with the artist block.

I had to:
1) Acknowledge it first
2) Let it run its course and
3) Be in constant vigilance for that creative spark

Being keenly aware of my own creative process, finding inspiration was a break away from fixating on the problem. It allowed me to become goal and solution oriented even if it amounted to a few unusable sketches at the end of the day. I was able to pursue ideas more effectively by freeing myself from the expectation of doing work. I let myself be immersed in whatever I found engaging whether it be music or another artist’s work. Of course, the method required perseverance and without it, the creative flow could not be sustained. A clear goal in mind was an integral element to overcoming the obstacle and especially even more when criticism reared itself in the midst of the process. Self-criticism, while offering the necessary perspective for growth and understanding our inner workings can often times be a detriment to moving forward. It can hinder the steps needed to work with a new found inspiration. I have found that I can easily be caught up in the waves of self-criticism and easily fixate on the details of why a task was difficult rather than focusing on simply allowing myself the freedom to act without the pressure of producing satisfactory results.

Once I had a firm grasp on my own inner workings during a period of stagnation, I was more than able to work through it when it happened. However, the solution itself varied and I was essential to keep a kind of flexibility in dealing with a creative block. It was often not enough to force myself into making work despite not having the spark for it, but also I couldn’t always let myself sit idly while months passed. If you find yourself in this situation what would be the best solution then? That is a matter of preference. Unfortunately, rather than offering a numerical list of effective solutions, I urge you to explore your own unique creative process. It is best to discover what works for you. Inspiration after all, comes in all different forms.

A year without art, while more of a personal struggle to find inspiration was also a year spent focusing on the drives that fueled my passion for what I do and what I hope to do in the future. I can only remain optimistic that despite being fairly inactive for months, I allow myself the opportunity for more self-reflection, and in turn, become better acquainted with my artistic process—only then perhaps, I can spend a year making more art rather than none at all.whiteboardjournal, logo