Sunday, 1 January 2012

Doubting Yourself | Artists Advice

How to Escape the Panicked State of Minimum Productivity

Whether you've been comparing yourself to others or you're going through a creative block, I think most artistic types are familiar with that rising panic that starts when work isn't going quite as well as usual.

This panicked state I'm sure comes in many forms, but for me I get the 'delayed panic'. Picture the scene: I'm working on a painting that started well, I'm feeling relaxed, I've got some music on and I'm singing along (badly) and working and working on it. Five hours in and I return from making a cup of tea to exclaim "What is this?!" , probably spilling tea all over the floor in the process. What I have before me is a completely over-worked, idiotic illustration that belongs nowhere else but the bin. I'm such an idiot! I'm talentless! What a waste of time!

I think everyone needs a remedy for this panic. I don't have one exactly, but there are a few things I do to ease the panicked pain.

1) Change my scenery.

This depends on the time of day as to what I do. If it's day time I try to get outside; in the summer time I used to go sit in the fields behind my flat or walk along the canal. If it's the evening, I might just unchain myself from the desk and go make a phone call! Or watch some tv. Anything to escape the scene of the panic.

2) Assess what I did wrong.

eg. I over worked it.

3) Get over it. 

Everyone makes mistakes.

4) Be creative in other ways.

Sometimes I collect reference imagery online, or update my blog, or make collages to work from.

5) Draw/paint something you're comfortable with.

 I find this helps build confidence again, and relaxes the hand.

6) Take the opposite path from the one that caused the panic. 

Draw from life. Or from imagination.  I often splash a quick self portrait and it reasserts my concentration.

6) Accept defeat and go to bed. 

Tomorrow's a new day!

One final thing I think is important to mention - is how regular practice minimises the chances of this panic setting in. One of my New Years resolutions is to make my work a habit, and so I'm hoping I'll become more familiar with my preferred way of working, and more in tune with my state of mind.

Here's to less panics in 2012!


  1. Really great post! My panic starts when staring at a blank piece of paper, then I spiral into the self doubts and get angry at myself and start hating all my work.

    You've given some really good advice though - I need to take it and use it! xxx

  2. Lovely post to help us get through those panic ridden times! Kerri-Ann I'm the same! A blank piece of paper or new never want to ruin it! I love your points of getting away from what you've been doing for a bit, and to then start with something you are comfortable and familiar with - Thank you!

  3. I get this a lot. Whenever I have a bad day I'll then compare the drawing to another artists which makes me feel even worse when in fact I shouldn't even be making comparisons but it's just that natural human method!

    I agree with the points incredibly, taking some time out from sitting down drawing for a few hours does the world of good.

    Your work is incredibly wonderful by the way, and I'm really glad I stumbled upon it!

  4. i feel like no6 - 'accept defeat and go to bed' happens very often with me haha) but it's actually the wisest thing to do! I used to stay up late re-drawing things and adding something and usually ended up with nothing. I also get these days when I just can't draw! all drawings turn out crooked and clumsy, while there are such days when i can complete 10 or more sketches and all of them look like i want them to. so i guess we just have to live through 'bad pencil' days without overworking. and thanks for a great post! ;)

  5. Love this post, thanks for sharing and being so open about it. It often happens to me where I do something at night and actually quite like it and think of ways to use it, then look at it the next day and get your tea-spilling reaction. I try to then look at it as practice :)

  6. ahh this is all so true, & perfect advice as always, love your blog (: <3 x x