Sep 09 2014

Breaking Through a Creative Funk


I’ve been having a little bit of a struggle getting back into my painting as of late, and this has been going on for quite a while now. This happens to me whenever I am encountering a lot of transitions in my life, and for the past few years, I’ve been in constant transition. Part of it can be attributed to my jewelry business, which takes up much of my creative energy, while an even larger significance is the many geographical moves I’ve been doing. Every time I re-settle, it takes a while to get my bearings again, with setting up a new studio and practice. So I’ve attempted to break through by starting out with some drawings and collages and by creating background surfaces for paintings. I have a number of ideas running through my head, but I was having trouble committing myself to anything that I could run with for a while. I was getting so frustrated at one point that I just decided that I had to do ANYTHING to break out of my current funk. I’ll describe here how following my wild impulses led to my current exploration. (All pictures in this post can be further enlarged by clicking on them).


I was coming home from a community concert one night when I realized I had a huge amount of energy surging through me. I wanted to paint, but couldn’t decide which of the dozens of ideas in my head deserved my current devotion, and my energy was a bit too chaotic to do anything but smear paint around, so that’s what I decided to do. I wanted to be outside instead of in my (very hot) garage studio, so I taped some paper down to the pavement just outside of my studio (with plastic sheeting protecting the cement from spills). I actually started by drawing with chalk, using the full stroke of my arm to make abstract gestures. I even threw some dirt onto it, and rubbed the chalk and dirt into the paper, picking up some of the texture from the pavement. I then started pouring acrylic paint onto the paper. I poured some acrylic pouring mediums over the paint and started pushing it around with a brush. I then put some plastic produce bags into the paint (to be peeled up later). To add more texture, I also added some caulking medium into parts of the painting. All of this was done in a state of ecstatic frenzy, with no concern as to whether this was going to be “good” painting, or even anything that I was going to keep. I simply needed to feel the joy of painting with no intention outside of play. Here’s the key: PLAY will set you free!

After removing the plastic wrap that was embedded in the acrylic paint, I attached the painting to a solid piece of plywood (using acrylic gel medium, and rolling it out to get rid of any bubbles). The surface was covered with another board, then weighted overnight. I did some washes of acrylic color to fill in some of the empty gaps (where the paper tore). I set it aside until I got an impulse for my next steps. In the meantime, I worked on several other painting backgrounds (also to be used later, until their continued progress reveals itself). I started to accumulate a number of background textures, but was still feeling frustrated about what steps to take next. I realized that I needed a bit of structure to keep the progress flowing, so I decided to enroll in an art class as the local college. It felt a little odd to sign up for a beginning art class since I have over 25 years of painting experience (and a Masters degree), but I decided that what I needed most was to pretend that I am a beginner, and to allow myself to be led by some assignments. I got permission from the instructor first, to make sure that it was okay to take a personalized approach to the class (i.e., altering the assignments as I needed to, to allow maximum personal expression).


The first assignment was to create a “Still Life Self Portrait”, where the objects chosen for the painting somehow relate to symbolizing the self. I am not particularly interested in still-life objects (as in objects arranged on a table, per se), but I do like to paint plants, and I have been having a bit of an obsession with these huge artichoke plants that are growing in my neighborhood. The artichoke blossoms towered above me, 6-8 feet tall, and they are so gorgeous that I took several photos of them, to record their forms, and the light and shadows that fall on them during my evening walk. By the time this class started, the blossoms had faded and were cut down, laying in my neighbor’s yard. So gathered a couple to bring to class (since she wanted us to paint an object from direct observation).


I looked at all of my various background textures and decided to use the one that started me on the path of my current exploration, as I still felt a connection to that wild night of outdoor painting. We were also allowed to alter the observational painting by studying a reference photo, so I chose this one where my shadow was also a part of the composition. This also brings out the “self-portrait” aspect of the assignment. I at first painted the shadow a bit too large, so I’m showing how I adapted the design where she becomes a less prominent part of the composition. This might also lead me to explore the idea of “shadow” in a new series.

This painting is for sale: Artichoke Blossoms on


3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Breaking Through a Creative Funk”

  1. […] I do daily walks in my neighborhood, and have been enthralled by looking at these artichoke blossoms growing in a neighbors yard.  They towered above me, 6-8 feet tall.  They are so gorgeous that I took several photos of them, to record their forms, and the light and shadows that fall on them during my evening walk.  I noticed in one of my photos that I had accidentally captured my own shadow, so I decided to make this part of the theme… because it is as much about how viewing nature effects me, as an artist, as it is about what I am viewing.  (A blog post about the creation of this painting can be found here. […]

  2. Patianne says:

    Wanted to let you know I really appreciate this blog Robin. Moving is a time for transitions, in that it is obvious when the comfort zone changes.

  3. […] To see the story of this painting’s creation, visit my blog post, Breaking Through a Creative Funk […]

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