I am lucky enough to have just spent three weeks on holiday travelling for replenishment and new inspiration. I saw thousands of paintings, sculptures and genius architecture all over Italy and I went through waves of complete excitement to create my own, as well as severe smothering depression with the thought, “How can I ever decide WHAT TO MAKE?”
I think a lot of creatives feel this way: we know we have the ability to make masterpieces, but we are sometimes faced with a dark hole of indecision and somehow we just can’t seem to start something. Creative’s block?
Photography is a cop out in a way for me. I look at a scene and feel the inspiration overcome me to reinterpret it in my own voice, but because of the constant flooding of more and more visual ideas, that first inspiration is tucked away in the line-up and so I just take a quick snap of it for ‘later’ and move on.
I have not yet begun to plough through all the images I took in Italy but I know there are years’ worth of preliminary ‘sketches’ in there for me to make paintings from somewhere in the future.
This is not the first time that I have experienced being frozen from too much inspiration. I have screen shots and bookmarks galore from all the wonderful creative peoples’ contributions to the internet on my phone and computer. I don’t recall doing very much with it other than enjoying the waves of beauty. When I feel like painting, I paint something that is not in the slightest way related to any of that stuff. It’s the same with cookbooks. I am a chef and food photographer so naturally I have collected a library of books and as with so many people who buy the books for the pictures, I rarely cook from them. It is a case of constant consumption and occasional output.
So what to do with the heart that is burning to create but that has so many choices it becomes frozen? We ask ourselves what we feel like painting or baking and the answer is usually, ‘ I don’t know’.
I’ve done some digging into this regular state of being I find myself in and I see a few reasons for my personal blockages.
Sometimes I am too attached to the outcome. I am thinking about what I will do with the painting, or if I make a strawberry tart no one will eat it because we know sugar is bad for us and almost everyone is perpetually on a diet. What happens if I paint someone’s portrait and it looks more like a Picasso when I am trying to make it look like a Boticceli? #fail. What if my current food-related audience sees a portrait session I do of a little girl running in the field in the golden hour or I paint a landscape which is not related to any commercial enterprise I am currently involved in and I alienate some of my followers?
These are all fruitless and time-wasting thoughts. None of this matters. The answer to those questions is ‘so what?’
Creation doesn’t need to have purpose from the beginning of the process, or ever.
These questions are loaded with forgetfulness of the self. Creation is personal journey. The process itself is often the point for the artist. The making of it in the moment. Once it’s over it can be completely over OR we can choose to share it if we wish. It is not vital that everything you make is a masterpiece or is met with praise and accolades. Nor does it matter if they are never seen by anyone or eaten by anyone but yourself.
We don’t make art for other people. Artists create because they must. In this time of online business, we can sometimes be misguided by the core essence of why you create. Yes we want to share it on all our online platforms to bring beauty or our unique voice to the world, but we are sharing the personal experience we just had creating this object.
Therefore you must go and have a good time making or baking and share the success of that solitary intimate moment you just shared with yourself and the co-creation of the universe.
Don’t be concerned about what people will think. Focus on improving your skill and flowing in the moment with what you have learnt.
Another reason I freeze up is related to subject matter. I love many different subject matters and I have many different modalities to express these subjects.
- I am a chef. Within that I am a baker and pastry chef. I also focus on wellness foods – raw, vegan, wholesome – all of it. I also love folk foods, especially those that are typical of a particular region and not mainstream western. I love developing recipes and making food to photograph for my blogs or just for myself to enjoy.
- I am a photographer. My focus is food of all types as above, shooting commercially for all the top chefs in SA, kitchen documentary, cookbooks, food events and ‘a day in the life series’. I have also been a portrait photographer intermittently throughout these last 7 years, and it comes in and out of my interest-sphere every 6 months or so. I love photographing little girls and I have also focused on dance, and many, many weddings. Some of these subjects do still interest me, but oh, the time! I love travel and nature photography and I experiment with the Lensbaby ranges with nighttime photography.
- I am a digital retoucher and artist. I have had 5 exhibitions of my conceptual compository photography and the internet has taught me how to be a very good at Photoshop. I enjoy emotive portrait making as a digital artist.
- I am a videographer and editor – more development of this began a year or so ago.
- I am an artist. I paint in watercolours, acrylics and oils. I also draw. Within these I have many subject matters. Food, landscape, portraits, still life, patterns, urban sketching, abstract.
- I am a writer. This is the least developed and shared of my skills. I love writing about what I am passionate about and have contributed a few articles about food in the past. I have had 5 different blogs in the last 7 years and have written on all of them even though they were mostly visual story blogs.
- I am a curator. I love to pieces images together in sequence to tell a story and create an enjoyable visual journey.
- I am a designer. I have designed a good handful of websites for clients as well as for myself.
- I am a teacher. Within this I love to teach people about photography, the business of photography as well as philosophy of life that I have experienced.
- I am an entrepreneur and I have had many business ideas and models as well as executing a good number of those through the years and I do love the creativity of customer service within these.
- I am a decorator. I love to make a home space beautiful, piecing things together to make a cosy inviting space with harmonious colours.
I also want to learn how to make ceramics, play the violin and open a sleek curio and postcard shop where all the postcards are fabulous printed artworks and exceptional photography of our country.
So do you see my dilemma? Perhaps you have the same situation.
I find the answer to the torturous question of WHAT SHOULD I MAKE? is to just pick a thing and go from there. It sounds too simple, I know, but hear me out.
Maybe it only takes a colour choice, or one ingredient. Like my favourite watercolour at the moment is Indigo – so I just sit down at the paper and mix up some indigo and swish it around in the palette, a shape or two might develop which spurs on something else. I go shopping and see plump dusty-blue blueberries and it makes me think of the grape sciachiatta I had in Siena and I am thus inspired to begin baking. Just take one action. Pick a colour. Pick a paper type. Pick a fruit or a spice. Pick a wall in the house. Just offer up your willingness to be part of the co-creation and the universe will respond. Remember not to be too attached to the outcome of anything you make. If the cake is a little heavy, ok, no worries, try a different recipe next time or don’t beat your batter so long. But don’t have contempt for the cake you just made. Be happy that you are able to see to make a cake at all.
Also, take it back to basics – go simple and straight to the core of what you already know and let if flow from there. I had severe painter’s block so I just started from the beginning:circles. And then they became blueberries. Solution.
This is what I made right after writing this post.