Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We Are Not A-Mused by Karen McGovern

Note:  I wrote this blog post about the same time that Staci wrote hers about making the most of a misdirected design.  We share the same brain, evidentally.  Her take on desiging through a percieved mistake was wonderful.  My train of thought here was to discuss what happens when NOTHING SEEMS TO WORK in the studio.  Not that this has ever happened to me......SAID NO ARTIST EVER.
First scenario: You sit down at your bench, all ready to get your ART ON, and come up completely empty in the Brilliant Design Idea Department. Nada, nothing. You look at your wonderful array of supplies and tools and the only thing going on in your head is equivalent to static, or a television test pattern (at least that has colors).
Second scenario: Lightning strikes! You have a brain teeming with ideas, fingers itching to get to work. You are a volcano and design ideas flow like lava. You sit down at your bench and...NOTHING WORKS. I mean nothing. Every bead strung, stone set and wire wrapped turns against you like your bench is possessed by the Devil. Hours later you are left completely frustrated with an aching back, sore hands, and bunch of burnt metal or a design you can't stand the sight of.
Don't ask me about this.  Just....don't.
Attention everyone - the Muse has left the building.

It happens to all of us. Our creative tap turns itself off without warning. The reasons are as varied as we are individuals. Stress, overwork, too many outside obligations interfering, or simple basic burnout! More important than asking "why" is deciding what you are going to do about it. I asked a few of my arty friends how they handle the "Flight of the Muse" and got some great tips that have helped me immensely.

STEP AWAY FROM THE BENCH (or easel, or glue gun, or sketch book...whatever). While powering through a rough patch might work in the gym, it doesn't usually work in the artist studio. Sometimes you simply need to walk away for a bit. Maybe an hour, maybe a week!

HIT THE RESET BUTTON. Go to the beach, park, lake, backyard...wherever you like to go to chill out. Have a glass of wine. Read a book. Walk the dog. Go to the movies. Take your mind to a completely different place for a while.

LOOK AT OTHER ARTISTS' WORK. This works for me almost every time. When I am really frustrated and challenged, I stop and take a leisurely trip through my favorite artists online shops, websites, and print articles. I hoard magazines like Art Jewelry, Ornament, and Jewelry Artist. I look through back issues and marvel at the amazing works presented. It's like taking a shower in inspiration.  I also have a file on my computer titled "Inspiration".  Is store tons of images here that struck me (jewelry and non-jewelry related) as I wandered around online.  I visit this folder often...
Some of the cool stuff I keep in my Inspiration folder.
Yes, that is a baby smoking a cigarette with a chicken.
K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. This is also a good one. When I am feeling especially mortified at my apparent loss of all skill or ability to create anything even remotely resembling art, I stop, regroup, and make something very, very simple just to remind myself that I can. A single wire bangle. A simple wire ring. A pair of basic earrings. A macaroni necklace, whatever!!! Seriously, make one perfect yet simple thing, then LOVE THAT THING. Take THAT, stupid Muse...
I made this the day that I could not solder a bezel to save my LIFE.
After burning through a ton of silver, I stopped, had lunch, then made this.
Finally, STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP. I have yet to meet an artist (myself included) that isn't his or her worst critic and sometime enemy. Frustration is part of the game. Accept the failures with the successes, and give yourself a break. My worst jewelry concoctions always end up teaching me something, usually that I still have A LOT TO LEARN. We all have that box or drawer where the mutant work ends up. Mine is labelled (optimistically) Restring/Rework. You know, because one day I will magically transform everything in there into something wonderful (cue the eye roll). I have managed, as you can see, to try to keep a sense of humor about my mistakes. I highly recommend it. You have to be able, at some point, to laugh at past mistakes or you won't move beyond them. Resin, I'M TALKING TO YOU.

I have always wanted to have an art party where I invite all my artist friends to come over and bring what they consider to be their worst work ever. I imagine us all drinking good wine, laughing, and coming to the realization that what one may consider horrible, someone else finds simply beautiful. You know that would happen...I know so many artists whose work I would kill for, no matter what. Remember that.

So, the next time your Muse decides to vacate the premises, look at it as an opportunity to teach yourself something new, or to remind yourself that art is an ever-evolving, mysterious, aggravating, WONDERFUL thing that can't be forced. Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride...your Muse will come home eventually.
Caravaggio's interpretation of inspiration/muse...

14 comments:

Artisan Beads Plus said...

Thanks for the chuckles! and....the great tips! Everything you wrote about has happened to me. I try to look at it as a learning experience that I would have paid lots of money for if it were a formal class!

stacilouise said...

I am still laughing- SO TRUE. Especially the burnt metal pile. I took about a year off from bezels at one point, as, just when I thought I had it down, and did a tutorial on them no less, I couldnt' get one to work to save my life. just walk away is the best advice....lol My dear kindred spirit, you crack me up.

Dyanne Cantrell said...

Funny that you should write this now! I'm in the middle of "My muse took a vacation" period. The funny thing is - this happened to me the same time last year! Thank you for the lovely ideas on coping with the Muse Hiatus.

Kimberly Rogers said...

What a great post, Karen. It's nice to hear what others go through. I myself adhere to the walk away or KISS solutions. It seems like the magazines intimidate me when I am in the frustrated state of mind so I save them for when I am feeling more positive about my abilities.

Meridy Migchelbrink said...

SO much fun to read--you're a damn good writer--and SO true. I'm still laughing at the photo of the plumbing parts/mousetrap/flower pot objet d'art. :) Thanks for the reassurance, the laughs, and the inspiration! xoxo Meridy

Gale said...

Sometimes I want my muse to take a hike so I can get on with it (kinda like the pesky one in the Caravaggio). Thanks for the laugh, in the meantime!

Karen McGovern said...

Thanks for all the comments!! It's good to know we're not alone out there, and all of us struggle now and then. I do believe laughter is the best medicine, and knowing there is always something new to learn from every experience, good or bad!

Kerri said...

great post, and yes! so true. taking a walk always helps me.

Shirley Moore said...

Not only did I want to say thank you for the post, but I also wanted to tell you how much I love that simple bangle. One of the things I've noticed is that as we spend more time in our medium, we can sometimes feel that a 'simple' piece is a 'beginner's work'. When in reality, many people love simple designs, right along with intricate ones. Thanks again!

Kathy said...

What a great blog post. Been there and sometimes I stay longer than I like. Great tips. Kathy

Karen McGovern said...

Shirley, I completely agree with you. Sometimes we forget, as we strive to become "better" (whatever that means), that simple is beautiful. And simple can sometimes reflect who we are as artists much better than a complex, difficult design. Hmmm....I may need to explore what simple means to me....

rashi mathur said...

waww.. funny and very true. simplicity is the best thing, peaceful and creative mind is need of designer.many times we work on Antique Jewellery

Kelli said...

Hahahaha! So funny! And so true. For me a quick walk outside breathing in the fresh air and beauty of natue will clear the cobwebs. I also keep a folder of favorite pics tthat never fail to inspire me. Thanks again for filling in!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT POST!

Marie Cramp said...

Thanks Karen for sharing your insightful wit! You made me laugh :) I agree that we are our own worst critics and that sometimes we may dislike a design only to have someone else relish and delight in it. <3

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