I’ve been working on this exciting piece for a couple of months now. I started working on it soon after I posted my initial sketches. It’s been two long and fun months of working on this piece. What really made it fun for me is incorporating a different kind of fabric that I’d never used before – dye-painted fabrics.
Trying something new is a lot of fun, yes! But then it comes with its own set of challenges. One being a lack of experience in that thing. I’ve been working on this piece for 4-6 hours daily for 2 months. About 10% to completion, I got totally stuck! I was experiencing artistic paralysis.
This is when the real struggle began for me. The 10% I got stuck on is where I’d incorporated the dye painted sky fabrics. How am I going to quilt this portion so that I don’t lose the nice painterly sky that I created with the fabric dyes? Writing about it now seems so trivial but it was such agony to come up with ideas for creating texture without compromising the original sunset look– pure agony!
To Jump Ship or to Stay on Board
I’m not one to abandon a piece of work without completing it. For this reason, I can only point to one UFO (Unfinished Object) in my studio. But this particular sunset piece threatened to become number two on my UFO list. For several days, I’d go to my studio, look at it on the wall and walk away without doing anything. It was so hard to walk away when all I wanted to do was to complete it.
After looking for inspiration everywhere and not finding it, I came to the painful conclusion that I knew exactly what I wanted, I was just too afraid to do it! I was afraid because I knew it would be absolutely different from my usual structured quilting style and I didn’t have any assurances that it will come out well. Perfectionism rearing its head again!
Fear & Indecision Causes Artistic Paralysis
So I gave myself the 4-word speech I usually give myself when I’m stalling because of indecision. “Clara, force a decision!” And so I did! I decided to simply meander along the original paint lines of the fabric with thread. Out of character, yes, but just what the work needed. After several days of agony and artistic paralysis, I have peace and calm. It’s done and I’m quite happy with it.
Here is how that sky turned out.
As creative people, we all encounter artistic paralysis, where we’re stuck and don’t know how to proceed. The authors of Art and Fear put it this way- “the difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar”.
What did you do when you encountered this situation? I’d love for you to share your experiences below.
I cannot wait to see this piece! And the connection between fear and “creative blocks” is so true. Glad you are working through it.
Yes Barb, this piece presented a different kind of challenge but I’m glad I got myself unstuck and I’m working through it. You’ll be seeing it soon.
Clara, you are so right: getting stuck on a creative project can be “traumatic.” There appears to be a tug of war between the desire to perfectly and concretely build your imagination for all eyes, and inner fear or inhibition that the piece will not turn out to be as you have conceptualized it. Indeed, I have encountered this monster severally in life, and so have many others. The universality of artistic paralysis! Most often I come out victorious, employing the following strategies: 1) stay inspired- I will do whatever it takes for me to stay high-spirited because great artistic works are birthed and built through inspiration. 2) be positively resolute- you may be stuck but determine to complete the work. Tell yourself “I’ll definitely finish this piece.” Remember, ‘giving up’ is not an option. 3) Keep hands off the project (temporarily)- I call this the ‘fallow’ period. During this time although I am not physically working on the project I am actively thinking about it. I get so consumed and preoccupied by the work that I dream about it in my sleep. On countless occasions I have received fresh ideas and “boosters” leading to successful completion of projects..
Clara Nartey says
Great points, Martinson. Thanks for sharing your experiences and the 3 wonderful pointers for overcoming artistic paralysis. The pursuit of perfection always leads to paralysis and incomplete projects.