Elena Parashko, who comes to Daku to teach a week of Seascape painting in August, is a regular contributor to a number of art magazines. In this article she reflects on the need to sometimes step back and give yourself a break.
Being Kind to Yourself
In every artist’s life there are times when it is difficult to focus and actually create art. When this happens, take time out to reflect on your experiences, thoughts and feelings. Be honest with yourself. Recognize if you are just procrastinating, whether life’s everyday problems are getting in the way of creating or if you have a real crisis to deal with. Then you will know if you need to hold yourself accountable to your goals and just get on with the work or if you need to be kind to yourself and resolve major issues first.
There are 3 main reasons why you may find it difficult to concentrate on being creative:
Even if we have very clear goals and know what must be done to achieve them, sometimes we will do almost anything else to avoid starting. This self defeating behaviour may be caused by a fear of the blank canvas – for 10 strategies to deal with this see my online article “Overcoming the Fear of the Blank Canvas.” Maybe you are procrastinating because you have not yet established a disciplined work ethic. Then devise a routine that fits the demands of your life. Perhaps you are not inspired by the work. Then look at the piece in a new way and find a challenge in it that will motivate you. If you have a fear of rejection, then accept that “No” is not personal and comes with the territory in the arts. If you are being distracted by other people or obligations, then give your artwork the priority it deserves by placing it above other demands and not just fitting it in if there is time left over. If you are not sure how to proceed with a project; then ask questions, do some research and find out where to begin. If you realize you cannot meet a goal, don’t beat yourself up about it and not even start. Just change the parameters of the goal to make it achievable. The best cure for procrastination is to get started in whatever way you can. Once immersed in the creative process, the rest will take care of itself.
2. Life’s problems
Everyone has problems to deal with. These may range from annoying distractions to more complicated issues that require your time and attention. While resolving problems, keep them in perspective and don’t use them as an excuse not to work. Art doesn’t just have a therapeutic effect on the viewer; it can be the best medicine for the artist as well. Creating can act as a release valve to externalise internal conflict and stress. Initially you may have to go with the creative flow and let what ever is inside express itself rather than trying to create what was planned. Experiencing and dealing with problems is a normal part of life. As such they can actually inspire artwork with universal themes.
When a real crisis hits you, then be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to temporarily put your artwork on hold if you need to. You may feel physically exhausted, emotionally drained or so depleted of resources that you have nothing left to give to an artwork. Forcing yourself to paint under these circumstances can be counter productive. You will not produce your best work and may even be using it as an escape to avoid dealing with serious issues in your life that need to be addressed. Self imposed work pressures may be enough to push you over the edge from a state of coping to feeling completely overwhelmed. If you have a physical or mental health crisis, your first priority is to get yourself well and give your body and mind time to rest and recover. If you have an emotional crisis, then allow yourself time to go through the grieving process. If you are facing a social crisis, then deal with that personal relationship or be there to support a loved one. If you are struggling through a financial crisis, then make it a priority to do what is required to support yourself.
When you have a passion for art, it can never be lost. The creative spirit will find a way to express itself in one form or another as you are able. All these challenges will require you to draw upon strength and resources you never imagined you had. And when the crisis is over, returning to your art may be a very important part of the healing process.
“Being Kind to Yourself” by Elena Parashko as published in Professional Artist Magazine
View details of Elena’s upcoming Seascapes and Landscapes Painting Retreat at Daku Resort in August this year.
Elena Parashko is an artist, teacher and writer based in Sydney, Australia. Her artwork can be viewed at www.elenaparashko.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org