When You Feel Creatively Stagnant
When you have a blog called “The Artyologist”, it kind of follows that you are supposed to be creating Art (with a capital “A”). So what happens when you don’t want to anymore?
A few months ago, I made the decision to pack away my watercolour paints. Not very far, they are just in my desk drawer, but they are gone nonetheless. Out of sight and out of mind.
When I started The Artyologist blog in 2016, my plan was to open an online shop and blog mostly about my art. However, that is not what happened at all! While I do sometimes blog about art and share my photography, I have mostly shared fashion, homemaking and sewing.
Over the past few years I opened a Society 6 shop, a web shop, an Instagram account and even placed my artwork in a local gallery for 4 months… but it didn’t pan out the way I had hoped, and I have now closed all of those avenues (except for my Poshmark shop). While I made a few sales along the way, it wasn’t enough to consider it even as a part time job, and I came to realize that watercolour was a hobby and it wasn’t going to be anything more than that. After I pulled my artwork from the gallery at the end of my agreement last February, I decided that I was going to stop trying to focus on selling my watercolours in hope that my love for painting would be rekindled.
That didn’t happen though.
Instead, when I walked into my beautiful new art space, instead of being excited to open my paint palette and a pad of paper to sketch a new piece, I felt guilty because I wanted to work on sewing projects, or paper crafting or even tidying instead. In the back of my mind was the nagging thought that I “should” be working on watercolours.
So, when so much of what you enjoy doing and identify with as a creative person is tied up in one specific genre of art, is it OK to quit? It is so hard to end a dream, even when you aren’t enjoying it anymore. You question, “Did I really give it my all?”, “Should I have tried harder?”, and “If I was more talented, it would have worked out, right?”
I’ve come to realize that sometimes we enjoy something for a season and then move on from it…and that’s OK. What’s not OK is to feel creatively stagnant, and then stay there.
I haven’t completely gotten rid of my watercolour paints… I’ve been watercolour painting on and off for over 15 years, so I don’t think that I am quitting completely…I’m just refocusing onto other things right now. Somewhere along the way, I just fell into a rut of “I’m a watercolourist” and didn’t feel like I should try new things… but that is the antithesis of creativity! There are so many other mediums out there.
When I was in high school I loved to do messy scrapbooking and art books. I experimented with paper collage and acrylic paints and ink and ephemera.
Then I really started to enjoy couture sewing techniques and pattern making as I got into vintage clothing. I loved to dream up clothing ideas and then breathe them into being. I started playing around with ribbon and beads and started DIY’ing hats and headbands. Even if I wasn’t using the proper millinery techniques, I created some cool pieces!
In the past few years I’ve really gotten involved in furniture restoration and decorating. I’ve painted some furniture pieces for my home, and crafted home decor to beautify my space. I’ve enjoyed wallpapering and painting, and then putting together displays of my vintage home goods to curate my favourite bedroom I’ve ever had!
All of these are different ways to express creativity. Somehow along the way, I pigeonholed myself into a box: when I was painting I was being an artist, but when I was doing all of the other creative things, I wasn’t.
I want to get back to that feeling of love for creating, even if it’s something I’m not good at and it turns out badly! I want to try new things, and not feel the pressure to promote it. As soon as I “hung up my shingle”, in order to try selling my watercolour, the creativity was sapped and even though I’ve had months and months to start again, for myself, I haven’t found that creative spark again. I’m not decluttering the paints, because maybe in the future I will return to them. But I’ve realized that even if I decide that I don’t want to return to them, then that’s OK too.
Creativity doesn’t need to look like anything in particular, and you don’t have to be defined by your hobby. It is supposed to be enjoyable, after all. If it isn’t fun anymore, then that’s a signal that something needs to change. Over the past few months, after I packed away my paints, I have rediscovered my love for other artistic endeavours. What’s on my desk right now? Mod Podge, and calligraphy pens, and felted wool scraps, and a half finished millinery project, and some pattern pieces, and hot glue and sandpaper and a decorating book, and the ubiquitous cup of tea.
It’s a very random and eclectic assortment of items which tell a story of all of the projects I’ve been working on lately. I’ve begun paper crafting again and making cards. I’ve been sewing some new clothes for my winter wardrobe. I refinished an antique dresser. I’m learning calligraphy…. Creativity doesn’t have to look like one thing, and there certainly isn’t time to feel guilty about not doing one creative endeavour, when there are so many others you can try.
I am widening my horizons and trying new things. The perfectionist in me hates the idea of trying something new and failing at it, but that’s a part of the creative process: we have to try new things in order to learn new things. It takes time and practice, but I’m excited to try out some new stuff. Some of these things might make their way to the blog, and much of it probably won’t, but I am excited about the thought of creativity without the pressure of an audience. It’s just for me, and just for fun; isn’t that what creativity should be?
So, I’ve learned over the past few months that, while it can be hard when one artistic endeavour comes to an end, that doesn’t mean it’s the end to your artistic endeavours!
Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. I hope that my ramblings about my discoveries over the past while might encourage you today in whatever creative endeavours, or ruts, you may find yourself in.
Have you ever tried a creative endeavour and it didn’t work out how you hoped it would? Have you ever gotten into a rut and felt “creatively stagnant”? Do you find it difficult to try new hobbies? What creative activities are you enjoying right now?
(Ps. I do still have my Poshmark shop, linked in the sidebar or here, with all of the pieces I already had on hand!)