Tuesday, 3 August 2010

3 Exercises for Overcoming Artists' Block

Here are a few of the design 'exercises' I remember, from a class many years ago, that helped me to become less 'self-conscious' about my art and freed me up to enjoy it! It's essentially a 'playful' approach and if ever you are feeling 'stuck', a little bit of time doing some of these apparently pointless exercises could well lead you out of your 'stuckness'. I would even venture to say that, if you don't think of yourself as an 'artist' they have the potential to convince you otherwise!

1. Taking a line for a walk - literally just letting your pencil, or whatever you choose to draw with, wander about on the paper. Don't try to deliberately make 'interesting shapes' - in fact, don't try to do anything, just let whatever happens happen! I turned on the radio while I was doing this one and found my pencil moving to the rhythms of Beethoven's Violin Concerto!
If you find that you like some of the shapes you've made, you might like to add some colour and who knows? - you might even discover that you've made an abstract pattern that you can find a use for!

2. 'Ts' and 'Ls'  Start with a good-sized piece of cheap paper - layout paper or even newsprint - and roughly mark out a grid on it in thick charcoal. (I think it's best to do these exercises standing at an easel but that's really up to you). Work as fast as you can - don't allow yourself more than about 15-20 minutes. And you may find that music, or television even, will help you to work more instinctively and less 'thoughtfully'.

Without giving it too much thought, mark out interlocking 'T' and 'L' shapes on your grid. It doesn't matter if there are some squares left over, but use as many of them as you can.

 Colour in some of the 'T's' and 'Ls', working quickly so that you don't stop to think! (Important!)

Still working as fast and as furiously as you can, rub out some of the lines (with a tissue or, in my case, my fingers!). Curve some of the lines, add dots and squiggles wherever you like!

You will probably know when you've finished - but you may want to come back and change something later. That's the beauty of working in charcoal!

3. Squares, Circles and Triangles

As before, begin with a large sheet of paper and quickly mark out a pattern of overlapping circles, squares and triangles -
Again, rub out some lines if you wish to make more interesting shapes, but don't give it too much thought; you'll probably want to make more changes as you go along. You'll be getting the idea now that it's just about colouring in with full-bodied black, shades of grey and patterns - it's all up to you!

I was planning to add one further exercise using just overlapping circles, following the same guidelines as above, but introducing some colour.

(It was a similar exercise to this one that evolved into the fabric design below - it looked wonderful on sheer muslin!)

But unfortunately Blogger seems to have gone completely mad today and it's taken me more than an hour to get everything, so far, in roughly the right place and with the right size font! In any case, I think I've posted enough for you to get the general idea so I'll leave it to you to invent some more similar exercises!

It's worth saying again that it's all about 'playing' with lines and shapes and if it feels as if you've gone back to Infant School, the exercise has succeeded! It really is that child-like spontaneity and lack of self-consciousness that we need to re-capture and build on if we are to unlock the artist that is inside each one of us!


Jean said...

Years ago I took an Inner Child workshop and they had us do an exercise like these. The results were amazing. Thanks for the reminder!

Country Mouse Studio said...

Thanks Judy, I'm going to come back when I have more time and try these out.

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Jean - I hadn't thought of that but I realise now that there's an obvious like to Inner Child Work! There are some lovely examples of real children expressing themselves with pieces of chalk on my daughter's blog, Home-ed in Sweden.

Carole - I'll be interested to hear how you get on - and of course any more similar 'exercises' you invent! This would be a far cry from your usual style I think!!!