By John Pototschnik

In today’s issue of Inside Art, guest artist John Pototschnik offers a baker’s dozen of tips for getting a fresh start when the muse has left the building.

It is a fact that one’s creative juices can ebb and flow. It’s not pleasant when they ebb, particularly when you make your living being creative.

I’ve experienced a few slumps in my day, and yet another while I write this. I know people are surprised to learn such a thing is even possible with someone they consider to be an accomplished painter. But it’s true and is certainly not uncommon among creative professionals. That is itself an
important point. It’s not uncommon, so it’s a truth that first needs to be recognized, and
then accepted: Inherent in every creative slump is self-doubt, a feeling that you’re losing your creative ability.

John Pototschnik, Big Bend National Park – 12×20

Of course, it isn’t true, but it certainly feels that way. It just reiterates what I’ve said many times…if we rely on our feelings to be aligned before doing anything, we will accomplish very little.

During a particularly bad episode, I remember entering the studio and realizing I couldn’t even remember how to start a painting. I felt I had forgotten everything. I mean it; I sat there for some time in a foggy haze. Every attempt at painting just added to a growing sense of hopelessness and frustration.

John Pototschnik, Junctions, 20×40

One question asked of many artists that I’ve interviewed for my blog is: “When you become discouraged and feel the well is dry, so to speak, what do you do?

Three responses were most prevalent: 1) Show up, keep painting, get to work 2) Change it up. Try a different medium or subject. 3) Take a break. Do something totally different such as going for a long walk, gardening, visiting an art museum or enjoying a good art book.

John Pototschnik, Staying Home, 16×27

For me, and it works every time, I get out of the studio and paint en plein air. Because we are all unique individuals, every artist needs to find what works best for them. When experiencing such slumps, some have suggested the following:

1) Don’t sit and sulk.

2) Focus on related activities.

3) Tidy up the studio.

4) Get out and exercise.

5) Create in an unfamiliar place.

6) Learn something new.

7) Start small, build small successes.

8) Don’t compare your work with others.

9) Look for inspiration through the work of artists you most admire.

10 Don’t hang around doubters or negative people.

11) Start sketching. One idea will lead to another.

12) Set a creative challenge.

13) Don’t procrastinate. Get to work.

My usual procedure for overcoming these discouraging slumps is to start something new, create many small studies (4″x 6″ range) of possible future paintings, or get outside and paint on location.

John Pototschnik, Weston Watermill, 16×20

Many artists, when going through such times, have expressed that they have always come out on the other side doing better work…let’s hope that’s the case for all of us.

Artist Unknown

‘Art detectives’ hunt down hidden masterpieces

Art history geeks hunker down and get your freak on: there’s a free-to-watch BBC video series called “Art Detectives” that follows a team of two as they hunt down hidden masterpieces of British art. The two are  sifting through the vast ART UK database of art in public collections. Once they’ve identified a diamond in the rough, they take a camera crew along as they attempt to rescue unsigned paintings from undeserved obscurity by establishing attribution to the artist who painted them.

One researcher uses digital technology, restoration, and sharp-eyed style comparisons to decipher and authenticate the mystery paintings. The other researcher revivifies the colorful lives and events surrounding the work’s subject.

They’re on season five now, and the show is fun and lively, turning what could otherwise be a very dry and stuffy affair into an entertaining, eye-opening ride.