Artist’s block and the hummingbird…
December 8, 2016
This is where I’ve been most nights…alone, wrapped up, escaped to music (Beethoven recently), and painting who knows what. I step into this space with the hope that maybe this is the night the canvas will come alive. And it just hasn’t lately. To paint nothing that eventually turns into something can be tough to explain…it’s an action rather, to express the inner into the outer. And for weeks, trying to develop new techniques, the canvas has shown me muted, not full of life, frustration. Some call it artist’s block…and that’s when the self-doubt can creep in, and a hummingbird to stop it.
Earlier this week, while painting outside at sunrise, with cold hands covered in paint trying to make something happen, I had that moment: “I can’t paint anymore…there’s nothing left.” And I kinda broke down. I stood there defeated, standing over my shitty canvas in tears, thinking this isn’t working, nothing is working, and screw you. I was over it. Then out of nowhere, I felt a tap on my head. “What?” I looked up, and a hummingbird was buzzing its wings, inches away from me. My heart dropped…”really?” I kinda broke down even more as this bird represented a friend for all who knew him…the “Birdman,” who passed away over a year ago. It was his favorite bird, and I miss my friend. He used to encourage me and his wife, my dear friend, to paint often, way back before I considered this as a career. Maybe the hummingbird was a message from him, saying “snap out of it!” and maybe not. Either way it was good timing and a bit of comic relief that my friend was very good at.
The frustration over a painting wasn’t it at all. It was simply an opportunity to stop and let the struggle in because it needed to come out. The struggle being anything. Painting can be a portal, a mirror, no? Creativity is a process of feeling everything and transforming that into something profound, life-changing even. The struggle isn’t a bad thing…it’s part of the process, which in return creates a deeper expression. Any artist can tell you that. The lesson is to trust it, not force it, and not let it stop you.
I tell my students often, “the moment you think, it’s over,” and the whole essence of Art Alchemy is to get out of your head. “How do we get out of our head?” a student once asked. “A lot of practice,” I responded.
After watching the hummingbird fly away, I hosed down the canvas (very liberating), got out of the house for a few hours, and painted again that night…back alone, wrapped up, escaped to music (Beethoven), with the hope that maybe this is the night the canvas will come alive.
From the hummingbird to you…keep going.