How to Get New Ideas for Painting

by | Oct 27, 2009 | Blog | 5 comments

A friend of mine recently described a break-through experience she had. She was having a creative block and went to a well known artist/teacher for some help. The teacher gave her 10 small sheets of glass, about 8” x 10” and told her she had only one hour to complete a painting on each piece of glass during that time. After the hour was over, the teacher took out a hammer and told her to smash them all. After shattering the paintings she was then instructed to create something using the shattered pieces. This exercise had momentous results. First of all, creating many small paintings in a short specified time period gets your creative juices flowing, and you can work through many ideas quickly. By smashing the paintings, it creates a powerful ritual to let go of attachment. My friend did remark how difficult it was to destroy something she just made and liked. Then, by using the pieces to create something else she was creating something new from something destroyed, which shifts the painting process to a cycle rather than a linear process. This reminds me of something I like to use for myself and students in my workshops. I have an idea that I want to use for a painting. As a metaphor I think of this first idea as an “egg”. I use the initial idea to get something going on the canvas. After awhile I get to a point where I can feel a resistance happening. This is the time where the egg needs to be broken to make an omelet. In other words, I need to let go of the initial idea, by removing my reference material from sight, or letting myself paint over sections, or introduce something very new. It’s a point where I need to let the paintings start to have some say in the process, and by letting go of some of the control, not pushing so hard to get that end result I had in mind, I will most likely end up with something very new, maybe surprising, but most definitely more powerful than if I had forced the painting to continue in the same line of thought as in the beginning. I like to let the process change my mind. And in this way painting never ceases to be inspiring.

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5 Comments

  1. DJ

    I have often used the timed painting idea for students who were a bit OCD in their painting process. It works. 🙂

    Reply
  2. IamANT

    I had an drawing professor do something similar back in college. He would put the timer on and "force the pedal down on our creativity" as he use to say.

    Reply
  3. Stephanie Clayton

    some great suggestion here for breaking through those creative blocks.
    to anonymous- you could try cutting through the finished canvas with a box cutter, perhaps? just a thought..

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    eek! I only paint on canvas, how do I smash them up!! but I do have many blocks, and I am having one now!! Great post!

    Reply
  5. Barbara Danin

    Nancy – I like the idea:
    "egg needs to be broken to make an omelet". This could definitely help me move through blocks and I'll keep it in mind in the future!
    Very nice work as well!

    Barbara Danin
    http://www.barbaradanin.com

    Reply

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Professional fine artist Nancy Reyner’s blog about art, painting and creativity. Her career spans over 30 years. She lives in Santa Fe in the US. Subscribe below for free tips on art and painting.

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