Blocks: The Artistic Rollercoaster

Getting A Fresh Perspective

Sneaky Devils

If we paint/create often enough and long enough it's inevitable that we will encounter some blocks, a bad day, bad month, and sometimes a bad year or worse, years. These artistic pitfalls can take the form of a bump, a slump or a creative black hole. They are sneaky devils as well. You never know if they are going to creep up on you slowly or attack when you least expect it, hitting you over the head, suddenly, from behind, with a cast iron frying pan, again and again. I've visited these places many times to various degrees over the 35 years of professional painting. To those lucky souls that have escaped this experience, I say, keep working, you'll get there!

Friend or Foe?

These blocks wear disguises and come in many forms, mental, physical, emotional and technical. Sometimes you feel you're battling a multi-headed demon and don't know which head to chop off first. You find yourself thrashing around becoming more and more fatigued and defeated. Before you reach for a bottle of Xanax and wash it down with a jumbo daiquiri to calm your nerves over the struggles associated with our chosen profession, please read on. There's hope.

From Breakdown to Breakthrough

This is not the end my friend unless you allow it to be. Making art is a wonderful tool for self discovery, learning creative problem solving (which helps us in every aspect of our lives), and a satisfying vocation that allows us to follow our hearts and live our dream. Yet, we all know it's darkest just before the dawn. If we persevere, these struggles become a breakdown ( mini or major) that help lead us to a break through. These, um, “opportunities for learning”, once the enemy, later become our friends that gave us the motivation to make a necessary change gifting us with more satisfaction in our art making.

When to Seek Help

Have you ever had any of these thoughts?
I'll never be a good artist.
I start out OK, but ruin it before I'm finished.
I don't know how she/he painted that, I could never do that.
There is some secret key I'm missing.
I don't have talent.
A smarter person would have quit by now.(My personal favorite!)
I hate my studio and my paintings.
Why do they always get recognized, they're not any better than I am.
I always get overlooked.
The kids/ parents, friends, (insert your own words here) NEED me.
This list could go on for pages, as we all know, but before you drive off the nearest bridge, why not read the good news?

The Good News

Today with the internet we can all find support and qualified instruction in the comfort of our own studio. Life, with all it's surprises, will present each of us with challenges that are both unique and universal. Twists and turns create detours in even the best laid plans. Things happen: marriage, kids, divorce, marriage, kids, divorce (just checking if you're still paying attention;), moving, shifting economy, aging parents, single parenthood, health challenges, financial needs and more. Is it really fair to expect ourselves to always be on top of our game with everything that we have going on in our lives? To set unrealistic expectations and pressure ourselves only leads to a vicious cycle of failure. Your mission should you choose to accept it is to Find The Support You Need and set yourself up for a vicious cycle of success!

A Fresh Perspective

How? You're probably thinking about now: “OK, tell me something I don't know. If I already knew how to fix the problem I wouldn't be in this mess right now. I want some answers pronto or I'm gonna come hit you over the head with a frying pan!” I hear you. Buckle up baby, here you go:
Often the cause for our dissatisfaction can simply be a technical issue that we're overlooking. This can more easily be identified by someone other than yourself. Beware here and use caution when seeking advice. Don't ask your cousin or your friend from the book club. Ask the advice of someone who has experience and whose work you admire. It's possible they will pin point a basic fundamental artistic principle that you can strengthen that will give you back your creative zest back.

Magic Pill

The magic pill may lie in your internal dialogue. Oh no! Are you your own best advocate or do you constantly berate yourself with unrealistic expectations, always falling short of the mark? As artists we are going to continually grow (we hope!) but it does leave us with a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. We're always chasing that next painting, just beyond our reach. While this keeps us going in a healthy way it can quickly turn to the dark side. Stretching too far too fast can lead to a series of flops that destroy our confidence. Turn this recipe for disaster into one of success by getting support from someone who can help you with a step by step program to help you achieve your personal goals. Then work the plan, one baby step at a time. Painting is a journey, not a race. You wouldn't drive across country without a map, or a GPS would you?

The Million Dollar Question

This is the million dollar question: How can I create a satisfying art life and share my unique gifts with others, without getting burned out? Truthfully you probably can't. Life has ups and downs but you don't have to fall off the face of the earth, never to return. Obviously there are as many different answers to the question as there are artists on the planet. It's all about finding what's right for you. Not to worry. The only thing that is definite about this wonderful adventure called life is that change is inevitable. Yet sometimes when you're in pain it doesn't happen quickly enough. So, what can you do about your current level of artistic satisfaction? Try to set a reasonable pace and realistic goals for yourself. When you start to lose your balance learn to read your early warning signals. For me, when I paint too much or when I don't paint enough, I get grouchy. That's my red flag to make some adjustments. Deep within you know what you need, whether it's to ask for help, phone a friend, or take a class. But only you can determine your attitude. Our attitude can defeat us or inspire us to create new paths to success. If you can change your mind set, you can shift your circumstances, although it might not be easy, but remember, you are not alone.

If you are interested in more information on my mentor-shop program please email me at  To preserve my personal painting time I only work with a limited number of artists at a time.

Bruce Bingham
Artist and Creative Mentor

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