There is an undeniable ebb and flow when it comes to creativity. There are times when ideas and the desire to create flood an artist’s life. All one can think of is finding a moment here or there – or really a day here or there – to get lost in this sea of creativity. But then comes the ebb where all inertia is lost and any new work seems forced and uninspired. Empty. An artist is forced to retreat and think.
The difficult part of being an artist is that unlike the tides this ebb and flow is often irregular and unpredictable. It is easy to get nervous in the ebb. “What if I ran out of inspiration.” But I urge artists to embrace this time.
The ebb phase is a period of retreat and replenishment of reserves. And then the tides turn. In art thoughts are collected, the artists reflects on recent and past work and on recent inspirations. It may be the artist is stumped on how to resolve an issue in their work or needs to tap a new inspiration. Whether the artist is consciously thinking about their work or completely taking a break the subconscious is working. The artist may not even recognize it but growth occurs in this period. Growth occurs and when enough is built up the flow will start again.
The seasoned artist will be able to look back over their life and see the ebbs and flows of their career. In hindsight these periods may appear to span years but more is to be gained if the artist can recognize these changes in the tide on a monthly or even weekly basis.
A couple of months ago I realized I wanted to change the direction of my work and this brought on an ebb phase. I felt unhappy with my work, out of control and uninspired. Something was wrong and I needed time to think about it. I did not know what I wanted to fix and therefore how to do it but I embraced this and decided to step back, look around, learn and grow. The Coming up for Air post marks the start of this phase. The ACC show and metalsmithing classes where components of the growth that occurred and now I feel the tides have turned and creativity is beginning to flow again with the inspiration of negative space.
I now have a very clear picture of what was wrong with my work and how I should change it. I am left wondering which phase, the ebb or the flow, is more productive.
Artists, do not get down in the ebb. Embrace it. The tide will turn again when your creativity is replenished.