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Have you ever noticed in the beginning of making your art that everything feels easy and then, after working for a while it gets more difficult? You simply are not sure what to do next. Progress slows and then interest wanes. Being stubborn, I usually will just continue to try harder and harder. Sometimes this works, but more often than not, things just become messier, and I become more muddled. It is a part of making art that I find really frustrating.

Over the years, because I so dislike this situation, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it why it occurs. For me, it turns out this problem has nothing to do with what kind of materials I am using, what I ate for lunch or whether I am feeling confident or not.

It feels like I temporarily have lost my creativity. But how could that be? I finally figured out the problem. It has mostly to do with losing objectivity.

I define “objectivity”, in relationship to art making, as the ability to perceive the art you are making not just from the artist’s perspective, but also as the viewer, the person who is seeing the art for the first time. To wear both these hats is tricky, especially for the artist. We just get so immersed in the process of making the art that we simply lose this outside perspective. It is this outside view, however, that provides us with the ability to make a lot of the bigger decisions needed to move the work towards completion. Without it we can become lost in the minutiae of the process.

This was such a problem for me that I had to change the way I make Art. These three changes have helped me maintain objectivity longer and have lessened the occurrences of becoming lost along the way.

1 Work on multiples

I always work on several paintings at the same time. Switching to another artwork as soon as I start to feel my interest waning allows me to stay engaged in my process. Interestingly, once I embark upon a second painting with a completely different set of problems, this somehow allows me to better understand the problems of the first. When things get hard I just move on to another painting. I always have at least 3 paintings going at the same time.

2 Work in more intervals

I finally figured out I am way more productive, especially if things are not going easily, if I work for an hour three separate times, instead of working one time for 3 hours.

Having breaks, doing new things between the times I am making art allows me to come back to my art with a refreshed objectivity. I just never have enough time to feel bored in the process because I don’t stay too long. Objectivity is always strongest, for me, in the beginning, when I first return.

3 Experiment along the way.

I noticed that if I was really engaged in what I was making, that my decisions were not only better, but also more easily made. In other words, if things were happening in my art that were new and different for me I could better know what to do. My problems would seem to happen more when I was becoming bored from doing something I had done before. So in order to fix this I now make a concerted effort to spend some time experimenting in my process. I take way more risks and simply try to do new things along the way. I now know that not knowing what might happen next is an essential feeling that I just simply must frequently feel if I want to easily and consistently make art that I like.

Making Art is a process that is so personal and very nuanced. It can be super challenging or it can feel incredibly light and easeful. How do you maintain objectivity in your process? What helps you make the art you love?

In gratitude, Nicholas

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