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How do you deal with artist’s block?

Annelise Yee

 Annelise Yee

Guest Teaching Assistant
Jeweler & Designer

Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu

Art Prof & Partner

Casey Roonan, Comics Artist & Cartoonist

Casey Roonan

Teaching Assistant
Cartoonist & Comics Artist

Partial Video Transcript

Prof Lieu: “Artist’s block is one of those things that I just think is inevitable. If you are going to work as an artist, you’re going to have to deal with it at some point, and not just a few times maybe way more often than you would like to. It’s hard, and I think it is important to develop strategies that help you when you get to that point. So, I’m wondering for you guys, what do you do when that happens?”

Annelise: “I get out of wherever I am.”

Prof Lieu: “Like, physically?”

Annelise: “Yeah, I just leave. Because, I think sometimes when I’m in studio for hours trying to think of what I can possibly do for an assignment or a gallery, just being in the same place surrounded by the same things is not going to inspire me, and so I need to go for a walk. it’s helped me before. I had a project and I had 24 hours to complete it because I waited till last minute, don’t do that, and I had no idea what to do, and I stepped outside and went for a walk and I was inspired. I was inspired by the leaves that were falling around me as it was fall, and I went back and I pounded that assignment out for 24 hours.

Casey: “We, as artists, often feel this pressure to be self generating all the time, and to take things from a really internal, personal place. But, like, read a book! Think about something else other than your own experience or open yourself to new experiences, and that can be a great source of subject matter.”

Annelise: “I think that’s true as I’m always taking preventative steps so I don’t get artist block. So, I feel like I need to constantly have things filtering through my life that will always be giving me inspiration to know when I need to generate work I’m not at such a loss.”

Prof Lieu: “It’s funny because I feel like I get my best ideas when I’m not in the studio, and usually when I’m in the studio it’s because I’ve formulated something in advance, and I know what I’m going to do. Actually, I get a lot of my ideas when I’m running on the treadmill, because what else am I going to do while I’m running, just ruminate about what I want to do, and I feel like it’s killing two birds with one stone because I’m exercising and I’m also thinking about my artwork. So, it feels very productive.

Like, a lot of people will say to me, ‘Oh, you’re an artist! Well you must read books about artists all the time!” And I’m like ‘Actually, I don’t, like I never do.’ There’s this book ‘The Art Spirit’ which is very popular and everybody is like, “Ah, you should read it!” and I’m like, ‘no’, as I’ve been reading books about medicine and other completely different topics and for some reason that sparks something almost like you said that change of pace is really important.
I mean, what helps me sometimes is to change the media. So, if I’m doing a lot of drawings, and the drawings are driving me up the wall, I’ll just take out a hunk of clay and do something else.”

Annelise: “I agree, I was having a very hard time generating work for my degree project which is focusing on creating jewelry, and I took a class on screen printing, and after that class I had a new approach to my degree project. Just that space away from the materials that I’m used to working with and just seeing things in a new light really helped to generate ideas.”

Casey: “A lot of your best ideas come to you when you aren’t in the studio and you aren’t really thinking about art necessarily, and I think that’s a really good argument for keeping up a practice of making a sketchbook. I think that’s really what the sketchbook is for, it’s for recording your ideas so you don’t totally lose them. So, when I feel like I don’t really know what I want to make work about, I go through old sketchbooks and I guarantee that if you do that you’re going to find some idea in there, even if it’s something that acts as an anachronistic as you happen upon a page where one idea is juxtaposed next to another one totally arbitrarily…”

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