Creative Resilience

So in those times of self doubt, or when you’re hit by  the need to create but there’s nothing coming to you, it can be really tough as a creative. I often have moments where the desire to make is overwhelming, but all my ideas have decided to desert me – which is ridiculously frustrating! There are also the times when the ideas are there, but because of external sources the mood just isn’t with you.

I’ve faced both within the last week or so, and have had to really push myself through both the internal and external difficulties – but it’s been worth it, and I feel like I’ve got a few good things on the go now that I can really get my teeth into.

There is alot to be said for putting the effort in despite yourself, pushing through when it feels like you can’t, and just blindly making when your mind is grey. Once you get past those moments of difficulty, you feel so much more powerful and accomplished. They will come back, and that is just part of being an artist (or any kind of creative being!!) It’s knowing that you’ve pushed through before that will help you push through again. Each time you do, you will find yourself stronger on the other side and more determined to keep doing what you’re doing.

Last week I’d gone to the studio after work with the express intent to just make something, but arrived and my mind was blank. All those ideas jotted down in notebooks, sketches and doodles of possible prints – it was like they’d never existed! I had a chat with some fellow printers, stared blankly at a table top for a bit – and then told myself ‘you’re here, you’ve made the effort to come, just get something done!’  The fact I was exhausted didn’t help. Up at 6:20, long as hell journey to work, 7 1/2 hour day, then studio….doesn’t make for the most actively creative mind, but then again I have heard it said that sometimes the best thing to do is work whilst you’re tired. So, I went onto my pinterest and had a look at my research boards, and I started drawing. I ended up staying at the studio until around 8pm – and although I didn’t do any printmaking, I did hash out a few pages of drawings and began to develop a new idea that I’m pretty excited about.

Fast forward to Wednesday, my new dedicated studio day (I went down to 4 days a week in January, with the idea that an increase in time to make work is worth the financial sacrifice of losing a day’s pay.) Horrendous journey across London into the studio – the Northern line suspended from south to central, multiple changes and delays and much under-my-breath swearing at the travel gods for smiting me so. I arrived at the studio in no mood to do anything, and found that the technician that had been helping me with my recent Lithography project had gone home as he’d not been feeling well.

Plans for the day scuppered. Nothing you can do. I hope he’s ok. It’s a shame he’ll miss his Spanish lesson this evening, he’s loving learning Spanish….Right….What now….

I took a deep breath, got out a couple of zinc plates that needed a ground put on, and decided to get to work on a raven print I’d been meaning to do for a while. I started by going through the motions of prepping my plates. They had some old ground on them, I got a rag and white spirit and it came off nice and easy. Then to de-grease….amonia, whiting and water, rubbed onto the plates with a bit of old press blanket until the water ran off in even cascades without repelling from the edges. Careful placement of tissue paper to dry. Then to the hot plate. I dig my nails into the 2 non-descript brown blocks to distinguish hard from soft, and place the hard lump on my plate to let it melt a little. Smears of mordant across my plates. I roll the ground out to an even layer with the dedicated roller, and carefully remove them without burning my hands or disturbing the ground. I love the satisfaction of carrying out tasks like this. Things you can do without really having to think, that just come as natural actions that are an extension of you.

Zinc plates prepped with a hard ground

Plates prepped, I sat and drew until lunch – figuring out the construction of my image. Consumed my consumables. Transferred my final sketch to one of the plates with tissue paper and red chalk, and got to work with my etching needle.

Figuring out my raven
The stage my plate was at when I decided the day was done

After only 5 hours in the studio, I had gone from emotionally exhausted and mentally not-in-the-mood to creatively exhilarated. My elbows ached from working in a strange hunch, and my wrist and fingers were stiff and sore – and I absolutely loved it.




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