When artists are stuck, I often ask: “what do you need?” This question can be answered quickly (“more time!” “more money!”) but if you let yourself go deeper you may be surprised to discover that you need to find another way to nurture your creative spirit. You need to create negative space.
Many artists seek inspiration by looking at art online. They spend hours following other artists on Instagram. They take advice from people (like me) and attend virtual art fairs or virtual gallery and museum shows. But when you are struggling to find your own voice, this kind of research can backfire. You imagine that everyone else is more confident or successful than you are. Everyone else is creating art that is socially or politically relevant, so you think your art doesn’t matter. Gradually you begin to lose touch with your own best instincts.
So when you’re struggling to create, build in negative space. Allow empty or blank areas between your busy daily life and your art practice. Make a real transition, instead of thinking you can flip a switch. Give yourself not just time but also the mental and emotional space to work. Shut off the noise from the internet and the TV. Stop filling up your art time with other artists and “art activities” and seek your own silence.
Allow yourself to touch your materials and tools, without a plan in mind. Be patient and present in your own art space. Look at your work, certainly, but let yourself slowly discover what is inside you. Sometimes you must first get comfortable with a blank canvas or an empty wall. Get comfortable with doing nothing for awhile.
Negative space is the seemingly empty space between things. It allows your next inspiration to come.
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”
As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.