THE CHINESE FINGER TRAP: Artist's Block
I had a rare problem this last week. I had an "Artist's Block". You've heard the expression "Writer's Block". It's close. I found myself in the middle of a pile of projects. I guess that could be a good thing these days. Illustrating about six bookcovers and, in one case, I got honestly stuck. I mean, it was the book which contained three stories so this made it somewhat of a problem. The problem was the lacking of ideas was causing me to become doubtful and feeling bad about my other ideas for other projects. That can be disasterous.
The first thing I did was get away. I got out of my studio and out of the state to Salem, Mass to deliver artwork for a show we're doing there(more in the next post on that). The rain, the dreary day, and getting away to a historic coastal location, instantly gave me an idea then, on how to proceed on this piece.
So, I jettisoned all the ideas I had. And Winslow Homer.... gave me the answer. His epic sea paintings showed me that, in this case, less-is-better. With all due respect to authors, sometimes artists need to completely go another direction and be less connected to the actual story, at least narratively. The problem with Fantasy and Science Fiction illustration is that, the very genre gives it this "box" that can be hard to escape from. It's good to follow the story, or at least the mood, but, narrative art should not always be the final goal. There seems to be this rule or some kind of regulation that art has to stick solely to the text. Sometimes, again, with apologies to authors, the text is often not that descriptive nor, the descriptions visually interesting. That isn't to say the story isn't great or does not have a great mood. So, taking a hint from artists like Turner, Constable, Homer and others...go for the mood. As I get older I realize that capturing a mood is far more important to a piece than is, a piece based on every single word written.
So doing art can be sometimes like a Chinese finger trap-the more you tug and pull and panic, the tighter the grip gets on your fingers and the more confused you get...so....relax and let go, and it simply falls off. Much the same way an idea just falls into your head. Sometimes you just let it happen.