Saturday, November 10, 2012


As an artist, counselor, and art instructor, I am fascinated by the creative process. I just finished Seth Apter's book, The Pulse of Mixed Media, and found it to be an unusual and helpful book. Seth, who is a psychologist as well as an artist, asked a hundred mixed media artists about their process and feelings about creating. I felt very connected to my tribe after reading this book. I felt connected regarding the joy of creating and also the obstacles and setbacks.

One of my specialties is helping others out of their creative impasses and I think I'm pretty good at it. But that doesn't mean I don't run into my own blocks, just the same. I've felt at a crossroads with my art lately and have had difficulty making myself go into the studio and create. ( I call it Practicing the Fine Art of Studio Avoidance.)There, I've said it. I think almost all artists get blocked sometimes, or maybe it's that we are empty. 

For me, I love teaching and consider it one of my greatest joys. But maybe I've been doing a little too much of it. Maybe I'm reluctant to deal with feelings and issues that will come out in my art. Maybe new creativity is percolating and hasn't come to the surface yet. Maybe I haven't been having enough new experiences or haven't looked at enough inspiring art and nature. This is for me to figure out and the first step is getting all the icky stuff out and containing it in my work. 

When I realized I was really in a slump regarding my art itself and my art career, I scheduled a consultation with my friend and mentor, Lesley Riley. Lesley has given me an assignment to do just for myself. My observing self watches me vacillate about getting started. I know I'm not alone in this.

I'm going to share the "getting it out" pieces with you. I'm striving not to criticize them for lack of artistic merit, but rather to rejoice in how I have expressed to myself what's going on inside.

 Burning Bridge   Pigment, Cold Wax, Collage on Panel

Watchers      Pigment, Cold Wax on Canvas

Where it Happened   Pigment, Cold Wax on Panel

In my next post I'll share some of my favorite methods of unblocking creativity and I'll let you know how I'm doing! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please contribute your thoughts and experiences. We're all in this together.


Judy Wise said...

I applaud this work so much, Serena. "Burning Bridge" speaks to me strongly as there are so many changes at the time of life for me and despite wanting to keep everything as it's always been, it's obvious that I've had to make some changes and let some things go that I really wanted to keep.

I didn't burn those bridges on purpose. But I do see them burning behind me and that's unsettling.

Thank you for sharing this challenge with us. You have company.


Serena Barton said...

Thanks, Judy! Your comments on the burning bridges expresses my feelings
exactly. Thank you for sharing also.


Jessica Sporn said...

Thank you for this post. I have been feeling very unsettled and ungrounded. For me, part of it is that I recently found the mixed media world and have been learning so many different techniques that I'm not sure of my own voice right now. Another part is the hurricane -- it's hard to feel grounded and settled when you've seen so much instability all around you. Figuring out how to focus my energy is a big issue for me right now. I look forward to however you choose to share your journey. xo

lifeofdeb said...

I think we all go through those times where we avoid our studios. I know I do it quite often, usually when I start thinking I HAVE to get in there, rather than thinking I WANT to get in there. But I know we always find a way to work through it all.

Serena Barton said...

Thanks for your posts, Jessica and Deb!
Good point Deb, about feeling the Have to instead of the Want to. Sometimes it's better for me to wait until the Want to comes around--other times I do Have to make myself go there.

Jessica, I know what you mean about learning so many different techniques, using many media, etc. I often feel I might mature more as an artist if I stuck to one media. But that's clearly not my path! Hope you will make some art about the hurricane and your feelings about it--doesn't have to be literal. It's so easy to come up with prompts for other people:)

xo to you both


teri said...

I applaud you for going forth in this way, and for your honesty in sharing the journey with us. It's hard for me to move forward when I don't feel sure about where I'm going, so seeing someone doing that provides a very good role model, and teacher, for me.

Serena Barton said...

Thanks, Teri! It helps me to have you all as part of my community!

Pam said...

I've painted/created for over 30 years and never really had a problem getting into the studio. That is unless it was a person sabotoging my plans but that's another story. However, the past two years, since my move from Phoenix,AZ to Fargo, ND, I have not painted at all. I spend most of my time taking care of my granddaughter. The past six months I've been having a little art class with her, now that she is 2 and a half, and she seems to enjoy painting. So I cut up many watercolor sheets into smaller sizes just for her. I paint on them too...mine not hers. She doesn't like it when someone paints on hers. Hopefully, this will get me started again.

Serena Barton said...

Pam, thanks for you comments on this and the next post. Kudos to you for taking care of your granddaughter and for doing art with her. That's so great for both of you. Having a little one around certainly can make it challenging to do art, though. I hope the watercolor pieces you do with her get you inspired again.