Navigating through the creative doldrums

I am always relieved and pleased when I finish something. I’m a devoted list maker, and the black ink mark across a task or goal is tremendously satisfying…

The problem comes the next day or week when I am faced with the proverbial blank canvas. In my case, it is a clean studio, surfaces ink-free, drying rack without a mid-way linocut. The process of thinking of the next work, the next project, feels a little like the doldrums. In maritime use, the doldrums are a place without wind, where a sailor could be trapped for some time. We also think of it as a state of inactivity, of low energy or mild depression.

So like the sailor who is trapped without winds, I begin the process of shaking the sails to try to get moving again. While I blithely write “new series” on Monday’s to-do list, the reality is that it takes some time to come up with new ideas. My ideas lately have been circling around global climate change, especially our country’s willingness to harvest our below-ground energy sources like tar sands, rather than increasing our use of renewable energy. I live in a coal-burning state, so even my time on the computer is emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

But how to put these noodlings into actual artwork? Sometimes I have to sneak around this problem, so to get my creative brain out of the doldrums, I do experiments.

Layers of leftover inks, provide an interesting starting point for this exploration.
An experiment thinking about layers. The first two layers came from blend rolls of leftover inks. The current layer was a tinted lemon yellow…

Two questions are being explored in my studio currently:
1) How will a shaped block (i.e. not a traditional geometric shape) affect an image.
2) How would the inclusion of Japanese paper (a la chine collé) affect an overall image.

Hexagon shapes are carved into the block before the image is printed.
Will your eye still be able to recognize the image if it is interrupted by this geometric pattern? Halfway through this question…

To do these experiments, I usually use odd-sized leftover lino blocks and the parts of the paper torn off full sheets from previous work. In this process, nothing is precious. I don’t attempt to make each one the same. With each new step, I think about what the next variation might be.

Leftover inks in a blend roll.
Leftover inks provide a starting point. I don’t even mix them well.

I find most of these experiments fail. But the process of being in the studio, rolling out some luscious color, and spending time noodling rather than trying to solve the world’s energy crisis is enough to provide that ooomph that just might get me out of the doldrums.

Trying out Japanese papers as part of the composition.
Experimenting with Japanese paper inclusions (in the chine collé method.) So far it just confuses my eyes, but I will finish the experiment before I finally decide.

I’ll report next week on the results of the experiments,  — the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly. Who knows what might come of it…

2 Replies to “Navigating through the creative doldrums”

  1. This looks like a GREAT process! I find I really only have ideas when I'm working on things–and each thing gives me ideas for the next thing. I usually have several projects going at once, so there's never that blank, in-between time….

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