WHERE HAS MY MUSE GONE?
So recently I had lost my muse and I have spoken about losing my mojo, to which I think I mean, inspiration. I believe we’ve all been there in some way or another and the longer you’ve been doing ‘your art’ the more certainly you’ll have found yourself in a bit of a creative lull.
My Facebook friends regularly suggest various ways to get the mojo back whilst others insist on a break, to clear the head. I think in the past couple of days I have had somewhat of a moment of clarity regarding the slump I find myself in. We all speak of losing our mojo and with that definition in mind I came to the conclusion that I need to actively find it. If it’s lost it ain’t just going to come back, there has to be a bunch of things we need to do, to rediscover our Artistic will, our muse, our mojo. We do this with brush and paints in hand!
YOU MUST LOOK FOR YOUR MUSE
Just like a material thing, like losing your keys, we will go back to the last place we remember having them. So I think that is what I need to do also. To find my muse proactively. Go back to the time I felt inspired and perhaps a particular project I was super happy with. Think about the various things that constituted and influenced your mojo, get back the feel good factor, replicate routines, practices etc.
One such time for me was when I painted the Mushroom Shaman from Mindwork Games, a wonderful concept, great figure, lots of textures and something that cried out for an elaborate scenic base. Through going through my plinths I had available at the time I found one which gave me so many clues as to the design and composition, everything just seemed to fall into place. This was where I wanted to take myself back to, I needed to choose a figure I loved and create a scene. I find base building very relaxing, almost therapeutic, so I decided that Lozza from Latorre would be the figure. I will come back to this throughout this short article.
We’ve all been left reeling by a lack of inspiration, which effects our motivation and these negative things then seem to impact on our ability to even paint something to a standard we have grown accustomed to. Sometimes I even feel that I’ve forgotten HOW to paint! We put so much pressure on ourselves to create, create, create, whether it be to upload to the web, enter a competition or even the soul sapping commissions that seem to hang around our necks like the proverbial Albatross. What makes it even worse is this sense of responsibility, or a certain deadline that makes us feel the need to paint and complete something even when we are in this creative void.
I have also come to the realisation that the person or indeed the Artist I am today is vastly different from just three years ago and that I’ve outgrown certain figures, techniques or even tools. I suspect actually my muse or mojo just got bored of me doing the same thing and wandered off. It’s my job to find her and to do so I probably need to try something new. Not necessarily a new genre or a new style or type of Art, but to change my routines or to at least have an open mind about other approaches.
Think about each time you start a new project, that beginning stage when we don’t seem to know what to do…..the muse or mojo isn’t there immediately we find it through inspiration, we find it through research, deciding our colours, deciding our narrative and then somehow, almost subconsciously it is just there, urging us forwards. We find the mojo in a different place every time, every time we start something new, we have to stoke the fire again. It’s this realisation that helps me the most, it’s not that I forgot how to paint, or that this magical mojo is gone, I just need to find her again and to do so I think there are certain things you and I can do!
ACTIVITIES THAT CAN HELP
Keep a notebook
I regularly come up with creative ideas whether they be for a figure or scenic base, or I see a colour combination or texture out on a nature walk with kids, but have forgotten it all, with busy home life filling my thoughts. Writing down ideas and thoughts as they pop into your head, sketching what you’ve seen or writing down details or even something you’ve heard can become invaluable when thinking of your next project!. So when you are stuck for ideas you can refer to your trusty notebooks there may just be a golden nugget amongst all of the nonsense!
Indeed for the Lozza project I wrote a bunch of ideas down and eventually settled on the one that I would go on to create. I had seen amazing paintworks of this figure and most placed him in an apocalyptic setting. Yet for me he seems to have some native Indian influences and so I wanted to place him somewhere natural, unspoilt.
Create storylines, use adjectives to describe and analyse your environment, maybe go back to basics such as brush control and simple painting exercises.
For Lozza, I decided he would be a protector of his ancestral lands, hunting down intruders and marauders, despatching justice.
I knew I wanted a natural looking base and so in hand with painting the figure, I began to build the base. Thinking about composition, balance and narrative.
This has been proven to put you in a good mood as it releases dopamine in the brain, making you happy, energised and alert. Being in a good frame of mind definitely makes me more positive and that feeling of positivity often transfers itself to confidence and motivation. I’m not saying hit the gym or become a fitness nut, but stretches in the morning, going for a walk or as I’ve done recently, gardening, can all help with a positive mindset.
It was gardening this time that unearthed a bunch of scenic gems, branches, roots, dried flowers and the such. A walk along the river near our house also provided me with visual information on how the various elements leading up the front of the base could be represented.
May sound a little obscure and wishywashy but could give a foundation to build on. For instance creating a small project, try water effects or snow and ice, create a small scene, try speed painting and setting yourself time goals. Working to something differently may uncover a Bob Ross ‘happy mistake’.
Again, here I can pinpoint where this applied to Lozza. I had initially planned to create a base that was viewed from the side rather than the front. So some of those elements at the front were initially placed there with another view in mind. I wanted to push the boundaries of what was acceptable within good composition. In the end I opted for the front view but now I had to trim certain details for balance and harmony and so as not to be distracting to the viewers eye and to ensure the focus stayed with the figure itself. The figure when complete took Bronze at Euro Miniature Expo and I was really happy when Mike Blank said the composition and balance were perfect and showed a great understanding of the principles, these words were so much more important than the award. It was a vindication in my decisions and a testament to my growing understanding of a complex subject.
Maybe trying drawing, or oils on canvas or even digital Art will force your brain to think differently and in turn see things in a new way that could lead to inspiration in your chosen genre. Another thing I have done from time to time that has actually had great results is to listen to music lyrics, read poetry or research folklore/mythology. There may just be a snippet of detail that can inspire an entire project.
For this project I found that listening to traditional music really helped me, from Mongolian throat singing to native Indian flutes and shamanic chanting.
For years I had a corner in the lounge or bedroom where I would paint, but was surrounded by distractions and family life. Thankfully I now have my own dedicated room/studio. My biggest issue is procrastination and usually caused by distractions, so if you don’t have your own room, at least ensure you have a quiet space, without distractions that you can separate, you the Artist and you, the partner, father, mother or whatever.
Preparation and Planning
One of the nicest moments for me is when I finish a project and clean my desk down and tidy everything up. I always do this and it helps to motivate me for the next project. Even if you haven’t finished a project, tidy up, lay your brushes and paints out, clean palette and water and have everything set for a planned painting session the following day. The ultimate clean start…….
Sometimes we just need a break, to dust off the cobwebs, get some fresh air into our lungs. Fill a backpack with camera, notebook, food and drink and explore somewhere. This kinda brings together Exercise and Other Mediums too. Find inspiration in our environment, light and colour is all around us.
Of course there’s every chance that you haven’t lost your mojo at all, it’s still there for you, you have ideas, maybe too many and your procrastination is just how your fear to fail has manifested itself. Yet we learn far more from our failures than we do our successes and that itself could be the issue. I’ve plateaued as an Artist, happy with my ‘successes’ to the point that I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone because doing so is scary and so where I am and where my mojo is, are two different places. This takes us back to the beginning and the need to find our lost mojo, with that in mind I hope some of the suggestion above can help you.
As I always say we are on a journey it is just easy sometimes to forget this, to expect instant results, yet let’s not forget we did not get this far by not learning, practicing and taking risks. You just need to realise that there is so much further to go and it all begins with one step, the next brush stroke!