When you Hit a Plateau
An artist's journey is just like life - learning, practicing, playing, improving working. And just like life, sometimes we feel like we are going backwards, sliding downhill, loosing grip on what you used to do well, what used to feel good and come more naturally.
I have a theory about this. As you learn and seek to be a better artist, you are trying to incorporate more knowledge, more techniques, more possibilities. Or maybe you are trying to correct a 'bad' habit. I say 'bad' because this is art, not chemistry. Nothing is going to explode if you mix the wrong thing. Still maybe you realize something you do is hindering something else you would LIKE to do.
So now you are ready to create with new perimeters swimming around in your brain. The times you try to do something new you are likely to 'see' the TRY. It might look forced, overworked or just plan wrong. Don't despair, remember you are trying to learn something new – good for you.
I like to draw an analogy to watching my daughter play soccer. In the young years I called it the 'swarm of bees' technique. Every kid on the field is following that ball trying to get a foot on it. This is an important learning stage. They are practicing kicking, dribbling, and if you are really lucky - passing. My girl followed that ball with the kind of killer instinct that can not be taught!
Then they had to start playing positions. Suddenly, she was so focused that some of the joy came out of it. She looked awkward and slow and far too reserved. But she was learning. She had new rules she was trying to incorporate. That takes a lot of focus.
Eventually, she got it. The new perimeters became the second, second nature. And she looked good out there again. And most of all – she enjoyed it again.
So push through those tough patches. Don't give up on trying to improve – you can do it. It just takes practice. Practice until it becomes the second, second nature. Enjoy that phase. Celebrate by painting and painting and painting. Then try to improve again..
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Melissa Tai is a lifelong creative, nature lover & tree hugger.