Category: abstract

How to foster creativity when stressed or under pressure

blond woman looking stressed and under pressure

Do stress and deadline pressures have your creativity freezing up? Let me share six tips that fostered my creativity and got me back to my studio to start painting and having fun again. I hope that will work for you too.

The dilemma of the creative process (for me) is that I impose pressure on myself to make impressive, or at least good, artwork. I worry my paintings must be meaningful and pleasing, and if they aren’t, then self-doubt, fear and discouragement paralyze me from working. This self-reposed pressure was putting a lot of stress on my creativity and keeping me from painting. I needed to adjust my thinking and art practice to break this negative cycle and get me back to the joy of making art.

botanical collage paintings by Kathy Ferguson Art

In many ways, the COVID quarantine has been a positive experience for me. When the virus rates escalated in New York City almost overnight, there was speculation that Manhattan would close its borders and travel outside the borough would be restricted. The thought of getting trapped in a city had me fleeing that very day to Florida with nary an art supply in my suitcase. With no upcoming shows or commissions to finish, and few supplies to work with, I decided to let my self-imposed pressure go and just play around with the limited materials I had available (acrylics and junk mail).

I started small, making simple 6″ x 6″ painted collages. Working on up to 12 paintings at a time, I skipped around between them when I got stuck. I let myself step back and make work that didn’t need to be good. And you know what happened? My creativity came back. I was excited to go to my studio every day and see what would happen next. After finishing forty-two of these “Tidbits” paintings, I was ready to move on to something more substantial.

 

Mounting blue and white collage works on cradled wood panels

Are you feeling stressed or just unmotivated?

First, take a minute to decide how you are really feeling? Are you stressed because your kids are constantly interrupting your workflow, and you have a gallery exhibit coming up that you’re not close to ready for it? Or is it that you are feeling uninspired and lacking in motivation? For these who just need some inspiration, read my advice 7 tips I use to foster creativity when feeling unmotivated to get you up and running again.  The rest of you, keep reading.

6 tips to spark creativity when pressure is weighing you down

So the next time you’re stressed or under pressure, try these other ideas to spark your inspiration and creativity.

Stop forcing creativity

First, stop trying to “make yourself” come up with something creative. Instead of telling yourself, “I must make something great now,” instead let yourself “play around with some ideas.” You need to feel in a safe space of non-judgment and expectation to be open creatively.

Take a break from the problem

Step away for the problem and let your sub-conscience work while you go for a walk, bake a cake, or fold the laundry. The less these activities use your mind, the more available it will be to create new solutions.

illustration of blond girl making a smoothie

Focus on a single idea

While doing one of these activities, do a little brainstorming on a single idea. Go deep and think of every good, bad, and weird idea that you can. Don’t critique these ideas; you are going for quantity. Give your thoughts some space to roam and let creativity work its magic. Breaking it down into small steps will help you chip away at the problem.

Go get inspiration on Pinterest

Are you still stuck? Try looking at other people’s work. I’m not suggesting copying them, but sometimes seeing what others have done will trigger new ideas or approaches to your problem.  

Reach out to another artistic business owner

You don’t have to go it alone. Why not collaborate with another? You can pick their brain or work together. The process of talking through ideas can stimulate new thoughts and take you in a new direction.

Creativity takes time

If all else fails, perhaps you just need time. Give yourself time to mull on it. Studies show that the brain continues working while you’re asleep. A good night’s sleep will do you good. I often wake up the morning after with the answer just waiting for me.

Get more great creativity tips by signing up for my monthly newsletter HERE.

 

 

Do you miss going to galleries and museums?

Stratum mixed media collage NCS National Collage Society

Not to worry. You can take these gallery tours from your couch. Many venues are putting up online shows free to the public to enjoy. I currently have work in the following two online art exhibitions.

National Collage Society’s 23rd Annual Small Format Exhibition

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the National Collage Society Small Format Exhibit. This Postcard Exhibit is an invitational exhibition comprised of small format 4″ x 6″ postcard-sized collages. The Society defines collage is any artwork created with another layer glued onto the surface.

Click the link to Visit Nat’l Collage Society Exhibit

 

Long Island City Artists’ Spring National Collage Exhibition

One hundred eight of our artists are represented here, in LiC-A’s first online Members’ Exhibition.  Our regular exhibition venues, including the Plaxall Gallery in Long Island City, are shut down temporarily due to the current health situation. So we are using our website to provide a public space in which both artists and visitors can share in the appreciation of these incredibly exceptional and diverse talents of Queens artists.

Click the link to Visit LiC-A Spring Exhibit

Ocean Tidbit Kathy Ferguson collage mixed media
Ocean Tidbit, 1 of 9, 6″ x 6″, mixed media

 

Just a pigment of my imagination

Botanical hide and seek, cold wax CWM mixed media painting, 10" x 10", white checkboard pattern over colorful background
It’s weird how some paintings come into being.  The artwork below is one such painting. It came about through three unrelated experiments into a single, colorful work of art.

One:  I offload my leftover paints onto sheets of paper instead of throwing them out. Sometimes, I can use these paints in my collage work. This particular paper was a total mess, and I couldn’t think of any way to use it.

Two:  I needed to do a transfer test to judge paper translucency. I used this messy paper for the background paper. Now it was doubly a mess.

Three: I’ve wanted to experiment with cold-wax medium. It’s different from encaustic wax, which must be used in a melted form, as it stays usable at room temperature. I needed an acrylic background to experiment on, so I grabbed this paper again.

After using masking tape to create a grid pattern, I filled in every other square with white tinted CWM. Next, I practiced removing and drawing into it. Suddenly, from all the chaos I saw order and interest. I’m as surprised as you are!

Moral of the story: Don’t throw away your failed paintings and experiments.  You might find the perfect use for them one day!

Checking in on you. Are you safe and healthy?

I am writing to check-in and see how everyone is faring in their remote corners of the globe, and hoping that you are safe and well.

I’m currently sheltering in Florida with my hubby, where I’m fortunate to be able to walk and bike outside. I fill my days with art-making, cooking, reading, and enjoying game nights with friends and family (via Zoom).

As the situation has me unable to truly focus, I’m making a little bit of everything. In my studio, I have half-finished oil paintings, acrylic doodles, watercolor sketches, and cold-wax experiments. While they patiently wait for me to get back to them, I am happy to share at least one completed effort here.

There is a lot of disparity of quarantine experiences across the world, and I am genuinely grateful that we are one of the lucky families in these uncertain times. Those of you are doing essential services, you are the true heroes. You have not gone unnoticed, and we cannot thank you enough for your courage and commitment to others. Thank you.

Developing final art from a digital sketch

landscape water iPad procreateThis spring, I used my iPad, and the app Procreate to develop some painting ideas for a commissioned beach-themed artwork. Painting digitally is helpful because you can work with the client to try out different ideas without actually applying paint to canvas.  You can easily go back and remove the changes with just a click of a button.  In this sketch, using the client’s comments, I lightened and softened the large areas on the right.  Then I add more tan and reduced the darker areas. I thought you might like to see how the final painting turned out. To the left is the revised digital sketch.

The final painting “Nantucket Summer” is now happily hanging in my client’s home on Nantucket Island.

 

Using an iPad to create painting studies

landscape water iPad procreate

Figuring out exactly what type of painting a commission client wants is harder than you might think.  I start with having them review my past work and telling me which elements appeal to them.  Then I ask about size, color palette, mood, and more.  

I’m just starting a new commission and I thought it would be fun to share the process.  The client wants the painting for her bedroom in Nantucket.  She likes my “wonky circles”, the botanical elements, and the texture of layering paint and collage elements in my other paintings.  She needs a  30″ x 40″ canvas and is thinking of something with the ocean.  Her color palette is blue, tan, cream, and orange.

I decided to paint some sample ideas to narrow down her preferences even more.  I was traveling last week so I couldn’t whip out paints and canvas on the airplane.  Instead, I tried out the painting app Procreate on my iPad.  Here are three ideas I presented to her.

 

Study One – A soothing, soft painting to enhance the calmness desired in a bedroom.  The painting loosely hints at plants living both under and along the shoreline of the ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

Study Two – A more graphic style with the energy of the crashing waves streaming through the tide pools

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study Three- A more abstract image with lots of layers of collage-paper and paint.  It’s an underwater scene of a reef that teems with life.  The surging currents sweep the elements back and forth with the tides.

What’s your favorite study and why?  Next steps…to talk more about what she likes, changes to make, additions or subtractions, color tweaks, and more.  Stay tuned!

Let’s speed things up!

Multiple works in progress

One suggestion to working faster and looser is to on start multiple paintings at one time. I use the same paper size and color palette to work up four different versions. That way, I can just move from painting to painting, adding a little here and there, letting it evolve more naturally. Everything is a little less important or precious so I don’t get as frustrated when a painting isn’t working out. I just move on to the next one and come back later with a fresh perspective.

Step into a jewel-colored forest

Jewel Painting One

I work with a fantastic licensing company, Wild Apple.  They recently gave me a concept idea they thought I might enjoy working on.  It was to make an abstract jewel-colored forest that included loose and botanical marks.  It was such a fun and whimsical project to work on.  I’ve sent the two paintings to Wild Apple for their approval. Hopefully, this is what they had in mind.  

Working with a “prompt” reminded me of working on my MFA.  The teacher would give you guidelines but with enough freedom to make the artwork your own.  I love working this way with the seed of an idea that I make blossom into a work of art.  I’m looking forward to working on the next concept idea Wild Apple sends my way.