Maintaining Productivity in the Face of The Blues

 

By: Kait Masters  |  larkspurandlaurel.com

I have always been the type of person who wants to see something through to the end. I like process - actually, I love process - but I also yearn to "cross things off the list".

Embracing the blues is something that requires facing that you won't be able to cross this season of your list. Not yet at least. In this edition of Maker's Magazine, I shared the process of accepting a major and long-lasting health diagnosis, and the subsequent effect on my artwork. I kept waiting for the time where I could put that situation in the past and move forward with new health, new work, and new perspective. I wanted to check it off the list so I could resume life as normal, including my "normal" studio approach. What took time to realize, as the weeks stretched into months (and I realized this was a new normal for me), is that embracing the season of endurance and being present in my circumstances would bring a necessary change in perspective to my work.

Previously, I had been working almost exclusively in landscape mixed media painting. When I found the courage to invest more in painting again, I started exploring abstraction. I became interested in how movement and change in the natural world evokes specific moods and emotions. I explored this idea by forgoing representation in the traditional sense, and began relying on texture, shape, space, and value to imply the elements of nature that fascinated me the most. This new emphasis on contrast, balance, and especially rhythm was a significant departure visually from my previous work. 

It’s not uncommon to need space from projects and work when dealing with a difficult season in life - whether it’s personal, or business, or some mix of the two. What I found most surprising in beginning this new body of work was the sense of freedom and confidence that came in owning my story visually. By stripping down my favorite inspiration into basic elemental structures, it felt possible to put paint to paper and be satisfied with the process in the present. I went into the studio each day with very little expectation or structure. Just brushes, paint, and a sometimes a good audio book. 

 

The other key to finding a way to still make during a difficult season was giving myself permission to make free from expectation. When I first set out on this body of work, I had no intention of it actually being a body of work in the first place. And I certainly had no notions of creating finished pieces, submitting anything for publication, or listing any for sale. 

Freeing myself from my own pressure to perform to a specific level of standards actually helped me develop a body of work that is more powerful and that has more momentum than I could have ever anticipated.

 

Whatever it is that is bringing you into a season of hardship - dealing with the blues can feel like it strips away productivity and identity as an artist or maker. Giving yourself space to create without a prescribed structure, free from expectations, can be just what you need to embrace the blues. It surprised and changed me to occupy this new space as an artist, and I am content not crossing this one off my list.