Now that I’m a rule-breaker-in-training I’m putting myself more often in front of a blank page. I need to practice each and every skill involved in facing that blankness and moving forward to make something.
It helps me to remember that every mark I make can be changed, erased, covered up. Sometimes it helps to cover the entire page with something – a single color, lines of handwriting in pencil, numbers, paint blobs. Then it feels like that horrible first step is over and I’m less edgy about making a real beginning.
Cheap paper is helpful and old gunky tubes of paint. Shiny new art supplies are fun but sometimes make me feel I have to create something sparkling with perfection. Starting with the thought that I can always throw it away does take the pressure off.
Sometimes I try to remember what has worked before so I can start again the same way. If I’m really stuck I will sketch a masterwork from an art book – sometimes that leads somewhere interesting.
I try not to sit for very long with a blank sheet. Doing something, anything at all on the paper helps avoid that paralysis of over-thinking. This is also why I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I work. It partly occupies that thinking part of my brain so the rest of me can get busy.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote you have to practice something for 10,000 hours to become an expert. This is very reassuring in front of a blank page. If I don’t like what results, I can chalk it up to practice. I haven’t counted, but I’m sure I’m not anywhere near the 10,000 hours yet.
As artists we will always have a blank page to conquer. What tricks do you use to make it easier to move forward?