Often times we need a break from routines in our lives. Some tasks become mundane while others are just a headache.
For example, I love to cook dinner for the family. It's something I do seven days a week. There's a lot of satisfaction I get in putting down a lovely warm dinner for the wife and kids. It's a chore I enjoy.
But I do have those moments when I feel more like slopping together a PBJ with a side of chips versus creamy bacon and mushroom risotto. It happens! I get lazy, or just lose my passion for making something exceptional.
What does this mean for artists?
Art is mostly considered a passion. We art because we love it and it lives in us. The day isn't complete unless we create!
It can also be considered a large chunk of our personal, and/or business goals. Just painting art isn't good enough. We envision doing more. Painting museum quality work, selling $2000 paintings and becoming the next Instagram rock start with 50K followers.
“Burnout…occurs because we’re trying to solve the same problem over and over.” - Susan Scott
To make this dream a reality we dedicate massive amounts of money, energy and time.
We are willing to invest in $100 paintbrushes and load up on the best materials even when our bank account says no! Countless hours on spent YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and other sites seeking knowledge and inspiration.
Soon or later you hit a wall! You have worked exhaustively trying to make your dream a reality! Things are going well but not moving as fast as you hoped! You're doing everything that's expected of you but your work is suffering from mediocrity.
Fatigue and doubt start to pop up in your mind.
Decisions become harder to make because it requires even more time, money and energy.
Maybe you need to consider taking a break? Or, should you?
Most common reasons we need a break from art.
I gathered this list from my experiences and some of the students I've worked with over the years.
Burnout - you hit a point of exhaustion that breaks you down both mentally and physically. Our mind and body simply can't do it any longer at this pace, so we shut it down.
Bad relationship - just like a couple that doesn't seem to get along. Art is a relationship, too! Why not put the art aside for several months and get back to it? Things will be better once we have some space between us.
Bad experiences - very similar to bad relationships and burnout but with a slight difference. The core reason we walk away for a while is rejection. The art simply isn't working. I'm hitting wall after wall no matter what I try. As a result you begin to tell yourself 'I'm not as talented as those that can do it better'.
Stress - this can come from countless areas. It's a big deal and can't be ignored. Tension can come from issues like money, your job, a problem that's being ignored and, so on. Stress can have a negative impact on your health and will certainly drain every ounce of creative energy in your body.
Re-energize, or teaser - basically this is putting down the brushes when things are going great! There's no burnout, bad relationship, or negative experiences happening here! Just taking the day off from painting to make the excitement that much better when you return.
Injury, real life tragedy - we are all one phone call away , or one misstep from this happening. It's a moment in life where things happen beyond our control and we need to take time to deal with them.
But here's the thing I've learned about breaks and why they can be a good decision, or bad one.
Burnout - yes and no! The source of burnout can vary depending on your lifestyle and work habits. Also, there are different levels of exhaustion that have impact on health.
Yes, step away if your health is in danger. Nothing is worth sacrificing that because without it we simply can't function.
No, if you are experiencing burnout from not living a balanced life. You know, work hard, play hard! Art is fun but we need to understand that other areas of life are equally important.
Workout, spend time with the family, take a walk, read a book and/of visit the local gardens. Plan your routine wisely!
Bad relationship - no, bad idea to walk away because you will only return to the same problems. A better option is to put down the paintbrushes and have a long, hard look at reality.
It's probably not working because you are going about it all wrong. I can't possibly cover every issue artists may face but I can tell you it often comes down to not having a solid foundation. You are getting ahead of yourself and this will end badly most of the time.
Bad experiences - no, not a good idea to walk away. Bad experiences are directly related to your approach to painting. You have to do an honest assessment!
Why are your paintings no working? Don't just sit in the coffee shop while you try to figure this out. Put some inferior work on the wall and have a long look. What do you see? Does the art lack good drawing, composition, color? Are you trying to copy other artists without understanding their approach to putting magic on canvas? Find the issues or ask for help!
Stress - yes, and no!
No if the stress is something beyond your control. Art can serve as a respite, a time you can put the issue(s) aside for an hour and relax with some creativity. In this case it becomes a stress-reliever.
Yes, if you are avoiding something that's directly related to you. This is when stress will nag at you because deep down you know you should be taking care of more urgent issues that will not go away unless you deal with it.
Re-energize or teaser - yes! A great time to walk away for the day and treat yourself to lunch at your favorite cafe. The art experience will only be that much better when you return!
Injury, or real life tragedy - obviously this is a yes! Taking care of yourself, recovering and life-changing matters will always take precedence over painting. Art can wait until things get better.
Are you taking a break from art?
No? Well good for you! Just know that one day you will take have to take a break. For reasons I've shared in this article, or others. And hopefully you will remember this article as a way to guide you to a solution.
Yes? Just remember if you are backing away from the easel consider the reason(s) why! As I've pointed out breaks can be both needed, and unnecessary.
When more urgent matters like tragedy and health push you away from being creative it's okay. Take care of yourself and loved ones. Art time will happen when you are at peace.
If reasons align with failure, or lack of success then you need to reconsider your decision. The issues you are walking away from will still be there when you return. Your art will not improve while you binge watch your favorite shows on Netflix!
If your mind is completely muddled then take a day to recoup. Collect your thoughts and figure out what's really happening below the surface. Act accordingly!
Avoid breaking from art for long periods of time unless you have good reason. Telling yourself 'I'm just taking a break' can easily turn into several months. All momentum is lost and the things you are doing well will suffer. Getting started again requires more energy and courage than you realize.
Pace yourself! Balance in life is key. Work diligently and dedicate a limited amount of time to art. Painting all day, every day will turn into burnout! It's not sustainable!
If you need better technique, inspiration, fresh ideas, or help getting out of a rut just find a reliable source and do it! It may cost money, or time, but in the end you will have some support which often times can make the difference.
The next stage beyond taking a break is quitting! Will your face be you on the wall of shame? Or, will you knuckle up and start knocking it out of the park!
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