WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU'VE 
LOST THE FLOW


By George Allen Durkee



I'd like to tell you I paint all day, every day. The truth is I cycle down the sidewalk of creativity until some random life event shoves a stick into my spokes, and then I crash. If you're like me, it's hard for you to get your momentum back once you stop painting. The longer you go the easier it is to fall into a funk about it because when it rains for more than three days in a row sun is never going to shine again. And aren't your non-artist friends just itching to say, "You won't always feel this way." In your artist's heart, you know. This is. The way. It is.

Don't you just long to feel the joy of painting that you sorta-kinda remember from back there in the past somewhere? Wasn't that just last week, or has it been months or longer? 

How can you begin again once you've come to a dead stop? 

I'm not going to suggest that you coerce your way back into the groove by telling you to start anywhere, but start! The hard-nosed discipline way of launching yourself at a canvas can feel like you are being manhandled. Your painter's heart simply wants to be lifted to the higher plane where paintings paint themselves. I could give you a list of a few quick-fix steps (that seems to be popular these days). But I'm not even sure what your personal steps might look like. And, besides, there might not be a quick fix. And I don't think signing up for yet another workshop is the answer either; you need to be able to work on your own.

Try this. . .

Let yourself brood and whine and thrash about for a while. Allow yourself a day, several days. You may need to renegotiate your time use with the people in your life, or make some lifestyle changes (deep down, you know). When you are ready, decide that on a particular morning you will begin painting - nothing serious, just a little try-out. The evening before that day, check your equipment. If you paint indoors, get everything arranged and ready. Confirm that you have enough paint, rags, turpentine or mineral spirits and something to paint on. Rattle a few brushes around in your hands; try one out for balance. Handle the paint tubes; remove a cap and dab a little Cadmium Red onto a fingertip; inhale its intoxicating perfume. Before going to sleep that night, visualize yourself squishing those sensuous colors across your palette. See your brush laying buttery pigment onto the canvas. When you wake up in the morning, you will be ready to begin. Don't expect to turn out a masterpiece on the first day, or the next day either. Lock up the inner critic; it is active when you experience feelings of fear, anxiety or disappointment. Just paint. What you are doing is not about being perfect or pleasing anyone - not even yourself. It is simply about mixing one color after another and putting them onto the canvas.

When I paint daily there is an easy momentum from one painting to the next. If I stop for a week or more, paint slips and slides instead of gliding easily into place. I need days in a row to catch my stride. In the past forty-five years, I have been through the cycle of stopping and starting again many times. I promise it will get easier for you. Through repetition, your creative work will reflect your own personal rhythm.  

George Allen Durkee 


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