Julie Guyot Studio

creative block

Creative Block Part 2 (Everything's going to be alright)

Emily Wray4 Comments

(read Part 1 posted below this one)


For those of you who don’t know me, I feel obligated to give you some background information about myself.  I am incredibly hard on myself.  It’s one of my greatest skills.  If there were a career for beating myself up, I would be a millionaire.  If there were a trade magazine for high expectations, I’d be on the cover.  You get the idea.  So, this may be part of the reason for my paralyzing creative block over the last few months. 

Yesterday I had two brief interactions that changed my life.  The first was with my new guitar teacher at our first beginner lesson.  We were working on playing the G major scale.  I was slowly plucking through the notes and my instructor was playing this amazing solo over my notes.  I accidentally played a note out of order on the scale and I said, “Oh, that wasn’t right.”  My instructor said, “Julie, it’s the G major scale.  There is no right or wrong, you can play any note on that scale at anytime and it will sound good no matter what the order.  That is what music is about,  improvising”  

Um….What?  No right or wrong?  After years of reading music for piano and oboe lessons and four years in the high school marching band, I have become rigid about two things: playing the notes on the page in the order that they occur and staying on the beat.  If I’m in an exercise class and the instructor gets off beat and the whole class just follows along, I cannot just go along with that.  It isn’t right!  So, I look like the one who’s off beat because I’m still doing it the right way.  I guess I’d rather look stupid than be wrong.  But what if there is no wrong or right?  What if there really is a scale and within that scale there are a huge range of things that you can play that still sound good?  And even if you play a note that isn’t on that scale, it’s still okay because then it’s probably Jazz!  This could be a metaphor to access for the rest of my life!

The second interaction was with a 20 year old undergraduate who came up behind me and looked at my computer.

Him:  “Did you just make a repeat pattern out of corncobs?”

Me:  “Yes, I did.”

Him:  “That is awesome!”

Me:  “Thanks but I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet.”

Him:  “Who cares!  It is awesome!”

Huh.  Maybe I need to recognize the awesomeness of something before I analyze it and figure out how to make it the greatest thing ever made (unachievable).  What about just sitting with something for a while and recognizing it for what it is before picking it apart? 

These two interactions lead me to tell you how I’m moving past my lack of motivation and creative block.  Oh, sure, I spent some time wallowing, or “taking time off for self-reflection” as I like to call it.  Netflix and Pinterest became my best friends for a while, but that proved to be unhealthy judging from some of my pin board titles.  So here is what I am doing:

  1. Getting involved in non-art activities that also stimulate my brain and involve fine motor skills.  Guitar lessons!  Anyone want to start a bowling team?!
  2. Shaking up my art practice with projects that don’t include clay.  I am currently working on a fabric project and am sitting in on a printmaking class learning how to make natural inks and printing on paper.  Fun!
  3. Learning how to use Adobe Illustrator.  Using a completely different part of my brain.  Not so fun, but boy am I happy to be in the studio after time behind the computer!
  4. Issuing a plea to the women in my life.  I need to get out of my isolating studio and have some human interaction please.  Just because the fearless leader of my women’s entrepreneur group moved to Houston doesn’t mean we still can’t meet on our own!
  5. Getting in the studio no matter what.  Getting out of my brain and just using my hands to make stuff. 

Lastly, and most importantly, taking the damn pressure off of myself.  The reality is that I’m never going to create the greatest thing ever created.  But that wasn’t why I made art when I was a child.  I drew dogs because I loved drawing and I loved dogs.  I loved it when my pictures made people happy.  They made me happy then too.  So today after I practice the G major scale on my guitar, I’m not going to worry about sales or what the academics might think, I’m going to make something that makes me happy.  Something like a repeat pattern with corncobs.


Creative Block Part 1

Emily Wray8 Comments

Today I hate my job.

I know, I’m not supposed to say that because I am a person trying to make a living working as an artist.  I’m supposed to be passionate about my art-making every minute of every day because I owe it to you.  I owe it to my parents who took me to private art lessons in grade school and probably worried endlessly about me after I graduated from college with an art degree.  I owe it to those self-taught artists who didn’t go to college to get an art degree.  I owe it to my college professors who gave me that amazing art award way back in 1994.   I owe it to all of the people who, after finding out what I do for a living, tell me about how they used to love art in high school and how they weren’t able to pursue it and how very lucky I am.  I owe it to myself because average talent and a strong passion to make art is about all I possessed coming into this world.

You are allowed to occasionally hate your job working for the state government or serving people in a restaurant or plugging statistics into a computer program so why can’t I occasionally hate my job making art? The truth is that I have had a creative block for several months now.  Throw in a lack of motivation and temporary loss of my confidence and you have someone who dreads going into the studio on a daily basis.  Several times I have seriously considered just giving up and getting a “regular job” so that I can feel like a valued member of society. 

Although you tell me I am lucky to be able to pursue my passion, I suspect there are a few of you who are quoting The Big Lebowski and saying, “Get a job Sir!”  Some people actually say,   “Well, it must be nice…” in that not so nice tone.  The truth is, most of the time, it is nice.  Sure I don’t have a steady paycheck but I get to make stuff!  Not receiving a steady paycheck doesn’t feel so bad when you love what you do, but what happens when the passion takes a leave of absence? I’m left with creative block that keeps me up nights and insurance agents who tell me that the software that calculates life insurance values doesn’t work with income numbers as low as mine, and that it’s just not worth it to insure my life.  Or the other day when my husband and I went to get pre-approved for a home loan and the loan officer suggested that we leave my name off the loan because it just isn’t necessary. 

Well, it is worth it and it is necessary to me.  While I may not be curing cancer or solving world hunger issues or even making loads of money, I am going to keep heading into the studio and working until my passion returns from it’s extended vacation.  I know that if I go out and get a “regular job” I will be completely unhappy in a few months because I haven’t done anything creative.  I will keep plugging away for all of you and for myself.  I will find my voice and continue to bring beauty into the world.  And if it never comes back, well then I’ll figure out something else.