10 Ways Artists Fight Internet-Induced Stupor (IIS)

“The danger isn’t just in delayed progress with painting, procrastination with looming deadlines, and falling behind everything, but in the subtle way this stupor turns my eye onto myself, increasing my self-centeredness and the accompanying thoughts of vain insignificance.”

Most of us are guilty of spending too much time scrolling social media simultaneously happy and depressed. We are happy because we love art - good art of all kinds. It is amazing to so easily see inside studios and in-progress pictures of paintings with closeups and a few words from the artist. As someone who occasionally paints, I’ll post some works, some good, as a kind of journal, but I find it all too easy to really want people to like my pictures, my posts. I even hope people will positively react to images that I know aren’t great.

If I’m not biting my lip over my last post, I am sinking into a stupor over the great work I do see.

How did I get here? Where did these unrealistic expectations come from? When was I poisoned? Whodunnit? How do I get OUT of here?

Over the past decade, I have learned a few things that help me deal with procrastination, excuses, and that sinking feeling I have when it seems that I will never measure up.

Here are 10 ways to fight IIS - Internet-Induced Stupor

  1. Break something. Keep a surface around to experiment on and go crazy. Be bold. Break the rules. Change up your palette. Use pure color. Premixed colors that you’ve been shamed into avoiding are great for this. I once made an abstract effort just to see what Indigo oil paint looked like with gold oil paint. I also kept a 36x48 landscape nearby that I would turn to when things just were not clicking. I would paint transparently over it, thickly, scrape it, change the proportions of elements. Whatever I wanted to do to that landscape, I did. No consequences.. No regrets.

  2. Just mix colors. No pressure to compose, draw, or be artsy. Brushes, paint, and palette. Seeing colors in different relationships may be enough to clear your vision. No color charts. Only pure discovery. Remember how you love the tactile feel of your bristles dragging and pulling and swirling oil paint. Move your knife through combinations that you would not normally use. Leave them unmixed. Make it like prayer.

  3. Change panel proportions. If you’ve painted your landscapes the same way for years, try a long vertical (Joshua Been). I sold a work from Radnor lake that was a 16x8 done at twilight with a full moon coming over the ridge. I promise there was not another like it in the show. A square panel doesn’t care about your design, so embrace the square for a change. The Mondo Tondo exhibition is made up of all circular panels. Skip the standards and think about what actually fits your experience of the landscape. (LINKS BELOW)

  4. Go small outside. I have relieved the pressure to fill a space by subdividing a larger panel. I may divide a 14x18 into a 9x14 and divide the remaining space two or three more times. See all those divisions? Can’t be precious with that.

  5. Go large outside. Multi-session plein air efforts are the aspirin to alla prima stress. Show up, go slow, pack up, and return again. No problem.

  6. Open your eyes. Find a spot you’d like to paint and show up with no materials. Just sit there. No compositional thoughts, no drawing guilt, no pressure to make anything. The most work you should do here is practice seeing the actual landscape as big paint marks. Other that that, just see. Forget analytical thinking. Let go of the adult mind. Sit and remember why you paint. If while doing that you actually begin to see the land as paint, good.

  7. Teach. Seeing others struggle really kicks me into another mindset where everything becomes simple again. Returning to fundamentals in simply never a bad idea. Guiding someone through dividing a panel or color mixing is a sure-fire way to get out of your own head. Now, I’ve not been asked to teach or lead many times, but I know from previous experience that this is sound advice - from me or anyone else.

  8. Experiment with materials. I use paper towels a lot. (I’m a Viva man, but Bounty will do.) Add a medium or change the consistency of what you are used to. Cold Wax medium will force you to do things differently. Some use trowels or squeegees or wiper blades. Press textured items into partially dried paint. Why not! Put charcoal over your painting. Using Galkyd outdoors will open up new layering effects. OR if you use too many things, recover the experience of using one brush of a different bristle type and length. Have no fear - or expectations. That’s a different kind of freedom.

  9. Make a list of things you DO NOT like about famous/popular paintings. I remember Richard Schmid writing in his book Alla Prima how Sargent may have done better - or how HE - Schmid - could have done better (He admitted this was bold). It helps if you are good at painting, but if you are not it is still a way to open a discussion with yourself or perhaps with a mentor. This may unknowingly get you clear about what you actually admire. I really want to include an example here, but I am too embarrassed to share at this point. Maybe later. If you are braver that I am, leave a response in the comments. Plus, there is really no harm in admitting that you don’t understand why something is hyped.

  10. Think in story terms. While working on my painting “Story Arc” I found myself needing a weight here, a space there and began placing shape-values around to see what worked. Back and forth, in and out. Heavier here, wiped away there. At some point I made a shape on the edge of the panel that instantly reminded me of a person leaning in to see what was going on. As soon as that happened, I recalled some thoughts I’d jotted down about T. Allen Lawson’s work, and from that moment on, the end was in sight. I knew what was needed because the image had transformed into a drama that I directed. Uncertainty lost a lot of ground that night. (LINK BELOW)

    So these are 10 ways that I have learned to fight IIS. I hope this is helpful to you as you push away from comparison. Your life is too short, so get to work.


    Joshua Been - www.prolificpainter.com

    Mondo Tondo - http://www.arcadiacontemporary.com/exhibitions/2019/mondo-tondo-2019/

    Story Arc - https://www.instagram.com/p/BtLlR8vA0FN/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

    A new character emerges - https://www.instagram.com/p/BsyOazggQnL/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

    Mediums - www.gamblincolors.com



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