Whenever you read about a studio closing, your heart immediately goes out to the folks affected. Your mind can’t help but to think about the droves of artists, shifting focus from doing their best work on a daily basis, to finding a way to put food on the table for their families. With this at the forefront of an artist’s mind, its very easy to fall into a creative block.
In the past I have described “being creative” to my students as a house plant. If you become forgetful or distracted, it will wither away and die. Now ask yourself: “When do houseplants usually die?” More than likely, it’s during a time of a major life-transition; a move, a death in the family, etc. So how do you keep your creative houseplant from withering away during hard times? There’s no right or wrong answer here, but I do have some suggestions.
Usually, I’m approaching this topic from the other side of the spectrum – “How do you keep from burning out?” The irony is that I’ve found the remedy for both issues to be IDENTICAL. About five years ago, I wrote an entry called “Losing Touch” discussing how to approach the problem of creatively burning out in a studio environment. It’s so incredibly similar that I’m going to paste the entire post here:
“Crunchtime”. The sound of it would make one think that its a fun break during the day where you eat your favorite candybar. If only that was true. The reality of it is that we, the animators, are under such pressure to produce the absolute best work we can in as little time possible.
During severe crunch, the concept of “24 hour blocking” goes into full affect, where you have 24 hours to come up with the choreography of a shot and show your choices to the director for approval to continue with the idea. Sometimes it goes good (“good idea”) and sometimes it goes really bad (“start over and just copy the storyboards”). The end of every pitch (good or bad) leaves you questioning your worth as an animator and an artist. After years of doing this type of thing and because of the time it takes to execute an idea to completion (making every frame look amazing @ 24 fps), it’s very easy to fall into formulas and become afraid to take risks for the sake of hitting your deadlines. This rollercoaster can really do a job on your own personal creativity.
Where am I going with this?? I think it’s important to revisit that kid who was aspiring to become a professional artist as often as you can and ask them for help. For me, it was 18 years ago when I was in my room doing little flipbooks from exercises I learned in this book:
while listening to these albums:
studying anatomy by drawing from these comics:
and watching these movies:
When I feel like I’m down and out or losing touch with my creative self, I dig up this stuff and watch/listen/look through it and I feel refreshed afterward. Another creative gold mine I return to often is thumbing through my old sketchbooks. It helps to give me perspective of how far I’ve come as an artist and there may be a little doodle or two that gives me an idea. So never toss anything that may be of creative value someday!! You never know where your next masterpiece will come from!!
It’s amazing how relevant this 2009 post is to the current situation my artist friends and I have found ourselves in. So remember, to properly nurture your creative houseplant during difficult times, it’s not as important to create as it is to remind yourself why you wanted to create in the first place. Best of luck to you, my artist friends. If I can be of any assistance to you, contact me.