Images, clockwise from top left
Latifa Echakhch Globus (b) 2007
Martin Creed Work No.88 1995
Ívar Valgardsson Watercolour 2011
John Chamberlain Penthouse #50 1969
There are still times, however, when I feel sick to my boots with my work and get stuck like that. When it happens, it’s usually a sign that something’s wrong in the work which I don’t understand; it just looks overblown, overstated, obvious and stale, I don’t know how to move forward and I don't want to do it any more. If I try something else, the same thing happens. It means it’s time for a break and a refresh.
I can identify three main causes for getting stuck:
1. Wrong direction
3. The inner head-critic
I haven't had this conversation with many artists, it's not something we tend to talk about, in fact we don’t talk about our work at all when we’re together. I do remember one rainy day as a young student at Edinburgh College of Art when the blank sheet of paper got the better of me in a life drawing class. George Donaldson was taking the class that day and spotted my problem - no drawing. He understood immediately and suggested I take the paper outside and jump on it in a muddy puddle to banish the void. I had a great time sullying the paper in the rain, and it worked wonders. The fear was gone and the muddy stains were lovely to work with.
I have definitely used the muddy puddle technique a few times since then, if anybody is stuck I would recommend it. It deals with all three of the sticking-points above in one single blow:
1. Wrong directions are literally washed away and obliterated, leaving muddy stains which provide a problem to solve when you resume work, and everyone solves problems in their own unique way.
2. Stomping in a puddle in the rain blows boredom out of the window, it's very childish and massive fun.
3. The inner head-critic can't take itself seriously after that and is too surprised to comment.
Problem solving is a way to find your own voice and move on. Another way is a huge mug of your favourite beverage, indulgent snacks, a big fluffy blanket, phone switched off and a whole afternoon on Pinterest.