Funk and Flow

By August 29, 2019 Art

Falling into a funk. 

Funks happen. They are not fun. However, they are a reality. I spent the first few weeks of summer pulling myself out of one.

I don’t want to tell you that making art is hard.

That doesn’t feel true. In many ways, it feels a bit like breathing. You do it because it’s how you live.

But, there are days when it feels like a fight. Not in the beginning. In the beginning, it’s all energy and possibility. 

The uncomfortable part for me comes in the murky middle. Things appear to be going well but they are not.

I look back at this snapshot and think all that blue and green is actually very nice. The thing is “nice” isn’t what I’m looking for. I’m looking for something else. I want to feel something, even if I can’t name it. It’s the sensation of looking in the unknown for something I forgot.

Usually, I step back and stare at a piece for a while until I feel a pull of what to do next.  In early summer I stared for days. It started to feel like a staring contest. Remember those from when you were a kid? A way to fight were giving up makes you a loser. I would sit there looking and looking. I kept blinking.

I thought for sure I would feel that pull and know what to do next. Instead, nothing.

Nothing. That place where no thing exists. The well goes dry. My secret irrational fear of having nothing left inside me to paint floated to the surface from someplace deep in my psyche. 

Enter from stage left, the ever-entertaining mini-existential crisis. AKA the funk. Not the dancing kind, more like the F-word of a creative life.

For me, that looks like moping around the house. Saying (in a very serious tone) ridiculous things like “I’m not sure I’m really an artist” to my husband. After 29 years, he’s bored with this whining, he looks right at me and answers “really?”.

I sulked and escaped into a PBS Poldark binge. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it. (I’m only telling you because I like you and hope you won’t judge me.)

After, well…actually, I don’t want to know how many hours…of watching the extremely brooding and handsome, Ross Poldark ride his horse along sweeping shorelines, my husband started making fun of me. He renamed the series “Poldork.” That totally killed the romance. Time to get back in the studio.

Resolving to fight the funk.

I read the Goethe quote I wrote on my wall. “What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

I simplify it in my mind, for my non-genius self, into “do something, anything!”

Still, I sit and stare again.

I refuse to leave the studio. I putter around. Nothing happens.

I decide I have to get out of the studio. I spend the next few weeks doing random creative things with watercolors and words. (I’ll tell you all about that sometime in a future post.)

Finally, I walk into my studio and realize “the pull” is back. I’ve been ignoring it because it’s hard to let go of that beautiful blue-green. 

I mix up brown. A large amount of brown.

I think of mud. I think of the metaphor of getting stuck in the mud. I say to myself “Enough of this funk!”. Actually, I think of a different “F” word.  I need the motivation…to follow this earth tone mood even though I have my doubts.

June slips into July…

I gripe about the heat but it focuses me. I stay in the studio. August days just get hotter even as they grow shorter.

Slowly… like connecting the first few pieces of a puzzle into something recognizable. The blue and green returns in subtler ways. Bright white details emerge in the draped shapes. I imagine a curtain finally being pulled back on the unknown.

I fall into the flow…a much better F-word;)

“True creativity happens at the edges in the realms of the unknown.”

– Anodea Judith

Next time, I’ll share some updated snaps of how these paintings are progressing. Things are always changing.

Until then, I hope you enjoy the holiday weekend!

“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” 

– Goethe

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Author Siobhan


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Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Mike Hiester says:

    Love your work. I’m still fighting my summer funk, hope to get out of it soon. The movement and color of your pieces always inspires, now it’s just time to cut some glass. Thank you for the beauty you bring to the world.

  • Lisa says:

    I loved this! And, definitely can relate at times – especially to the staring contests! Thanks for sharing – very happy to have your painting in my collection.

  • Laura Wildman says:

    Siobhan, thank you for sharing this! Just the inspiration that I, myself, needed to hear. You created some exquisitely beautiful pieces from that funk! P.S. I love Anodea Judith!

  • Audrey Bedford says:

    Sounds to me like something was just waiting to be born. The funks are great teaching tools when and if we can make our way through them. I’m excited to see what your final paintings will reveal. I so love your blogs. The photo you posted first made me smile. This doesn’t look like Siobhan. And, I must admit I was smiling and laughing a bit as I read your blog. The way in which you use words to convey your message is just as marvelous as the creations you make on a canvas. Thank You! And, Love you!

  • Mark kaufman says:

    I certainly know the times of self doubt and the voice that says one will never do a painting worthwhile again.

  • Diane Mattis says:

    Siobhan, this was an awesome post that I just now had the time to read. My heart was aching for you, but just a little bit.
    Because you are an AMAZING ARTIST, and there was no doubt in my mind that something truly beautiful was going to come out
    of this funk. When you showed some of the works in progress that included some of the muddy browns, my heart skipped
    a beat. They are GORGEOUS! AND what’s more, I think it takes a lot of guts and courage to open up and tell people the
    truth about your inner feelings. So many people just put on their happy faces and let the world think that their entire
    lives are funk-free. I have tremendous respect for you…. that you are not ashamed to admit that you are human like
    the rest of us. The one who expresses this the most beautifully, at least to me, is the writer, Kahlil Gibran. All of life
    is a tear and a smile. Keep painting, when you can, take a breather when you need to, and come back to the canvas
    when you feel refreshed. We will be waiting for your return and the beauty you bring with you.

  • Vidya says:

    Hi Siobhan! Love your blog and I love your paintings! Looking forward to your next one!

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