How one artist blows past roadblocks and paints several paintings in a day — in 3 steps

Puppy . . . (and artist David Gordon)


My wife Ann had a habit of getting stuck on one painting and not being able to shake it loose. She’d work and obsess and then stall . . .

Sitting with my prolific artist friend David Gordon one morning this past spring I told him about her dilemma  and asked how he did things.

His process applies to so many things we get stuck on in life that it bears sharing with you. It helped Ann break through to a new level of creative zest.

His answer was to work on a number of pieces at once.

Here’s the gist of it in 3 steps:

Step 1: “It’s all in the setup.” 

David emphasized you have to plan to work on a number of paintings at once. That way any one painting gone wrong won’t slow you down; you’ll move along to the next one.
In addition to having all your supplies at hand, you’ve got to make sure you’re set up to work on multiple paintings at the same time.

And — this is critical — to be able to place those off to the side somewhere so they can can dry while you work on the next round.

Step 2: “Visualize doing 4 or 5 paintings. Even if you end up with 3, you’re happy.”

David will dawdle in bed for 20 to 30 minutes in the morning, visualizing what he’s going to be working on that day. By visualizing I mean some quirky combination of pondering and planning and daydreaming.

Whether or not you finish several in a day is immaterial. Multiple works are in progress . . . making completion that much more certain when you step back in the studio.

The time frame isn’t as important as the process. A day, a week, a month . . . by working on several simultaneously you spur yourself to greater heights than had you lumbered over only one project at a time.

Step 3: “Go from painting to painting until you need a break.”The energy will build as you go along. In fact you’ll sometimes be blown away by what comes through on the third or fifth piece. It may even seem beyond you.

The writer John Updike had a typewriter in each of the rooms he liked to work in. When stymied on a piece he’d simply get up and move to the next room and start in there. He would move from project to project, working wherever it was flowing best.Each typewriter housed a different project, a novel, a short story, an essay, a review, maybe another story or novel just emerging into idea form. This allowed his back brain to work things out wherever he was blocked, so that a solution was taking wing by the time he returned.

. . . . . . . .

(PS: David is another creative who likes his naps. Notice how he gets insane creativity going by lazing in bed in the morning . . . and napping when needed? Genius, I tell you. Creative dynamos allow themselves naps.)

For you —

Evan Griffith
What creators do

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