I have found few things that help my art more than a steady studio practice. The momentum created by showing up, consistently, according to a schedule I establish, really helps me. Some days, though, I just don’t have the juice for full-on creating. I need an easy day in the studio. Here are some good choices when you need one too.
Prepare substrates. I have begun the practice of always preparing my substrate, be it watercolor paper or panel or canvas, with a layer of book pages. Even if this layer gets completely covered up, it is a nice place to start from when you make a collage. I like bare pages or very little text and some arrangement, nothing fussy, that appeals to me. The pieces shown above are 12×9″ on lightweight watercolor paper. I will mount them on thicker paper with a 3″ border after they are done.
Make collage materials. In my world of using books, this means painting book pages. There are some colors I just love and don’t find enough of in my scouring for covers, so painting pages is something I do with increasing frequency. I also like to make patterns like dots and stripes, which I usually do with black ink. I have started to use materials from printmaking as well. I print in a single color (usually black) and then tint the paper with transparent washes.
Organize your materials. This is a good thing to do when you could use a jolt of inspiration. I am always inspired by some of the cool stuff I have found and seeing it again gets me motivated to create. After awhile of doing this collage thing, you forget all the stuff you really have, so its good to visit your stashes periodically. I organize either by color or by type of material, like: diagrams, maps, illustrations,etc.
Clean your studio. When I am in the thick of a new set of work, I have stuff on every available surface, and a lot of it on the floor. Sometimes I can work in this environment for days, but then the day comes that I need a clean slate. Sweep the floor, clean the tables, put fresh white paper down, get all the tools in their proper place and materials in their bins. And then, just put stuff AWAY. The sense of order just feels so rejuvenating for that 5 minutes that you are able to maintain it. 🙂
Just photographs. This can be a surprisingly fruitful exercise. Get out all your favorite things and start building compositions on a clean white sheet of paper. Work at whatever size you feel comfortable. Just laying stuff down but not gluing.
Every time you get to something you *think* you like, take a photograph (I use my iPad). There is no risk here and its all just spontaneous experimentation. Sometimes you get in that mood where nothing you make looks good to you. You cannot quit second guessing, you cannot feel confident in what to do next. This is a great time to make lots of photos. You will come back to them later and be amazed at how good your ideas were. This is the equivalent of the 20 second poses in drawing class, you work fast and loose and move on.
These are just a few of the things you can do to keep yourself consistent in your art practice even when your energy is challenged. What else do you do? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.