• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

STUCK?! why its important to step out of your comfort zone artistically.

Has this ever happened to you?

Painting along, and totally grooving with music on, bad weather outside, peaceful home and the right level of caffeine...all is right in the world until suddenly you come to a screeching halt? The groove ends, the flow has flown and your left with a half finished work and not sure what to do next?


When this happens to me (and it just did) I try not to force myself to finish it. Instead, I evaluate...

---snap a cell phone photo and look at it for a while. This usually helps me see glaring mistakes in perspective or proportion.

---live with it. Sometimes passing by it daily, falling asleep to it, or enjoying morning coffee with it will help you see it with fresh eyes.

---check my values. 75% of the problems in my work tend to be values, the other 25% tend to be perspective or proportion.


Here's the offending beast... This is the major work I spoke of last week. Right now, its good, but it isn't great and I won't settle for mediocre.

You can see the progression of this painting (oil on wood 36x48") and you get where I'm going with it, but I'm not quite there yet.


Sometimes artists give up at this point and the painting gets stacked in the closet with other half-finished thoughts. I try not to do this as I take my time seriously, and don't want to have unfinished or low-quality works in the world that may undermine my gallery prices. If I really can't finish a work, it gets reused or repurposed.




These paintings were recently repurposed. The Ampersand Pastelbords were washed off, leaving a ghost-like image of the original underneath. Before I paint them I may do a watercolor wash to even out the underpainting.

When all else fails, I try do the same painting again in a different media. Here's the same subject in pastel. Pastel is my main medium and I feel very confident using it. It was easy and quick for me to make this painting and I am happy with the result. That usually means it wasn't challenging enough.


"Cyprus Bayou" Pastel on #Ampersandart Pastelbord using Mount Vision pastel

To grow artistically, I have to keep challenging myself and stepping outside my comfort zone. That's why I am struggling through this painting in oils. Its the struggling that teaches me the lessons I need to grow.


Embrace being stuck. Look for it, and be glad when it happens to you artistically. Being stuck means you are reaching outside your level of experience and comfort and striving for something just above your reach. If you continue to struggle, you will grasp it and grow. I am deeply into it at this moment, and looking for growth experience.


A dear friend refers to these as "AFGO's" or another friggin' growth opportunity. If you are doing it right then every painting is an AFGO. If it isn't, then you are not challenging yourself and will not grow artistically. I encourage you to dance on the cutting edge of your ability and push yourself beyond what is familiar and comfortable towards what challenges you and makes your confront your limits.


I'll meet you there!

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