Killers of the Creative Spirit

by Kathleen Huebener in Painting Tips


Wednesdays are my paint days; every Wednesday, an established day, when friends and family know to leave me alone because I am painting the whole day. It is a peaceful time for me and the creative juices flow freely. But today I had a disruption, the funeral of a dear old neighbor.


I didn’t mind going to his funeral, for it was good to pay my respects. But I have some deadlines to meet, and now it’s taking me some effort to get in the mood to paint. This lack of mood reminds of something I read last night that was thought provoking.


“Creativity is a fragile commodity that can be suppressed or impaired much easier than it can be turned on.” – Teresa Amabile, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brandeis University. Ms. Amabile had a list of Creativity Killers, but I was interested in the ones that might affect me and other artists.


1)      Critics and skeptics can limit your scope of thought and shatter your creative progress.


Think of those people who, thoughtlessly or intentionally with malice, wiped your creativity slate clean in one swipe with their comments about your art. How did this make you feel? I felt the same way too. Perhaps all we artists have had such people commenting about our art. The important fact to remember is that some people’s minds you can NEVER change. Why try? Fellow artist, if there is one bit of wisdom I could pass along to you is to please yourself when you are painting. YOU are unique as God intended. Your art is one of a kind! Don’t listen to critics or skeptics.


2)      Material Motivation.


Most creative motivation comes from within, but extrinsic motivators – like money, fame, awards, and acceptance – can severely dampen our creative powers. I have experienced this dampening directly. I am a Signature Member of the Iowa Watercolor Society, the elite of the elite of watercolor artists. IWS has one show each year. I have found that if I try to paint something for entrance into the show, creative juices are hindered. But if I paint, without thinking of IWS and the show, those juices freely flow. Then I usually find one piece or two that I would like to submit. It’s a simple fact – don’t paint because of the desire to be accepted into an art show. Paint because you WANT to paint and the creative juices will  flow.


3)      Living up to others’ standards and expectations.


This goes along hand in hand with #1 in that one denies oneself and tries to please others. This NEVER works! This also seriously STIFLES one’s creativity abilities. Who are you trying to please, Fellow Artist? Remember that you must please your inner self and go paint your heart out! This is your art; not theirs. It they still give you grief, tell them if they think they can do it better than you, then go do it! In other words, don’t take any grief, get tough!


4)      Creating in a Crowd.


Painting in a crowd is highly effective in preventing me from letting the creative juices flow! How can I be creative with fellow artists looking over my shoulder at what I am doing? When I have painted with groups in the past, I don’t get any painting in. Why? The other painters are always asking me questions about their work and how to do techniques, etc. It’s always “Could you show me how to…?” Or else they copy what I do on my painting. I know the old saying is that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but this makes me feel that they want a free teacher. It’s definitely studio painting for me – alone! Then I can breathe, be free, and create to my heart’s content.


5)      Time Schedule.


Too little time makes a poor atmosphere for painting. Feeling rushed is the worst thing for an artist. Today with my day half done and deadlines looming over me, I feel rushed. The answer is to try working at a comfortable even pace. But when I am already in the rush mode, I find praying about the situation releases pressure. Praying always works wonders.


Bottom line: Killers of the Creative Spirit – we must never let these killers cramp our style, stop the creative flow, or even give them the time of day. Once we are aware of these dangers, we can detour around them and PAINT WITH CREATIVITY!