Artist Block With A Book Review

January was amazing! Being an artist felt like I always thought it should.

Then February hit and I decided to focus on the children’s book I’ve been trying to finish for 5 years. A book I love and completely support. But something about it just causes me to shut down. I have barely painted since then. I’ve started 2 paintings and finished a third, (the dog painting.)

The past month I even convinced myself to start a completely new career. If I’m not painting, what is the point? If I’m just making myself miserable and avoiding the thing I love, why keep doing it? I could still paint in my spare time and maybe one day go back to full-time painting. I’ve been reading several books about the new career and even made a plan and picked a location.

It’s a very reasonable and responsible decision.

But I didn’t become an artist because I made reasonable and responsible decisions.

I came across a book at Barnes and Noble and recognized some cup paintings from the 30 paintings challenge. Since I was 99% sure I commented on the woman’s paintings, I decided to flip through the book, Daily Paintings. Here’s the artist’s blog.

Turns out there is a whole chapter on artist’s block and the “I never want to paint again” phase.  A lot of that chapter sounded like what I was going through. I didn’t want to stop painting forever, but I didn’t want to rely on it for my income because I felt it wasn’t fair to my current level. Although, how my level would be better focusing on a different career beats me.

Truth be told, I felt betrayed. I felt betrayed by this thing I loved more than anything. I’ve never before felt that I wanted another career so I thought, it must be time. Maybe it is time. I’m not going to say it isn’t.

Painting felt so good, then so awful. I finally had a glimpse of my dream life, then it just disappeared. I’m used to painting feeling awful. I’ve felt that way since college. I’m not used to it feeling so awful after it actually felt great.

I don’t know what my long term plan is.

I do know I’m not ready to give up just yet. The beauty of my possible new career is that it will take at least a year to start. If I work towards that while trying my new plan I will either have that career or my art career.

I’ll post more about my plan tomorrow.

Now, let’s get back to the book:


Daily Painting by Carol Marine

I have not read every word in this book. There is so much information and such a broad range, which is surprising because it isn’t that thick.

There’s stuff for very beginners to beginning professionals. While I am interested in the “how to oil paint” section and will maybe try my hand at that this summer, I will just quickly scan the section on drawing/perspective. I don’t really need it, but a refresher is always nice. Plus she may have a good tip.

The sections I’m really attracted to are chapter 9 about the blocks (of course), the section on her routine in chapter 1, all of the interviews with other artists, and all of the great artwork. Eventually her materials and process will be something I will use a lot. The sections I have read have reignited the spark that has been missing for months.

“In 2012 I had a particularly terrible block. It was so bad that I actually announced to my (extended) family that I was done with painting for good and would be finding a new career going forward. And I was serious.”

Those 3 sentences hit me like an arrow right in the heart. Not only had she felt exactly how I am feeling right now, she got over it and is still a full-time artist, now with a book.

“I was scraping the bottom so badly it hurt.” I’d tell her to get out of my head, but I think I need her to stay.

One of the most important things I read in her book, for me, is that she admits she tried to push through and paint when she didn’t feel like it and that left her less and less satisfied. As artists we are always hearing we need to paint even when we don’t feel like it and we listen to the amazing artists that eat, breathe, and sleep and never have blocks.  Between Marine admitting she didn’t want to feel like a spoiled princess and reading about Liz Wiltzen not relating to artists who are all art all the time, I feel like maybe I do still have a chance.

It has inspired me to make my own routine, but one that isn’t so structured I balk. A few other books I’m reading have helped me think of the if/then plan for road blocks, which I’ll talk about later.

This book ranges from value and drawing to tips on selling more online. It’s full of tips and it is very well organized. You definitely get your money’s worth in this information-dense book.

I like reading 1 star reviews of any product I buy on Amazon and while I bought this from Barnes, I checked out the 2 out of around 250 ratings that had 1 star ratings. One person said it was was more of a personal journey than a how to.  I would agree with that, but there are plenty of how-tos. I like that it is a personal journey because I really needed to hear someone else’s story instead of just mine.

Links for this book are Amazon Associates links, which means buying from them supports me.


About Elisha

Elisha Dasenbrock is an award winning, international watercolor artist. She paints with a limited palette on claybord. Dasenbrock graduated from the American Academy of Art in 2009 and has been painting professionally ever since.