hit RESET on the creative process

I had the honor of a big solo show of my cyanotype work last year in downtown Johnson City at Nelson Fine Art. Invited at the last minute, it was a tremendous sprint of activity and ideas for a whole month. I wore myself out. The show opened, I went on vacation, and then...

...I stopped creating new work.

double-exposure images of figures at the beach // (c) jocelynmathewes.com

Or at least it felt that way. I went on vacation, and so stepped out of my natural home-studio rhythm. I brought creative materials with me--rolls of film, toy cameras, my sketchbook and pens--and worked eagerly in those mediums as I traveled. I came home and felt reflective, so I dove back through my catalog of past work, organizing and analyzing. It was refreshing and revealing.overlapping exposures of the blue ridge mountains // (c) jocelynmathewes.com

And so, right after a giant sprint, my focus of creating shifted entirely away from creating the cyanotype work that had received a lot of positive and enthusiastic feedback. When the time came to think about creating new cyanotype work, I froze up. I knew I needed to get myself unstuck, so I forced myself to grab the piles of test prints and unfinished works that hadn't made it to the show.

piles of work // (c) jocelynmathewes.com

The piles exploded all over my bedroom. I discarded ancient work that wasn't serving as anything more than fuel for my own nostalgia. I sorted unfinished pieces into various levels of potential, and saw that I hadn't finished exploring all the themes I had played with during my flurry of creation.

But I wasn't sure where to begin. There were too many loose threads.

open sketchbook // (c) jocelynmathewes.com

Then, while on a run to the local art supply store, I discovered that all my favorite frames were on super sale. I snagged a ton of them--whatever I could afford--and lugged them home, excited that I had been able to cut costs on one of the most expensive parts of making and selling art.

As I struggled to shove the frames into my limited space, the solution dawned on me. These frames were eventually going to have to leave my house soon if I were to keep my sanity in the future. I saw one path ahead of me to solve both the problem of creative block and the limits of physical space: my job was simply to fill the frames.

So that's what I did. I worked what felt as though backwards.

Instead of starting with subject matter, I took down dimensions. Instead of creating sketches, I cut paper to the correct size before working. It felt crass. It felt awkward. It felt like I was something of a sham (or "selling out").

But then I realized that I was doing what every creative artist has to do: work within limitations. The limitations could be time, media, or space, but they are all very real and very valid. My new limitations were coming from a different place. Rather than being crass or wrong, they were simply new.

And something about it truly did hit the RESET button for me. It gave me freedom. It gave me a problem to solve. It gave me a pathway out of creative block.