I’ve been away from sketching and drawing and painting for almost 4 weeks. Our Flying Pictures Project got me back into it. And I struggled. My hand felt dumb, my mind was foggy, my imagination was glum and even my committment and desire were flimsy. And that brought the question to my mind: “Is it good to take a break?”

…digging deep…

Watercolour, pencil and rotring pen on Fabriano artistico  HP, 23×30,5 cm.

It will probably be different for everybody.

As for myself and some people I’ve spoken to lately: ….to take a break, is fine. To take a long break, is disasterous. Whether it is a break from art, or work, or excercise or singing, design, or studies, or whatever. Routine sounds like a dull, boring, unartistic word. But it is in fact routine that gets us to be committed and effective, creative and original, inspired and determined. To break the routine for a definite period, is good for the body and soul. It is replenishing. But taking a break for an indefintite period can be dangerous.

Being away from art for 4 weeks, had me shying away more and more from the paper and brush. It felt too hard find the committment, the inspiration and the creativity. My excuses showed up more frequently and they got more creative in fact! I would promise myself that I would sit down for some painting an afternoon, just to quickly find that my afternoon was taken up by “a-lot-of-other-things-that-need-to-be-done-first”. Or I would blame lack of inspiration. Or even the weather.

It got easier to replace the joy of painting with other things I do enjoy. Photography and cooking. And writing. I also love gardening and designing.  But then there is my conscience. I have a terrible conscience. One that keeps me from sleeping and drives me to eating. My conscience stirred my guilt. For neglecting something that I truly love and enjoy. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that to take a break is almost like planning a vaction:

  • There is a beginning and an end in taking a break, which has to be decided on in your planning beforehand.
  • There is a “destination”; where is this break taking me? Do I want to spend more time on excercising or do I want to spend time with my loved ones..
  • “Not feeling inspired” is one of the most futile reasons for taking a break, which was part of my reason.
  • There is also a “budget” that must be adhered to. What will this break cost me? Will I not lose the new techniques that I’ve just starting working with?
  • And then there is the decision to fully enjoy the short break, knowing well when you’ll be back so as to not have your conscience breathing down your neck the whole time.

I now have to work on reestablishing my commitment,(which needs time to settle in) digging deep for my creativity(which must be excercised to surface), practice the new techniques I left hanging loose, and just start doing again without thinking…art wise that is!

21 thoughts on “To take a break or not…

  1. this is lovely

    I know what you mean – short breaks are good and refreshing – long breaks can lead to a fear factor about starting again and lots of excuses about ‘not right now’

    The only way through is to sit down and do something, anything, but paint/sketch/draw/play with a new medium .. just start working and then you’ll be on a roll again like this :>)

    There’s a definite fear factor with the sketchbook exchanges!

  2. Oh yes, it is so easy to find other things to fill your time, to distract yourself from ‘showing up at the page’ (can’t remember where that quote comes from – Julia Cameron?). I managed to do that for years, so four weeks isn’t such a disaster! Routine does seem so un-creative, but it really I think is the secret of many productive artists. This painting seems to show your re-beginning – fragile, sensitive and seeking… good for the Flying Pictures to get you moving again (which looks like such a fabulous interactive project) – keep going Ronell, I’m sure good things will happen.

  3. Oh Ronell you are such an artistic soul, nurture in what ever fashion you deem necessary – the bouquet sketch is Fabulous, and if it is from a bad day – I can only pray for such a bad day :0

  4. You “hit the nail on the head”. That’s exactly the way I feel sometimes. If we’re away travelling – especially while visiting family – it’s impossible to do ANY art. Every minute is usually double booked for something.

    Then there are obligations at home to full fill. Not just everyday routines and chores, but bigger things that demansd attention with the change of the seasons.

    One solution I have is to sign up for weekend workshops or curses that are a bit longer. I did both recently. As soon as we got back from our Niece’s First Communion in Italy, I had a weekend workshop on painting, for which I had signed up before we left. Right now I’m taking a course on photography. It IS an artform, just not drawing or painting!

    I love what you’ve done with the flowers, Ronell. I’d say it won’t take long to get your creative muse back on track. Actually, you probably are a bit too hard on yourself. That’s another thing, the guilty voice eating away at your creative energies. Just DO it! I should follow my own advice…. 😉

  5. I have to admit, I have SO missed your glorious watercolors, Ronell — YOU inspire ME to try being loose (so difficult for me), to be more adventuresome, and to EASE UP!!! I am so glad you’ve returned to them. I LOVE YOUR WORK!~

    I am so afraid to STOP my daily commitment for the same reasons you have listed … yes, there are days I am absolutely NOT inspired (and my daily practice shows it) — but being still so new to wc and sketching (not 3 years for either), I have so much to learnthat stopping creates such a fear in me to forget what little I think I have learned!!! LOL

    I have ‘showed up’ at the paper daily for over 2 1/2 years .. each and every day — something gets on the paper … does it help? FOr me, it does … I see improvement (not necessarily day by day but overall), and it keeps me trying and learning. Would a break help me? I’m not sure … Some of my favorite artists are taking breaks this year — from blogging and from sketching/painting. They, though, have far more experience than I feel I do .. so maybe it will help them. For me, I’m not so sure.

    I do know that when I get bored, uninspired, tired, FRUSTRATED!!! LOL — then I add something different to the mix of creative endeavors — garden (which has been neglected for almost 3 years!! LOL), a class, surfing other blogs, and the like.

    I’m so interested in seeing what other folks have to say about this. Perhaps “flying pictures’ has it right —?

  6. What a gorgeous painting! I think your break must have done you some good after all.

    I do know what you mean though. I’m hopeless – once I stop, it’s difficult to get started again.

  7. First of all, you take a break, you lose confidence and then you paint such an accomplished study of lilies in a vase. I think it’s the most beautiful painting I’ve seen from you recently – okay, I know I went mad for the mango but you were appealing to me on two levels – appetite and art!

    It is very easy to lose it, if the break is too long – like golf, the muscles forget. But I do believe in limited breaks – essential because what they do is make you impatient to get back to your passion.

    Brava, brava, brava, Ronell – look at the number of people who are impatient for your next post. Most of us are stealing time from something we really should be doing, for the pleasure of looking at what you’re doing.

  8. Excellent painting, I’d never have guessed you were feeling what you have described. It looks quite inspired!

    What you say is also true for me, short breaks are good and revitalize and refresh my artistic spirit but long breaks seem to do the very opposite. Those short breaks can act as break-throughs, allowing the mind to come up with creative solutions. Other times they seem like excuses to procrastinate. Why, I wonder, do we put off doing what we love so much?

  9. WELCOME BACK, you have been missed.

    When the kids were home I was busy
    When they went to school I thought I’d be bored waiting by the clock…and I did…for a while!
    Soon my day filled and I was rushing up the school to make it on time.

    When I was offered a column the extra money was such a treat
    Now I have no idea where it goes

    Spaces we leave fill up
    Things we receive become lost

    Stretching time is an art and living each day as the first day is a blessing.
    You will find time
    You will find your groove
    You will find your creativity
    Just treat tomorrow as a first!

    Looking forward to your adventure.

  10. I loved how candid (and helpful) your remarks are but most of all I love your fluid sketches. You’re right about how easy it is to postpone the joy of painting. Some nights I drag myself off to figure drawing but find as I’m walking home (even on nights I struggled in class) I’m smiling and thinking “Boy, I love to draw!”

  11. Thanks for responding, it was great reading your opinions! I really think we run to “take a break” far too quickly, instead of just maybe changing our routine a little, not climbing out of the routine completely.
    And Barbara, you’re right. The “getting there” is always the hardest!

  12. Ahh, Ronell … I hope now you know that you have inspired many people with your intuitive writing and painting. You are quite right, we all need some form of routine to somewhat contain us, or else our souls just meander continuously and become too restless to create.

  13. I agree with you that taking a break is like a vacation…2 weeks max! Taking a break from blogging is different but taking a break from art is like taking a break from eating. Sooner or later, I’m feeling starved. Why is it I have to struggle so to do something this good for myself?

  14. I missed you, Ronell! So glad you are posting again, after your break – which obviously did not impact your ability to produce lovely, fresh paintings. This is just beautiful!

  15. First off, let me say that like everyone else I have missed you greatly. and I echo what Robyn said: “Most of us are stealing time from something we really should be doing, for the pleasure of looking at what you’re doing.” And that includes me.

    I really enjoyed this post, and I think you are absolutely right. A long break can be disastrous, a short break is sometimes unavoidable, or just plain welcome. I think your guidelines are sound – good advice to follow.

    As you know, I too have been taking a break. Not because I planned it, but simply because my mind demanded it. I’ve only been away (only?) for 2 and a half weeks, but it’s already gotten to the point that I can feel myself slipping farther and farther from the habit. I know the day is coming soon when ready or not I will have to begin again, or not begin at all. The whole time I’ve been away I have carried a notebook and almost filled it with scribbles, but the last few days I’ve been forcing myself to think about making art. Not think about it in terms of ‘lalala, wouldn’t that be lovely’, but think about it – visualize the pen moving across the page, open my pencil box an inhale deeply, mix some paint and dip my fingers in the color. Remind myself of what I love. and what I miss.

    Thank you for your post Ronell. You’re so right, “‘not feeling inspired’ is one of the most futile reasons for taking a break.” It’s also one of the hardest to break. Your words and your glorious picture are just what I need to snap it in two.

  16. Ronell, I love your beautiful, fluid, splashy, colourful watercolour lilies! And I so agree with your comments on the hows & whys of taking an art break. Wise thoughts.

  17. Thank you for your comment on my Arizona sketches.

    Your watercolor style is so beautiful! I would love to learn to paint loose and fluid like you. I am so new at this medium and I get a little heavy handed and overworked, but I just keep trying…

    Also, thank you your inspired thoughts on taking a break.

  18. The last real break I took from art lasted 8 years. I don’t want to do that again. This is who I am, it is how I speak and it is how I relate to the world. I hope you had a nice ‘vacation’ but it’s time to come back. Your ever faithful friend and fan!!!

  19. Gosh, It all sounds so complicated…..
    I’m glad your’e back too, and I just love your lily painting…. Your loose washy style is SO inspiring to me.

    Now I”VE got to go and “show up at the page”.

Tthank you for your visit and comment, II appreciate it!

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