By Vanda Cummins - Originally written for MELBOURNE & VICTORIAN ARTISTS INC Sept 2021
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This is my story of dealing with creative block and the one surprising thing that dragged me out of it and how it is fuelling my art.
After two amazing years of creativity flowing out of me, exhibitions, some sales/commissions, I couldn't find my will to paint.
Where had my motivation gone? My inspiration was still there. My need to go outside and find beautiful gum leaves or natives to photograph was there, so why couldn't I paint.
It's almost the end of 2020, I'm sitting in front of a WIP painting for an exhibition, but all I do is sit, analyse, and then sit a bit more. My water jar was empty, and my brush was untouched. I thought I'd had some bumps in my creative road before, but this was bad. I didn't know if it was due to so many cancelled exhibitions, being stuck at home or what.
I've always had a passion for nature. As a family, we watched every nature docos on TV. We were a family of animal lovers with huge indoor plants growing up to the ceiling. I think of Sir David Attenborough as an uncle who always guided me through and educated me about the natural world. It was an escape from city life and a passion that has never dwindled. I remember doing WWF's 'Pennies for Pandas' campaign in 1984 when I was a kid and being worried that all the animals would be dying off by the time I grew up. I've grown up, and although many are still here, we are losing fauna and flora at alarming rates now, and the threatened species list is getting longer. We need more awareness to drive conservation efforts.
When I was diagnosed with a facial pain condition four years ago, my husband bought me some watercolour pens, and I immediately and inexplicably fell in love. What was I driven to paint? Nature, of course! It led me to learn about our extraordinary Australian biodiversity and fall in love with Eucalyptus in its unique colours, shapes, and forms. I eventually felt like I've found my passion, my driving force. Then, I found MAVA and off I went on my merry
Ok, pardon me for going off on a tangent, back to my creative block and fuelling my art. So let's summarise by saying that nature is what inspires my art!
To recap, it was the end of 2020, and I couldn't paint for shitz nor giggles. Come 2021, and I was looking for help, something to reconnect me, then I saw a post. One of our lovely MAVA artists did some work for Remember The Wild, and I loved what they were doing, and their message and I wondered "Could I do that?"
I started to follow their journey, watch their videos and became a pretty big fan. After a few messages back and forth, I explained who I was and that I'd love to support them with my art. They arranged a zoom call, and it just escalated from there.
For the last five months, my brain has been working nonstop, I have never been so creatively challenged, and my desire to paint is at an all-time high.
I have had the pleasure of donating artworks to Remember The Wild for their Donation page, June and September newsletters and even had a commission. So it really has been a complete 360 for me. And there's lots more to come. I am always trying to think of new ways to support them and drive awareness. This month a great idea came to me late at night, an Inktober challenge to raise awareness for Australian Threatened Species, I created everything in a week with a little help, and I would love you to join in! Inktober is a month-long drawing challenge that runs in October created by Jake Parker. You can learn more about my Inktober challenge and how to join in below.
So what's that ONE thing then??
Working alone as an artist for 2020 seemed to sap the enjoyment out of my work, less travel and only familiar roads to walk down and, well, just lockdown really, it got to me. I didn't know how to deal with that, but now I know one thing I can do. Finding a collaborator, whether another artist, group of artists or cause to support, can be a huge motivator to get those creative juices flowing and feel challenged. You may be surprised at how they work differently for you or inspire you to try something different. The subject matter of your work may change. Connection is so important, and as humans, we're always striving for that. It often fuels our joy and creativity because what is art at the end of the day but sharing our view of the world with others.
So, if you are feeling a bit like I was, here are a few things you can do:
Think about what you are passionate about, who shares those interests
Reach out in art communities like MAVA and see what challenges they have that you can take part in
Find a mentor, or someone to work with that can drive you to a deeper understanding of your art or creativity, and fuel discovery
Connect with a charity and ask how you can support them
Or reach out as I did and explain why you are passionate about working with them and can you collaborate on project, drives etc
Look for other opportunities to grow like challenges, don't pick the easy ones, and push your limits
Just remember, many organisations need help in raising awareness and gaining support due to government funding cuts. They would love to find new ways of getting attention, and maybe your art could help.
Doing things outside of your comfort zone will always offer you the opportunity to grow as a person and an artist. Finding what you are passionate about will constantly fuel your life, and making connections with that passion is a win-win.
Come and join my Inktober prompts!
This year I wanted to combine 2 of my favourite things! Nature conservation is very close to my heart, and the more I learn about our incredible Australian biodiversity, the more I want to preserve and protect it. In collaborating with this year, I have learned so much more about threatened species, and I love their work. The list includes a variety of flora and fauna on the threatened and endangered lists. Some can be quite hard to pinpoint, so I have created a web page and resources where you'll find the name, scientific name, an image and reference links to learn more about the species and conservation efforts being made. Where I can, I have added links to conservation organisations because why not share that love around!
Remember The Wild is Australia's first and foremost nature connection charity. Remember The Wild seeks to bring experiences of the natural world back into our lives to benefit both the environment and ourselves. Dedicated to improving public access to nature, we reconnect communities with the local environment and help people remember why the wild matters. You can learn more about them here https://www.rememberthewild.org.au/
As an artist, Inktober is a magical time for me as I first discovered it in 2019, and I enjoyed the challenge and community aspect of it so much I take part every year no matter what else is going on. I use this time to try new techniques/styles and learn more about myself as an artist.
So if you take part in Inktober, what do you enjoy most about it?
Visit the MAVA INC Artists Directory to see Vanda's Listing - https://www.mavacollective.com/artists-1/vanda-a-cummins