by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC
Feeling overwhelmed when creating art is a common experience among many artists, and it can be challenging to navigate. Understanding the underlying causes of this overwhelm within the art therapeutic process can help mitigate this emotional burden. Whether you're a seasoned artist or just starting to explore your creative talents, the weight of these emotions can be a formidable challenge. In this blog post, we delve into the common experience of feeling overwhelmed when creating art and explore how understanding the underlying causes can be the key to unlocking your full creative potential and finding solace in the artistic process.
A major contributor to this feeling is the weight of high expectations. Artists and individuals choosing to engage in creative self expression may often set the bar quite high for themselves, expecting their work to be exceptional and unique. The pressure to consistently produce art that meets these self-imposed standards can lead to feelings of overwhelm. The desire to attain perfection in every stroke of the brush or line on the canvas can be paralyzing and hinder the free flow of creative expression.
In an art therapy session, it's not uncommon for individuals to have high expectations of themselves, which can contribute to feelings of overwhelm. The fear of making mistakes or producing less-than-ideal artwork can stifle creativity and self-expression.
Another significant factor is self-doubt. Artists frequently grapple with doubts about their abilities and the value of their work. These insecurities can manifest as a lack of confidence in their creative decisions, making it difficult to move forward. The persistent inner critic, fueled by self-doubt, can become an ongoing obstacle, causing frustration and self-criticism that only adds to the sense of overwhelm.
Creativity is closely tied to inspiration, and a lack of it can be a common source of overwhelm. There are times when the well of inspiration runs dry, and the blank canvas or empty page can feel daunting. Artists may struggle to find the initial spark that ignites their creativity, leading to a sense of stagnation. This lack of motivation can become a significant barrier to the artistic process.
Technical challenges also play a role in feeling overwhelmed. Every artistic medium has its complexities, whether it's mastering proportions in drawing, achieving the right color palette in painting, or nailing the perspective in a three-dimensional piece. Struggling with these technical aspects can lead to frustration and overwhelm, making the artmaking process feel like an insurmountable obstacle.
Overthinking is yet another contributing factor. Artists often ruminate over each creative decision they make, from color choices and composition to subject matter. This overanalysis can lead to analysis paralysis, where every choice feels monumental and leads to a state of artistic standstill. The fear of making mistakes, and the dread of producing work that falls short of personal standards, can be paralyzing. This fear of failure can cause artists to second-guess their every move, creating an additional layer of mental pressure.
To address these feelings of overwhelm, it's crucial for individuals to recognize the root causes and develop strategies to manage them. Setting realistic goals and expectations for your art can help alleviate the pressure to create perfection every time. Taking breaks when needed to prevent burnout and seeking inspiration from various sources, such as nature, fellow artists, and personal experiences, can rekindle enthusiasm. Experimenting with new techniques and materials can invigorate the creative spirit, while connecting with a supportive artistic community can provide constructive feedback and encouragement. Additionally, exploring mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques can help manage anxiety and self-doubt.
To mitigate these overwhelming expectations in an art therapy session, it's essential to reframe your mindset. Understand that art therapy is a therapeutic tool, not an art competition. It's a safe space for self-expression, reflection, and healing. Embrace imperfection, allow yourself to make mistakes, and recognize that the process itself is valuable, regardless of the end result. A skilled art therapist will guide you through this process, helping you navigate your emotions and experiences at your own pace. By letting go of unrealistic expectations, you can fully engage in the healing and self-discovery that art therapy offers.