Creative Frustration

Episode 179 · May 22nd, 2021 · 30 mins 27 secs

About this Episode

It’s an all-too familiar situation in the studio, coping with a work of art that seems to fight against you at every step, making each day with it a struggle. It’s so easy to become obsessed with a piece like this, trying to persuade it to cooperate, just as you might with a stubborn person. It can feel like an exhausting contest of wills, made all the more frustrating by your awareness that you are actually fighting with yourself. Today we’re going to talk about those pieces that make you want to tear out your hair or throw them out the window -window. Because we all know that feeling, right?

Although lots of times our work flows well, and our frustrations are fairly fleeting, other times we experience the opposite. Your work can anger and upset us and feel as though it has its own negative persona. The fact that it is actually your own creation can make it a metaphor for all the ways you think you fall short as an artist. This can lead to a downward spiral in which you beat yourself up for not being able to make the thing work. And from that state of mind, it is also harder to calm down and see your way forward.

How can you break loose from the negative grip of frustrating work? If you can avoid getting wound up emotionally I the first place, trust that the work is challenging for a reason and that you have something to learn, that is certainly the healthiest attitude. It may help to know that experiencing a high level of frustration is very common among creative people and is actually necessary to growth.

But if your frustration feels unbearable, there are a few simple strategies. One is to retreat, walk away, and give yourself some time and space to be able to come back with a fresh eye. If you can gain some distance, you may be able to go over your work with an objective attitude and see what isn’t working and why. The problem with this approach alone is that it can lead to endless small changes and tweaks, without much real progress. So, it may also be time to make a bold, major change in the work. The best move may be to wipe out the previous path you were on with the work and allow for a fresh start.

No matter how you choose to deal it riding out the cycle of frustration and resolution is part of the creative cycle. If your work never presents strong challenges, you are probably stuck in a rut of easy answers and rote solutions. The next time you’re ready to stick a palette knife through your canvas, remember that all creative people experience these feelings and that they do eventually open the way to new ideas and growth.

Thanks to everyone who has been sharing the show and donating! If you would like to donate to the Messy Studio Podcast donate here.

Thank you also to everyone who has written testimonials for Ross's website! Have you enjoyed the audio production quality and hearing Ross's voice? Submit a testimonial by email at [email protected] or by submitting the contact form at!

When you buy art supplies at Blick remember to use our affiliate link to support the podcast! Bookmark this link and then you don't even have to think about it again. This is one of the best ways to support the show. It takes a few seconds and costs you nothing! The Blick website works exactly the same way, but we earn 10% every time you buy art supplies.

What's new at Cold Wax Academy? Rebecca and Jerry are busy preparing new presentations for their Spring Quarter weekly live, interactive sessions. The topics for Spring are Shape, Scale and Proportion, and Self-Coaching to improve your work habits and productivity.

As always, there will be plenty of opportunities to interact with Rebecca, Jerry, and other members, along with critique sessions, feedback about your paintings, and of course a deep dive into the three selected topics of the quarter. Cold Wax Academy has been receiving lots of rave reviews from its members; they know it is the best online learning for cold wax painting available and the only membership program dedicated to this medium. Find out more at

Have an art related product, service, or event you would like to advertise on the Messy Studio Podcast?
Email Ross at [email protected] for current mid-roll advertising rates.

For more from The Messy Studio:

For more from Rebecca Crowell:

The Messy Studio Podcast is a CORE Publication MGMT production.