Do You Need an Art Cleanse?

Clear your mind and find your own voice.

The other morning, I woke up and started scrolling through Instagram with one eye squinted open. I’m not a morning person, so this is usually how I convince myself it’s time to get out of bed. Though, this time I suddenly felt the urge to mute every artist I follow. With each piece of art I looked at, I was uneasy. Antsy. Frustrated. All unpleasant things.

I was confused because I love looking at other artists’ work. I love being inspired by the voices of others, but something shifted that day. Suddenly, I feel smothered, and after a minute or two I realized why. I felt like my own creative voice was getting quieter with each image I looked at.

I needed an art cleanse.

Where I was in my creative cycle dictated that I shut out the outside world and stop consuming other forms of art. It’s hard to view my own art objectively when I have images from other artists stuck in my head. Yes, we can be inspired by other artists, but there are also times when we need to step away during our own creative process/cycle.

The Creative Cycle

The creative cycle looks a little different for everyone, but we often follow similar stages. You can find a bunch of different names for the phases of the creative process out there, but here’s how I describe it:

Stage 1: Research/Input: This is where your senses are wide open and you’re taking in everything around you. Nature, art, movies, books, life experiences, travel, etc..

Stage 2: Incubation: Now you have to sit with all that new input and play with it. You rearrange, edit, crop, adjust, and find new perspectives.

Stage 3: Creation: Make the art.

Stage 4: Reflection and Rest: Once your vision is complete, it’s time to evaluate the end product. Make notes of what to take to the next project and what to leave behind. Take a moment to breathe and do nothing.

And repeat.

Does this process seem familiar to you? When we are in the first stage of the creative cycle, we welcome all input from the outside world. Instagram and the internet help feed the cycle and give us new ideas to play with. Once you move onto stage two, there’s no room for outside stimuli. And I felt that with a passion on that unpleasant morning.

I’d taken in all I could and it was like trying to eat more ice cream even though I was too full to cram any more in. Physically putting that spoon to my mouth made me ill even though I love ice cream way more than I want to. It was time to incubate. Time to create. Time to listen to my own voice and to do a little art cleanse.

Why You Should Do An Art Cleanse

First, when I say “Art Cleanse” I pretty much just mean to shut off your connection to any outside art. Mute creators on Instagram. Stop scrolling on social media or going on there at all unless it’s to post your own work. Maybe you even need to take art off your walls or hide anything in your living/working space that triggers that unpleasant reaction that I had while scrolling IG.

An art cleanse is just freeing up space in your senses, and here are the reasons why you might need it:

1. To make space for your own ideas to develop.

Your own ideas can get lost if you constantly fill your senses with outside input. If you never disconnect and allow yourself to basically sit in a room alone with your research, you’ll never truly enter the incubation phase. If you are one of those people (I’ve been here) who constantly feels creatively blocked, you may just need to disconnect.

2. To get bored.

Boredom is unpleasant, but it’s incredibly beneficial. Boredom is where creativity can run free. Am I bored when I’m scrolling through Instagram? Most of the time, nope. Am I working on my own art when I’m doing that? Also, a big nope. Know how I made progress on this blog post? I turned off the TV, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, and I stared at my laptop screen. I didn’t have ideas before doing so, but I knew I had taken in plenty of input to get me here eventually.

Read: Why You Need to Embrace Boredom

When everything else around you is quiet, your brain starts making a lot of noise to end the boredom. So, disconnect from the art around you and let your mind make a mess. You never know how it will entertain itself.

3. To stop comparing your skills or success.

We can’t help but compare ourselves to over artists. Even if you aren’t an insecure person, if you are around another human, you are going to compare and contrast your traits. If a tall person walks in a room, you may think “whoa, they’re tall,” because if you’re short you can’t help but observe the difference. When you look at another artist’s work, you will make observations according to your own experiences. Whether it triggers pleasant or unpleasant thoughts, it’s still something that is taking up your mental space. Eliminate the comparison. Turn off the outside art world.

4. To separate your own style from mimicry.

When we don’t know our own style, it’s instinctual to look at the work of other artists before you and mimic their work. How else will we learn what we can do but by observing what has already been done by others? (Read: Are You stealing From Other Artists? ) Humans mimic everything done by other humans. None of us are original in what we do, but when you isolate yourself after taking in a bunch of new information, you begin to travel down your own somewhat unique path.

Have you ever met someone who was home-schooled and immediately knew they marched to the beat of their own drum? Or interact with someone who has lived alone for a very long time and see the odd behaviors they have developed? When you separate yourself artistically from the group for a while, you can start to get a feel for your own style more easily.

Honor the Creative Cycle:

You have to know when it’s time to move from the research phase to the incubation phase. If you have been feeling uneasy or smothered every time you look at another artist’s work, it just might be time for you to cut yourself off from the outside world and “cleanse” your social experiences of anything that will quiet your voice. It’s time to incubate.

I hope this post was helpful to anyone out there who feels the need to mute or unfollow every creator in their life. Those of us who understand won’t take it personally. It’s just where you are in the creative cycle. We’ll be here when you’re done and ready to reconnect. I can’t wait to see what you make while you’re away!

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P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Further Reading:

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