Artist's Block - The Word with Heather René Dunaway

Written by: Heather Dunaway
Dec 2022

Is anyone else feeling un-inspired right now? Yeah, me too. I don’t know if it’s all the stress from the holidays, the time change or the fact that I’m still snacking on candy from Halloween and all the sugar has finally rotted my brain the way my mom always said it would. No, I refuse to believe that last bit. Candy would never betray me like that.


So, what do you do to get out of this not-so-funky creative funk? Here’s my word on it. Well, words. Many, many words.

Heather Dunaway, Ernest Anderson, Katie Turner and Emily Smith in front of Henri Matisse's "Dance". On the far left, Heather is a Caucasian woman that has brown hair, swept to the side. She is wearing a navy blue off the shoulder sweater with denim jeans and brown boots. Ernest, an African American man, is taller than Heather. He has a short afro hair style and is wearing a blue and white plaid shirt with baggy denim jeans. His hands are tucked into his pockets and he is laughing. To Ernest's left is Katie. She is a Caucasian woman. she has herhands in the air and she's smiling. She has a short, dyed red pixie cut. She is wearing a white sweater with a rainbow colored scarf and black denim jeans. Emily, who is at the far right, is a Caucasian woman. She is standing awkwardly to be funny. She has long, dark brown hair. She is wearing a gray tshirt, and blue jeans. She has a large brown bag hanging from her shoulder.
L to R: Heather Dunaway, Ernest Anderson, Katie and Emily Smith at the High Museum in Atlanta for the Henri Matisse Exhibit in 2010.

1.  Just throw yourself into it and hope it sticks. Sometimes just pushing through the blockage in your brain works. Make yourself do it, do something, anything. Start sketching, throw paint on a canvas, start jamming on your guitar, or slap words on a page. Make it make sense, make it be senseless. Just putting yourself in that mindset of “I’m doing it” will magically make you actually do it.


2. Meditate on it, or some other way to relax. Listen to some music, light some candles, take a bubble bath, lay down in a sunny park (or pretend to since it’s like Georgia wet-cold outside these days). Emptying your mind is excellent strategy. Scoop all the distractions out of your ol’ noodly noggin and just feel around in the dark for your inspo. You’ll find it when you’ve found calm. 


2.5. Or you could do the exact opposite of a tranquil bath and do something a bit more chaotic. There are lots of different ways to meditate. When I 

was in college at AU getting my undergrad, I would be in the ceramic’s studio for literal hours working on something for my midterms and I would hit this wall. If you are in ceramics currently or have ever attended a class in AU’s ceramic studio you might have an idea of what I’m talking about. There is this wall behind the “outhouse” bathroom on the way to the “abandoned sculpture garden” where students take abandoned or disfigured “throw away” (typically unglazed), ceramic art and just… well, SMASH IT. Chucking some of my old, crappy pieces at the back side of that bathroom wall was a complete wash for my brain. Hearing some of those vessels make that perfect pop when they hit that wall was the absolute best thing ever. So satisfying. I recently met some representatives from the Dahman’s Revenge Rage Room off Walden Drive in Augusta, GA and I’m really interested in trying it out.


3. Clean your space. Sometimes a cluttered space is a cluttered brain. This is especially true for me. Part of my process is cleaning up my studio (or wherever I decide to set up shop) before I begin work on a new piece or project. Getting all of my supplies out and organized so I know where my stuff is key. Then, I blow everything up while I’m creating. It really does look like a bomb went off; I’m not exaggerating. Then the process repeats, and I clean again for the next thing I’m working on. I can’t work if my space isn’t tidy. Which is a personally problem for me, because I tend to be a mess.


4. Talk it out with like-minded arts friends. Sometimes just getting in touch with your community and having the ability to bounce ideas off one another is a great resource for clearing out your artist’s block.


4.5. Better yet, go see some artwork, live music, a theatrical performance, or go dance. Putting yourself in an arts setting can be so inspirational and really awaken your juices. There has never been a time where I went to an art show and left not wanting to make some work.


Well, that’s all the words I got. I hope one of these will help you unlock your jammed up talents.