“Blank Page Syndrome”

Every artist suffers with it at one point. Either in brand new sketch books, a fresh canvas, a lovely notebook, or on any medium you use.

I often find books I’ve never used, because they’re just “too pretty”, the paper is just “too good” to do my pathetic little doodles. The books just feel so clean and new, and exciting, they do inspire you to do work, but then you open the book… and stare at the page.

You just helplessly stare. Unable to begin, you pen shaking in your hand, then you slam the book shut, put it in a door and give up. This might not be forever, might only be a few minutes, but it can also be YEARS. I’ve found books I’ve brought in high school, I’m now taking a year from university for my pregnancy. That’s ridiculous!

Even with books I’ve brought recently, I’m still doing the same thing. Sometimes just the cover is daunting, still all wrapped in plastic. Still all shiny and new, and I can’t bring myself to get into the pages and really do some work.

This is a problem I’ve found other people struggle with, and have different tactics to get around it. One artist that visited my university one day said he scribbled or splashed paint aimlessly on his canvas’, swirling in swear words, genitalia, anything to make the page not blank anymore. Then he’d thickly cover the canvas in whatever he really wanted to paint to hide the profanity so he could get some work done. I wish I could remember his name, as he was a very amusing person, just seemed to generally laugh at life. But I do remember one comment he made, saying “If anyone did one of those layer scans on my canvas’, they’d have a good giggle at my penis’ with hats underneath a very serious art piece”, and I happen to agree, they would have a good giggle.

I did try this technique, and with paint, yes, it does work (not watercolour, more acrylic or oil), but when you work in pencil or pen, it doesn’t always…. And you’re left with something you didn’t really want to make.

So how would you deal with it? What would you suggest? Do you deal with this problem, or does working on blank surfaces come rather naturally to you?