You have to form a relationship with your subject matter to be able to pour love down that paintbrush and on to that canvas. If you are not enjoying the subject matter you will manifest bitterness with every stroke and the end result will be a work that is stiff and heavy, which is fine if the subject matter is the Berlin wall.... The work has to bring you a joyful experience. It can be challenging and still be joyful, but if the challenge is actually pressing on with it then you need to scrutinise what is really going on.
I remember one pupil that was so keen to get on to oils from watercolours that we booked in an afternoon to get started. They were mortified when I asked them to sketch their subject, and when they had done this I asked them to do it again. I then asked them to do a quick watercolour sketch. They were not a happy bunny I can tell you. I then explained that I had done this so that they may get to know their subject matter and form a bond with it, to then be able to paint it with joy.
I had noted that they were so keen to progress to oils that they had given no thought at all to their subject matter. They had no idea what they were going to do with the oils once they had gotten their hands on them! Whether their subject merited a brush or knife, whether they were going for a genteel underpainting approach or straight in there bold and brash. The subject was a bird so these were all essential issues. After my explanation I asked them for one final watercolour sketch which was a vast improvement on the first. So the moment arrived where my pupil was introduced to the oils and canvas and I left them to it to form another new relationship with the new medium. Their work was executed gently, thoughtfully and with grace. The painting was outstanding.
Attitude is vital to keep in check. Put a CD on of some neutral music, light classical or new age sound works well. Try not to listen to the radio, turning the radio on invites headless voices into your special space. Keep such entities including the telephone and television out of your sacred painting space.
If you just cannot get enthusiastic about your subject or painting, put down your brushes and get out in the fresh air. Just drink in life for a bit and maybe treat yourself to a coffee shop coffee and watch the world go by. Think about your painting enthusiastically planning it out in your mind's eye. See it completed. When you find yourself smiling to yourself, you've cracked it, it's time to return to the easel.
If the smile doesn't come, then the chemistry between you and your subject matter is unlikely to manifest. Unless it is a commission, move on. If it is a commission, then you need to work on your relationship with the work. Are you happy with the commission? Perhaps you feel you have undersold yourself? Maybe you have a personality issue with the client? Resentment can create huge blocks. Confront it and stop blaming the painting, the painting is to be loved, for always.
Before you leave the page, watch the video performance of The Beatles performing 'All You Need Is Love' once more, let it penetrate so that it rattles around in your subconscious when you need it. Once you crack it with the painting, radiate it outward...... who knows what little difference you may make to someone's day!
xx As always written and offered in the spirit of love xx