The Creative Muse

This post was originally written on 29th of April 2014, rewritten in 2015.

This post is about a specific mural I have done and how I handled my creative/artistic blocks and conquered the muse that was playing hard to get.

I am standing inside a big, old messy hangar. It used to be a storage space that belonged to the fire department. Since they had moved the space didn’t really have a purpose anymore. I’m here because Matthias from Kapow asked me to join him. He’s gonna throw a party here within 4 days and he’s asking me to paint a mural alongside some other graffiti artists. Kapow is Matthias’ project to spread positive vibes and skateboarding across the globe.

This time there is a general theme for the party, the over-fishing of the oceans. As a vegetarian and animal rights activist I must admit that I love the theme. I try to limit myself when it comes to preaching world change because most people don’t like to hear that kind of talk, Geordie Shore is way more interesting to them. It also is an ineffective way of change, forcing it down people’s throats. But if I can incorporate such a message in an artwork, I will gladly take the opportunity.

My sketch involves Ariel, Disney’s little mermaid. I have sketched her with a rope around her neck as she is being taken away by some fishermen.
I spend the next 6 hours sketching on the wall, trying to transfer the same flow and composition that I have on a small piece of paper onto a wall that is three times my body length. On any other day this isn’t really a problem, but today there seems to be something missing. Whatever I do, I am not feeling the outcome of the sketch. It seems as if for some reason all my talent and knowledge of art has been taken away from me and I’m back to the six year old level of drawing that I started off from.

Ariel The Little Mermaid by Matthew Dawn - The Creative Muse
The sketch.

It seems my muse is playing hard to get. Yes, I have a muse, but it’s not some person that I deeply adore. Rather it’s some sort of spirit/god that lives inside of me. I envision it as a strong, independent woman. She prefers to chop my head off as opposed to comfort me, whenever I make a mistake. She is brutally honest and unforgiving when I fuck up. She seems like a total bitch (and she is), but if I can wow her in the right manner, she will inspire me to make the best art pieces I can possibly make. Her love for me comes in creativity and inspiration. She feeds it to me as if I am her child.
This muse is always looking over my shoulder, influencing the way I paint and draw. I can gain her love if I sacrifice enough paper, graphite and time. But no matter how small or big the sacrifice, it isn’t guaranteed to work. I might draw something a dozen times over and never really nail it because she just simply won’t let me. It works in the opposite direction as well. I might not draw or paint for several weeks and when I get back to it, I suddenly seem to have improved without making an effort.
There is no logic behind her actions and though I might look for it, I don’t expect there to be any. She is highly emotional, completely irrational and entirely made up in my head.

Standing in the hangar I realise I had forgotten about her for quite a while. Weeks even months maybe, might have gone by without me ever thinking about my creative muse and how she affects me and my skills. I try to analyse the different actions that I’ve taken that might have led up to this point. I start talking to myself:

“Maybe I had to repeat the sketch on paper a bit more so I understood the flow and several forms in it better as opposed to when I sketched it out in photoshop at three in the morning. Or perhaps I should have dedicated more time to anatomy studies over the past months, so I had a deeper understanding and greater knowledge of it and didn’t have to rely on last minute guesses. It could also be the result of me not living  up to my own standards in other areas of my life, i.e. exercising, dieting, reading, writing, socialising…”

Whatever might have been the cause, I’m suffering the consequences now. I decide to go back home to make sure I am better prepared the next day.

Which seems to have been a good decision when I return. I have improved my sketch and in contrast to the previous day, I’ve dedicated my mind to be fully focused on the work that I’m about to do and not feel like some kind of graffiti prima donna. The extra effort I’ve put in bears its fruits as I can see that I am creating the piece in the way that I want it to be. Making me once again realise the importance of being humble about my work. As I progress through this skill set of being an artist, I need to put in increasingly more effort to maintain my skills. Opposite to what I used to believe: that it would get easier over time.

I can admit that I have created this muse character as a vehicle to deal with my own inner creative conflicts from a distance. This is my way of being an artist, it doesn’t have to be yours.

Ariel The Little Mermaid by Matthew Dawn - The Creative Muse
Halfway through.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading this article! Feel free to share it with other people or leave a comment!

-Matthew Dawn

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