Caught in a Creative Rut This Year? You’re Not Alone. We Asked 17 Artists What They Do When They Get Stuck in the Studio

From going for a jog to taking a dance break, here's how Markus Lüpertz, Kenturah Davis, and other artists get un-stuck.

Markus Lüpertz Studio. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, and Märkisch Wilmersdor.
Markus Lüpertz Studio. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, and Märkisch Wilmersdorf.

No one could fault an artist for falling into a rut this past year. But as the world reemerges from lockdown, we asked 17 artists what they do to get their creative juices flowing after feeling stuck.

Here’s what they said, drawn from our ongoing “Studio Visit” series.

Liam Gillick's studio in Naples. Courtesy the artist.

Liam Gillick’s studio in Naples. Courtesy the artist.

“I go to Parnell’s Pub on 53rd Street and Second Avenue [in New York] and bring my notebook with me. Something usually happens after the second pint of Guinness.” Liam Gillick

 

“I travel to workshops or change the studio. Traveling south to Tuscany to observe the way the sun hits the Italian landscape changes my perspective.” Markus Lüpertz

 

“Dance. It’s the only way I can release the tension in my mind. Dancing and recording myself doing it is fun—thankfully these videos will never make it to the internet.” Vanessa Endeley

“In the past when a piece wasn’t coming together for one reason or another, I would keep muscling through until I eventually drove it into the ground. I, and the work, would have benefited from taking space. This seems obvious enough now, but I’m glad I’ve learned to step back when needed. Things seem to start to click back into place after I sleep or drink a bunch of water or take a walk. A friend that is an artist a few generations older than myself commented about the need for artists to take care of themselves so they can keep making work over time. I try to keep this in mind.” Lisa Williamson

Courtesy of Alteronce Gumby.

Courtesy of Alteronce Gumby.

“I leave! I drop whatever I’m doing and go for a walk. That walk usually leads me right into a museum or art gallery. I go see art at least once a week. At the beginning of 2020, I got an artist membership to MoMA. You can catch me there at least once a week studying a painting in the collection. I think it’s important for a visual artist to be constantly looking at art. Sometimes I turn to my collection of monographs and exhibition catalogues or the internet if something I want to see isn’t on view in the city.” Alteronce Gumby

 

“I change the artwork I’m currently working on, the work area, or the room I’m in.” Sabine Moritz

 

“The studio is one of the only places I rarely feel stuck. I am an artist who fetishizes and needs a studio. I have a comfortable environment in which I can work in many ways in the same general space. I like to work this way, so there is always a place to pick up and drop off, something that might take an hour, or something that needs a longer arc of time. I like to let my moods guide the flow.

Some work is more meditative and lets my mind drift, while other work, I need to start with strong energy first thing in the morning. When I feel unsure of something, I usually set it aside and start working on something else. I also like to go for walks and observe.” Davina Semo

 

“I go running.” Hella Jongerius

Film still from Lisa Immordino Vreeland's film on the artist, courtesy of Jo Baer

Film still from Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s film on the artist, courtesy of Jo Baer and Art Agency Partners.

“I’ll often take a short nap.” Jo Baer

 

“I don’t think there is stuck and un-stuck in the studio, just times when I am at my best at certain tasks. I have a job that includes play, speculation, and dreaming—elements that should never be measured with expectations. When these things start turning into tangible goals, I capitalize on my temperamental behavior by jumping around different processes of multiple projects happening at the same time.” Eric Standley

 

“I just ride it out. It is OK to be stuck. Sometimes days, sometimes weeks, it’s just important to know it is just a phase.” Nick Cave

Jonathan Horowitz, work in progress.

“Throw paint at a canvas.” Jonathan Horowitz

 

“The studio is never a place to get stuck because there’s always something to do, I’ve designed it that way. It’s important to make the distinction, I think, when talking about what it’s like to make things in the studio these days. Personally, my heart hurts most days, but the studio is ready to make drawing happen whenever. I’m constantly worried about the health of friends and family, but this paper and pencil right next to me are ready to go.

My mind might be cloudy, and I may be afraid and furious when constantly faced with varying abstractions of death, but there’s a pallet of 1,000 pounds of flake graphite powder to my left that isn’t going away anytime soon. It could very well produce the most compelling physical challenge I’ve ever had from a drawing. My studio is always moving, but the world seems more stuck than any artist could be right now.” Tony Lewis

Photo courtesy Sundaram.

Photo courtesy Sundaram.

“I cook a meal to warm up my hands and organize my mind. I can count on a film by Almodóvar or Ozon to rearrange me. Or a conversation with a good friend.” Sagarika Sundaram

 

“Go for a walk, run, read, camp.” Sam Falls

 

“The dance breaks come in handy; turning up the volume on a song I love. Alice Smith’s cover of Nina Simone’s ‘I Put a Spell on You’ is a whole mood. OutKast’s ‘Slum Beautiful’ hits the rotation when I need a more upbeat groove.

I also love referring back to any of Toni Morrison’s essays; they always help me untangle conceptual knots when I’m working. Sometimes I like just looking at books, not necessarily to read them in that moment, but to just study how text or images are arranged on a page and organized into an object.” Kenturah Davis

Kenny Scharf's Los Angeles studio. Photo courtesy of Kenny Scharf Studio.

Kenny Scharf’s Los Angeles studio. Photo courtesy of Kenny Scharf Studio.

“I never get stuck.” Kenny Scharf


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