Filling Up the Well

a hummingbird sitting on a hand

You can’t produce from a dry well.  That is a lesson I’ve run into a few times.  For me, the best way to prevent an art block is to head it off before it starts.  This means doing activities that inspire me, though their relationship to my art might not be obvious at first.  Like this weekend’s trip: bird banding hummingbirds.

So tiny! So cute!

No birds were harmed by any of these procedures, they were released and on their way within minutes.  After being weighed, measured and banded they’d be freed by gently holding out the palm. Poof!  It was part of one of our local birding club’s event calendars.

An adult male rests for a moment before buzzing away

While art is my main passion right now, my degree is actually in biology.  I’ve always loved animals and nature and am inclined to learn as much as I can about it!  The more I learn, the more I find that interesting things come out in my art.  Animal designs become much more creative and life-like, and the limits on imaginative designs stretch much further while remaining believable.  This is why research is so critical to imaginative art.

Being released by the scientist

Getting so close to the natural world can be inspiring.  If you find yourself stuck in an artistic rut, some suggestions for things to try:

  1. Natural history museums
  2. University collections
  3. Zoos
  4. the local dog park (this is one of my personal favorites!)
  5. Naturalist clubs
  6. Just going outside and sketching

As someone living in the rural area with a baby while sharing a car, I get that travel is a luxury.  In life is always best, the experience often much more immersive but barring that some suggestions for those housebound:

  1. “The Arkive”
  2. Netflix.  Really any David Attenborough documentary, The life of birds/mammals and Planet Earth are really good.
  3. Exotic pets communities–positions on animal ethics aside, often you find photographs and learn more about the animal than you would ever expect, and can ask owners for specific reference material.
  4. Libraries.  The Dewey decimal number to find books on animals is 590, 598 and 599 are birds and mammals respectively.  560 if you want dinosaurs!

I found that being well-rounded only helps one’s art–as long as you keep producing!  Sometimes it feels like I never have time for ANYTHING but if I neglect the well too long, it runs dry.  To me, seeking other activities is an act of necessary self-care that leads to more productivity later.

A young male has his beak inspected. note the single blood-red feather at his throat.


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