Problem solving

One of the things I picked up when learning about how to cope with life is that a problem can be solved head on, obliquely or sidestepped. We all have our favoured way of tackling things. Those of us who favour the head on approach may find that we are occasionally confronted with an immovable wall, an insoluble creative problem.  It may be the head of a figure we are painting which we can’t quite get right. So we end up overworking the head, painting the life and goodness out of it and ending up frustrated and full of despair.

In this case fortune favours the bold artist who owns a palette knife and is prepared to use it. A complete scrape down of the offending area will often be the best plan, or at least a partial destruction that gives us a whole new set of problems to deal with. Very often the original insoluble problem disappears and the new problems are at least interesting.

You’ll know that the first step in solving a problem is in defining it, when something is understood the resolution can already be clear. When it is clear, again, decisive action is to be encouraged, there is no point in trying to preserve work that falls short.

The oblique approach may be more appropriate when we know that there is a problem but we’re not quite sure what it is. Stepping away from the work for a while may do the trick; there are many artists who have paintings leaning against the studio wall for months or years waiting for the day when they spot the fail. Just viewing the work in a different way can be remarkable, certainly stand well back, turn it upside down, look at it in a mirror, pop it into Photoshop. Try different marks, brushes or colours. Change something and everything else changes.

Asking a pal may help but they usually find a fault in the work that we had yet to notice and that just adds to our problems and can spoil a perfectly good friendship. Better to ask someone whose opinion matters less to us that we may glean what we can without the risk of offence. Try the postman.

Sidestepping is a useful creative strategy, this is where we just put energy into another area, as if no problem exists. We can build up momentum so that when we return to the problem we may see that we were just looking at it in the wrong way or it has even become irrelevant.

Creative work involves plenty of problem solving which can be deeply satisfying and there is always the little burst of endorphins that rewards us each time a solution is found.