Advice & Guidance

How to overcome creative block with Jayne Bateman

17th November 2022 Estimated reading time: 9 mins

Jayne Bateman, a lifelong artist, shares how she overcame physical and mental blocks, which led her to train as a therapist. She now offers bespoke tuition to help other artists with creative blocks.

I’ve always painted; it’s just something that’s part of who I am. As a young child, I remember watching my grandad painting seascapes in oil and enamels, both of us in silence, mesmerised by the action of repeatedly putting the brush to the board and watching the paintings sparkle into life. During those moments of silent connection, the love of painting was instilled within me. I think I’ve always had that feeling that you can go anywhere with a painting – whatever you can imagine, you can paint it and bring it to life. We lived with my grandparents by the coast in North Yorkshire until I was eight, and the sea was part of my grandad’s life and heritage, so it always featured in his work.

Bumps in the road

Our world was turned upside down when my grandad died, a huge and unexpected heart attack just before my O-level exams, sending my family into sudden shock and grief. Not being able to concentrate – and coming down with flu – meant I didn’t get the grades I needed for college, so I had to take a different path instead – the only option being a two-year private secretary course. It was not ideal, but as it turned out, I did learn a lot of useful business skills.

I had barely finished that course when my grandma was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died 18 months later. Before I had time to get over that loss, my mum was diagnosed with cancer, too, and a few years later, she died. On top of that, my childhood asthma had returned; only now I needed inhalers to manage it.

After my mum’s funeral and her affairs were sorted, I had a nervous breakdown. My GP said it was inevitable after all the stress I’d been under for so long, and I was signed off work for several weeks. So, during that enforced pause from life, I had to take stock – here I was, 32 years old, living alone in Hertfordshire, an area I didn’t feel connected to, and in a career I didn’t enjoy. I was still painting as and when I could but found grief a huge block to my creativity. Painting was my happy place, an escape from the stress, but when the stress got too much, I struggled even to get started.

A fresh start

During this time off work, I found myself daydreaming a lot about becoming a ‘proper artist’, having a studio and selling my work. What I didn’t know was the situation was about to become a reality, and three months after my nervous breakdown, the man I was to marry came into my life. It wasn’t long before we were starting our life together in Dorset, an area we both loved. Dorset has always been a huge inspiration for my art since my first visit on a school trip. The light there is incredible, and it wasn’t hard to be motivated to paint. When my son started school, I started exhibiting my work more and was soon asked about commissions and tuition.

For several years I loved living the life of a ‘proper artist’ – painting, exhibiting and teaching! My medium initially was watercolour, then acrylics, but although I loved the smooth transitions of oil painting, having asthma meant I couldn’t use them, even the water-based oils caused me breathing problems.

Unexpected detour

The next change in my artist path happened because of my asthma, which had been steadily worsening each year, as well as having bronchitis each winter. It was really starting to affect my quality of life and work as an artist. My GP suggested I try homoeopathy. I’d never heard of it but felt desperate, and he referred me to a clinic. Within six months of treatment, I no longer needed any inhalers, and the asthma symptoms were gone. I was so utterly amazed that I decided to train as a homeopath myself and signed up for a four-year course at the Contemporary College of Homeopathy in Bristol.

During my homeopathic training, I was taught the link between emotions and ill-health, which I also observed while treating patients in my clinics. I noticed that over 90% of people who needed help with physical problems had an underlying emotional cause. In almost all cases, it stemmed from either a bereavement/grief or childhood trauma. People said the same thing I did. “We’re British; we’re told to be brave, keep a stiff upper lip, not to cry at funerals because our deceased relative wouldn’t want to see us upset, etc.” I also saw the same pattern with patients who were struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression. I realised that there are so many people like me, who had not realised that their symptoms started from suppressed or unresolved grief.

Working with people to restore them back to health has been a privilege. It’s exceedingly hard but rewarding work as they regain their health. The best part for me is always at the end of treatment when they feel better and often talk about wanting to take up a discarded hobby, interest or passion. At this point, I want to shout, “Creativity is my thing; I can help you with that”, but as a homeopath, that’s the time to say goodbye to them, as their need for treatment has ended.

The artist’s life again

After graduating in 2011, and working in busy clinics, plus a house move due to my husband’s job, I still painted regularly and hung onto the title of ‘part-time artist’. However, the feelings were building that I wanted more and more to be a ‘proper artist’ again… and then out of the blue came lockdown 2020, when my clinics had to close. Suddenly I had time and space to concentrate on art again. Coming through lockdown, I have reduced my hours and moved my clinic practice online, so I have more time for art. My bespoke tuition has always been about helping someone connect to their inner artist and develop their individual style, but now I wanted to incorporate my therapeutic knowledge to help people overcome artistic and mental blocks to keep their art practice moving forward. So I set up ‘HeArt Classes’ from my home studio in the beautiful Cheddar Gorge village.

Working with my own blocks to creativity has led me on an unexpected and meandering path, which ultimately has led me back to the heart of myself again, and now I am able to help other artists find their own unique path back to themselves.

Simple ways to clear your own mental block

Everyone gets creative and mental blocks from time to time, even experienced artists. Even a simple block such as “I haven’t got the energy for painting today” can mean anything from being simply tired from a busy life to procrastination because of a deep-rooted fear of failure – or even success. Often, the hardest part can be overcoming the inner voices that stop us from expressing who we are within our art or sometimes even stop us from getting started.

Making art can be extremely therapeutic as it allows you to forge a connection between mind and body and promotes wellness, healing and personal change. Understanding your blocks is a huge step forward in resolving them, and not every block to creativity has deep-seated issues behind it; some are very short-lived.

Jayne’s top tips to resolve creative block

  1. Clear your clutter! This is my number one go-to for quickly overcoming a lack of motivation or just ideas for what to paint. Start slowly and small by picking a single space in your studio or home; one shelf, drawer or small cupboard and clear everything off, then clean the space and only put back the things you love or use regularly. Move on anything that you no longer need or like. Having a clear and organised studio space filled with the tools and materials that you actually use on a regular basis will help you get straight to work. If you find it really hard to let go of clutter, you may need additional help as it’s often not the item you struggle with but the meaning behind it that’s causing the problem.
  2. Have a rest/nap if you need to catch up on sleep. Take time away from phones and computers, unwind and see if your motivation reappears. Sometimes a block can occur because we are just too tired to be bothered with anything, and it can mimic symptoms of mild depression, when we really just need some proper rest and relaxation.
  3. Talk to a friend about your block over a cuppa. Sometimes our minds are so full to overflowing with day-to-day life that it can help just to unwind and let all your worries out; plus, listening to yourself talking out loud can often help you resolve it more quickly. Alternatively, writing it down and journaling about your block can often help the mind to find solutions.
  4. Do something completely different to your normal routine. Boredom can be a block to creativity, and as one of the main art principles is about differences, doing something completely different can re-energise you and clear that block.
  5. Start small but just start somewhere. A five-minute sketch, 10 minutes clearing clutter, tidying your paints, or looking through magazines to see what images you are drawn to, can sometimes be enough to get you motivated again.
  6. Buy some good quality art materials as the results can often be significant and therefore increase motivation. If cost is a problem, then start small with three primaries plus white, and experiment with mixing, or see if you can find ways to save money elsewhere.
  7. Just play with the materials you already own on scrap paper, with no pressure to create; just see what naturally occurs and inspires you.

  • Jayne Bateman
  • Qualified Homeopath, Professional Artist & Tutor

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