I went to my old crutch - coffee. That usually does the trick, but after two cups, no luck.
Even trying on two different canvases didn't work - I ended up mashing the paint all together on each of them because I was so dissatisfied. Nothing was working. Even the music I was playing was irritating me!
Finally I figured it out: I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to paint. I was just doodling, expecting it to come together somehow. Not that there is anything wrong with this approach. Sometimes I doodle with paint for the sake of doodling, and sometimes it turns into something I love.
This, was not one of those times.
What I needed was a photo reference - I just needed to look a something concrete for a starting point. Something to put me in the right direction. Luckily, I have files of ideas and photos that I use for painting inspiration. I chose a guitar, because it was the opposite of the straight lines that were frustrating me in the other paintings. I liked the motion of the curves and making the abstract blendy background. I had been trying to 'left brain it' with the first two canvases, but this was a right brain painting. It felt good to paint, and it felt really good to finally get something down that I didn't hate!
A note on reference photos: Many of my students walk into my studio thinking that “real“ artists don’t need references. Honestly, that is just one of those myths that keep people from painting. Most of the professional artists that I know work from photographs, or from life, but they have some sort of a reference. Even abstract artists work from references sometimes.
My advice - whether or not you are painter - is to look for what inspires you, and take pictures of those things. Every day. (It's easy now that most of us are walking around with cameras everywhere we go.) This in itself can be an art form, or even therapy. It gets you out of your busy head and into the moment. And if you are a painter, you'll start to build a library of photos for when you need inspiration, a reference, or just something to get you painting.