Thursday, June 19, 2008


All artwork by Anahata Katkin.

I have two hobby horses that I expound on whenever the opportunity arises. The one is the healing powers of art and the other is creative blocks and how one works through them. Whenever anyone mentions that they are experiencing a block I suggest that they read Anahata Katkin's Five Stages of Creative Expansion.

I suffered a five year block and those years were the most frustrating, stagnant years of my life. When I finally made a breakthrough it was because of many factors. One of them being Anahata's Five Stages. The moment I put them into practice I could feel a shift in my attitude towards art making. Anahata has happily agreed to my posting her Five Stages here.

The Five Stages of Creative Expansion by Anahata Katkin

Stage One: BLOOM
I generally have a BlOOM stage where I can easily get engaged and enjoy the process immensely. I feel impulsive and guided to an extent and at this point my mind gets excited and interested in the project. It’s a time of gathering, contemplating, enjoyment, eagerness and play. Materials come easily and there is a general wellbeing about the artwork.

Then suddenly I hit a place where I have maximized that stage and I hit that RESISTANCE. Resistance will occur naturally in the first third of the project. And I believe it lives the strongest for about 30 minutes at a time. Learn to expect it. Do not be surprised when you suddenly hit the edge of your process. It is Real for everyone. The voice of reason is loud, convincing and intense. It can show up in the form of boredom, disinterest, frustration, tiredness comparing & exaggerated mental chatter about your artwork. Now I have recognized it’s value and realize that I have to work in spite of that voice. It is crucial during the resistance phase that you keep on working! The more you pause and stop working the more power and habit you provide to the resistance. Most people stop right here and don’t usually push further. To me this is the definition of an artist. Artist will work through this stage. The desire to create wills us into a new part of our brains. Away from that chatter. At this point try your best to observe the critic without reacting to it. Your critic will have some good ideas if you ask yourself questions like: How can I solve this visual question? What is it I don’t like and what flashes into my mind as solutions? That should be the extent of the power you offer your resistance. The resistance only signals that you have hit the edge of your creative breath. And when this happens it simply shows you that it is time for a new strategy or another creative inhalation.

Stage Three PING PONG:
And that’s when I like to PING PONG between materials. Being that I am focusing on mixed media artwork and that is primarily how I like to create we have an added advantage.When I reach my resistance phase or in a sense a place of critical mass, I bounce to a new material and a new perspective. Drop your current medium and pick up a new one. The trick seems to be to move even more quickly and impulsively at this point. Remember your critic will be trying to gain power but by using your impulsive instincts you learn to tame the critic faster. With Ping Ponging you can gain a real momentum in the artwork and trick your brain into a new place. Change your focus from the main image perhaps to the border. Lay down some charcoal in border areas, switch to fine pointed pen details or doodling for a little bit. Anything that will hone your intuitive creative eye and switch your perspective up. It's a game of hide and seek with that deep genetic voice that has generations of creative hurdles to overcome. Practice step two and step three EVERY TIME you create anything. It is a lifelong skill that will serve your creativity every time.

My high school art teacher told me once that the moments when you return to a piece of artwork after a period of struggle is the most supreme moment in the creative process. I have never forgotten that and it has been a great discovery every day. During the resistance part of your process I believe it creates a kind of artistic vacuum. A puddle of skill and life force builds up behind all of that resistance. Because while you are resisting you are also asking from within yourself to be able to fully express yourself. And once the resistance is released all of that good stuff comes shooting in with a rocket of ability and artistic expression. And this place generally feels good and easy. Music sounds sweeter, the project seems to be coming together, you've found your groove. Your body is able to move along with the brush. It’s the cream of the process and it’s what we all look for as artists. This is the juicy stuff that makes people connect with our work in the future. It is that silent expansion that will always be locked into a piece of art and available for all people to connect with.

I often find that I might experience the first couple of stages again before I am ready for completion. Depending on the scope of the project this can happen many times. But at some point there will be a refining, a detail time. I find at this point I have an open dialogue between myself and the artwork. I understand the piece more and the direction of it. I work on the details of colour and patterns. Pen designs and finishing touches. I generally know I am there by the slowing down quality. The desire to fuss over it like a christmas tree and fresh tinsel. I jeep wanting to see the piece through fresh eyes. That's when I know it's finished.

Journal pages by Anahata Katkin.

To see Anahata's blog and more of her amazing art go to


  1. Oh wow that artwork is fabulous! And the text is so inspirational. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Great post Robyn, this info was very helpful and so kind of you to share.

    I know I will have to come back to it often, meditate on it, and let it go deeper. It was an eye opener to me to see that the 'block' is part of the process. It's true I got my block when I was trying to solve some problems with my work. Knowing the right questions (stage 2) has helped me be less inhibited.

  3. Hi Robyn

    Thanks for this post...very helpful. I have a book to recommend along these lines. I wonder if you have read it?

    It is called Standing at the Waters Edge...Moving past Fear, Blocks and Pitfalls to Discover the Power of Creative Anne Paris

  4. Long post but every word worth its weight in gold! Art, lke anything else worthwhile with spectacular results, is a times a long, complex one. All these advisements are good, and really get one in touch with one's deepest inner workings and's to unblocking creative blocks!

  5. a very helpful post ... with lovely artworK!

  6. i haven't heard of the five stages put this way before, but now i think about true it is!

  7. I am so glad to have found this post. Thank you.