What to do when you lose interest halfway through your project

Don’t worry about it. That’s the short version. Now for the long version:

The creative impulse is capricious. It enters the psyche on a whim, stays as long as it wishes, and exits without warning. We never know how long it will stay, and if or when it will return.

This is rarely an issue for the artist who can complete a work in one or two sittings. But if you’re a diorama artist who spends weeks or months on a single project, chances are quite high that you’ll have days when you want to devote all your energy to your project, and others when you have no interest in working on it at all. You may even lose interest in your project altogether before it’s finished.

If you’ve lost interest, trying to force yourself to finish a project like a good Boy Scout can actually have a negative impact on the quality of your work. Your creative spirit will not be operating at full capacity, you’ll tend to rush things, and your diorama will end up suffering as a result. I don’t consider it an exaggeration to say that every great work of art had the undivided focus of its creator whenever he was working on it (but that doesn’t mean he worked on it non-stop until completion).

I began my Arctic Rescue diorama by building the Italeri 1:72 Cormorant kit which would be the main subject of the work. Due to the many modifications that were needed, the build took far longer than originally anticipated. After the model was assembled and painted, I started another project which took over all my creative energies. Several months later, I took the Cormorant out of storage and put the decals on it. Then I put it away again. At the time, I wasn’t motivated to build the base and create the scenery for the diorama which would eventually host the Cormorant.

Part of me worried that my interest in the diorama wouldn’t return at all. But one thing I’ve noticed is that my interest in diorama subjects tends to follow a cyclical pattern. For a while, I’ll be interested in helicopters. Then science fiction. Then WWII aircraft. Then the same subjects will repeat. In the case of Arctic Rescue, I had a hunch that eventually, my interest in helicopters would return. So I waited it out.

Several months later, I was ready to take up Arctic Rescue again. The cycle had come full circle. I carved a piece of blue insulation foam  into a cliffside and ordered an acrylic half sphere which would become the parachute of a downed aviator. Soon the diorama was complete.

Although I would have been kicked out of the Boys Scouts for taking so long to finish my project, the end result was much better than if I had forced myself to finish the project sooner. In fact, I consider Arctic Rescue to be one of my top dioramas (I’ll be featuring it in my next post).

So don’t worry if you want to take a break from your project. Chances are your creative buzz will return. And we’re not talking about paying off credit card debt, so what’s the rush?

-Ivar