I keep on making what I can’t do yet in order to learn to be able to do it.
Letter to Theo (September 1885) Van Gogh Letters 
I often say that my work is the result of a conversation I had with my canvas. I think that even the most representational painter is in dialogue with their work while they are in process and I know sculptors are in dialogue with their work. The same is true of print makers. All visual artists must choose between playing it safe, repeating what you know works and experimentation. Most of us choose to try to make new connections, The question arises when the work leads you into new territory, a place where the"language" is unfamiliar? What do you do?
You go. You go, if you can. It is scary. I don't think anyone who hasn't worked in this manner understands how terrifying it feels. But there you go. Sometimes the result is exhilarating, sometimes worse than disappointing.
Still, when you've been working on the piece or a series of pieces and you have this terrible feeling that you don't know what you're doing and nothing is working out, you don't want to continue because this causes so much emotional conflict. You feel like quitting, you don't know why you're painting, why you ever started this endeavor!
My first advice is to find a way to keep on working, start a new painting or two or three!
As Vincent van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo:
It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner’s work; it doesn’t advance as quickly as one would like, and as others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.
A weaver who has to direct and to interweave a great many little threads has no time to philosophize about it, but rather he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn’t think but acts, and he feels how things must go more than he can explain it. Even though neither you nor I, in talking together, would come to any definite plans, etc., perhaps we might mutually strengthen that feeling that something is ripening within us. And that is what I should like.
Letter to Theo van Gogh from The Hague (11 March 1883) as translated by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1991)
I had a teacher in graduate school who told me never throw anything away. I live by this motto and seen its merit. I have been to many retrospectives where I have been confronted with some piece that was abandoned by the artist yet found by this curator decades later and displayed right next to those pieces the artist judged to be successful.
How can this be? Well ,sometimes you're not the best judges of our work. We see only what we think does not work. If this is the case, sometimes just leaving the work aside for a period of time allows you to see the entire piece again and continue working. How many times did you come back into the studio and found that the piece you're working on yesterday doesn't actually look like the memory you carried away when you left the studio? The point is, sometime you must distance yourself from the work. The passage of time allows you to see the work more objectively. So walking away from the peace and actually going for a walk may help the situation. When I find myself feeling stuck or feeling like my perspective has narrowed, a walk can change everything, resulting in internal shifts, renewal, and invigoration. I suggest going for a walk that has no specific destination in mind. Walk or you or just present to the world around you taking in the visual stimuli feeling the temperature of the air smelling the world around you just be in the moment. Often you will find new ideas form.
Or take yourself away from the work for longer period of time. Put it to the side. If you're mainly stuck don't know how to proceed just now I would leave it in your line of vision if you think it's a complete failure and you can't bear to look at it, turn into the wall, or drape something over it. I have intentionally put away incomplete paintings, more than once I have retrieved them many years later and used the "failure" as the foundation to work from. I work in oils so unlike my brethren and “sisteren" who work at in water colors I can edit, paint over, scrape away and I take advantage of that.
I'm including here an example of one painting “Soul Casting” that I stopped working on because I had become totally frustrated, and everything I did seem to make the problem worse. I put the canvas away and sometime later, when I physically moved my abode and studio, I wrapped up the canvas and took it with me and put it in storage with other completed canvasses. Sometime passed, and one day when I was rearranging canvases I found it, recognized it, took it out to the studio. Now I looked at it from a completely different perspective. I was living in a new place, I had a different living situation, my work had taken a completely different tack. I used the aborted painting, as a jumping off point. I let the seed of the idea, that I now found in the images and colors, germinate and through dialogue with the painting I was able to resolve and complete this painting.
I suppose there's a life lesson here for everyone regardless of whether their studio artist or not. That lesson would be, step back when you notice that you are split, that your emotions and thoughts are colliding, step back to gain a general perspective. Reassess. I suggest that you pay attention to what your body feels.
My last bit of advice is to step back from that judgement of failure. There is no failure here, unless you label it as such. And unless you just began your creative life today, you have been in a similar situation before. When you find yourself to be very frustrated and very discouraged think back to the other times where you felt this was and found your way. Use whatever tools were helpful to you then; perhaps journaling, perhaps reading, perhaps staring off into space, perhaps a cup of tea was what you needed to re-approach and begin again.
What have you done to get yourself by these bumps in the road?
Thanks for stopping by Angle of Reflection. I love hearing from you and appreciate your comments.