How to Break Out of an Art Rut
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Do you frequently experience phases of low creativity? Are you currently unmotivated to continue pushing your artistic skills forward? Does a lack of inspiration stop you from creating and progressing as an artist?
"Inspiration and work ethic, they ride right next to each other."
- Jack White
All artists are bound to go through some kind of creative block from time to time, no matter how talented or experienced they may be. This makes it absolutely essential (especially for us working artists) to have some sort of effective system set in place to keep us productive and moving forward consistently.
Though we may consciously decide to take breaks from our art from time to time, being an artist is synonymous with constant creation. Keeping creativity levels high day-in-and-day-out can certainly be exhausting, and it's impossible to be in the perfect headspace for creation all of the time.
However, taking long breaks from our art will most definitely affect our progress.
In today's blog post, I will share the method I personally use to re-engage with my art in difficult times. This strategy will help you whenever you're feeling uninspired, unmotivated, frustrated, or even just bored with your current art routine.
The goal is to ensure that you're moving forward, even when you're not at your best. You can make the exercise as easy or difficult as you'd like at any given point in time. I'll explain in a bit.
But first, there's something we have to talk about.
I find there are two main reasons that we can hit creative blocks as artists:
1. We may not feel like creating because we feel insecure or simply bored with our current art routines. In these situations, we have to learn to suck it up and get to work. Sometimes we have to be okay with just showing up and doing what we can.
2. We can be mentally and physically drained by everything we have going on in life, and will very likely hit a wall even if we do show up. Each one of us is in a different situation, but it's imperative to make time for self-care. It should be our priority above all else.
If you're in the first camp, I encourage you to power through. The more you push yourself to create in these times of low inspiration, the easier it will become.
If you're in the second, I really recommend you take a few days to plan out how you'll be prioritizing your mental and physical well-being from here on out.
I truly, 100% believe that if you're not taking care of yourself, everything else will suffer, including your artistic progress.
Read my blog post titled How I Find Inspiration as an Artist and Some Ideas to Keep You Going. Over there, I share the mental attitudes I have adopted that helps me stay inspired and keep creative blocks at bay.
Practical Life Tips to Get You Back Into the Flow of Creation
Before we actually get into the creative exercise, I'm going to give you a few general tips that you should try. I find when I apply these in my daily or weekly routines, I'm less likely to get into an art block to begin with.
1. Clean and organize your working area
I don't consider myself a neat-freak by any means. However, I have to admit that when things start to get messy around me, it starts affecting me mentally (and thus my productivity suffers). By staying organized, there's much more of a chance you'll feel like getting to work.
2. Get moving
Guys, I cannot stress the importance of physical exercise enough. Some of my best ideas come up when I'm moving. Not to mention, as artists/illustrators, we sit and/or hunch a lot of the time and it's absolutely imperative to stay healthy and work on our posture!
Exercise has brought me a level of mental clarity and energy that I didn't have in my younger (and most sedentary) years. At the very least, make sure you're taking stretching breaks throughout the day.
3. Go be social or get out of your usual environment
As artists, it can be easy to stay holed up in our studios all day long. Although we primarily work by ourselves, it's important to remember that our inspiration comes through actually living experiences first-handedly.
Sometimes, just going out for coffee with a friend or taking a walk around the block will do! Keep in mind you never want to get to a point at which you forget how to talk to other human beings!
4. Set aside some Me Time
I don't know about you, but I feel like life gets so busy sometimes that if breathing wasn't absolutely automatic and necessary to continue living, I think I would forget to do it. Understandably, there will be periods of high stress in our lives, but these should be the exception and not the rule.
Make sure you're setting aside time to do what you want to do in life and enjoy it! Make time for proper rest and to be alone as much as you feel you need to.
5. Start taking notes
I carry a small sketchbook or notebook everywhere I go. I got in the habit of doing this a while back because ideas randomly pop up in my head throughout the day and I don't want to end up forgetting something that could lead to a good artwork or creative project in general.
It's awesome to have a little bank of ideas in the background because, even if you don't use them immediately, you can come back to them when you can't find anything to work on.
Check out my blog post titledWhy Sketchbooks are Essential Tools for Artists and a Few Usage Tips.
6. Get inspired by the other art genres
Don't limit yourself to only getting inspired by the visual arts! Reading good literature, watching movies/documentaries, listening to music, and even cooking can lead to amazing ideas for new art pieces! Finding ways of mixing and matching things we love all across the board can lead to the most personal and unique art pieces!
7. Create a Pinterest Inspiration board (or a folder on your desktop)
Collect artwork that appeals to you and use it as inspiration. However, never ever compare yourself to other artists! Try to target and make notes of specific characteristics you like (maybe it's the colors the artist used, the line work, how effectively emotions are transmitted, etc.) and try to implement it in your own way.
Check out my Pinterest inspiration board here.
Read my post titled How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style to learn about my personal approach of getting inspiration from artists I admire, while making sure I'm creating something truly original.
8. Ditch the perfectionist attitude
Many times, we keep ourselves from even starting because we're afraid of wasting supplies and/or producing something that won't measure up to our expectations (or the expectations of others).
I honestly believe that being a perfectionist is one of the worst mistakes an artist can make.
It wasn't until I understood that creating art is more about the process than the end product that I started to really improve my skills and make progress towards finding my style. Not everything is supposed to be a masterpiece!
My Secret Tool for Staying Creatively Inspired (and Challenged)
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As artists, we should embrace exploration and challenge. It is through exploring different techniques, supplies and/or subjects that we not only expand our abilities, but are able to learn about our personal likes, dislikes and areas of improvement.
I like taking moments of low inspiration or motivation to step out of my comfort zone and do something that will challenge me in a way that I haven't been in a while, whether it's a shorter pencil sketch or a painting using mediums or styles I haven't explored.
See, even if you've already discovered your artistic medium of choice and are set on your subject or technique, stretching your boundaries is a great way to stimulate your creativity, reinvigorate yourself and reignite your passion for art.
Through explorations uncommon to you, you're able to arrive at ideas you wouldn't have thought of, ideas that can later be applied in your larger pieces.
When I'm truly in a tough mental state, I don't pressure myself to generate an amazing product at all, but focus much more on the exploration and journey.
I disconnect from my inner critique and focus on enjoying the feel of my supplies, each individual color, line and shape. I allow things to happen naturally. This is what I decided to do on the day I filmed the video included here.
What's important, is to keep moving forward at least in a small way, and not give up altogether.
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