Whether it’s a creative rut or full-blown block, one of the biggest challenges for artists can be sustaining motivation and keeping the creative engine humming. Here, five artists share practical tips to jump-start ideas and kindle inspiration.
As artists we all know what it’s like to struggle with kickstarting a new body of work, or feel stuck in a frustrating period of creative block. Help is on the way! Keep your art and creativity constantly flowing with this advice round-up from working artists compiled by Anne Hevener, Artists Magazine‘s Editor-in-Chief.
Kris Parins | Welcome an Outside Influence
I find there’s nothing quite like a get-together with artist friends to cure creative doldrums. Getting out of the studio to spend a few hours laughing, sharing enthusiasm and new opportunities, and giving and getting advice is important. It provides a break from the myopia that can happen after too many days without some kind of outside influence.
My artist friends and I may share images of our work in progress, or just talk. Receiving encouragement feels wonderful, but it’s also uplifting to be able to offer that kind of boost to a friend who’s feeling some insecurity about his or her work.
Whether it’s a lunch out, a brown-bag critique, a local art club meeting, or an artist’s reception, I come back to my studio feeling refreshed, energized and ready to get back to work.
Award-winning artist Kris Parins maintains studios in Wisconsin and Florida. Her work has been featured in Watercolor Artist and International Artist magazines, and in the Splash book series. Parins is a signature member of AWS, NWS and TWSA. Her work is included in many private and public collections, including the Woodson Art Museum.
Tom Lynch | An Exercise in Black and White
If the standard remedies for beating creative block— visiting a gallery, museum or art fair—don’t help me, I’ve found that a simple exercise of working only in black and white can jump-start my desire to paint.
I keep it simple, using a Scratch Wash pencil (by General Pencil). The graphite dissolves quickly with a wet brush, so I’m still “painting,” but I’m forced to focus on tone and contrast. I start to see the world around me in terms of shapes and tone, not just things. After exercises like this, I find that my subsequent paintings are enhanced with better lights and darks. It helps.
Chris Krupinski | Paint All the Time
More than 25 years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a professional artist. I knew I couldn’t make that happen by sketching and painting only on the weekends. I understood that I’d have to work hard. So I made a commitment to paint for a minimum of two hours every day—no matter what. And I did. I even carved out time on holidays. When I traveled, I’d pack a sketchbook and paints. I had a goal, and I was driven.
I learned that working consistently not only improved my painting, but also opened up my mind to new ideas. Since starting a “constant painting” regimen, never once have I experienced creative block or a shortage of ideas. As I’m painting, a new idea—usually related to what I’m presently working on— will begin to take shape. And that cycle just keeps going.
Growth comes with a lot of work. Ideas come from the time spent.
Chris Krupinski, of Hurricane, W.V., is a Dolphin Fellow with the American Watercolor Society (AWS). She is also a signature member of the National Watercolor Society (NWS), the Rocky Mountain Watercolor Society, and the Transparent Watercolor Society of America (TSWA), among others. Her work has earned a number of awards in regional, national and international shows.
Betsy Dillard Stroud | Keep an Open Mind
One day as I dawdled about my painting table, which is crammed with all kinds of “stuff,” I went to pieces—not literally, but figuratively—as I considered what to paint. I was fingering some colorful scraps of collage pieces and thought, “I’ll do a collage. That would be different.”
As I began to place the pieces of collage onto a sheet of watercolor paper, however, my inner voice stopped me and told me to do a watercolor painting of the colorful pieces instead. I placed some of the pieces on the paper, traced their shapes, then took them off and painted those particular shapes. I cut up black paper into various configurations to balance the color. The result? I Go to Pieces was born.
Sometimes, just starting one idea can lead you to another, even better one. The trick is to get started on something, but to be open to a change in direction.
Laurie Goldstein-Warren | A New Take on a Familiar Subject
Sometimes, when I’m facing a blank sheet of watercolor paper, I’ll decide to revisit a subject I’ve painted before. However, I will choose a completely different method for painting it. If I originally worked with traditional tools, such as paintbrushes, for example, I might repaint the subject using only a mouth atomizer.
When I change the techniques, I’m not only changing my tools, but the method of transition through the painting. I’ve found that doing this revitalizes my passion for the subject, and makes me think and see it in
a whole new light.
Artist and workshop instructor Laurie Goldstein-Warren has been painting in watermedia for nearly 20 years. Goldstein’s award-winning work has been exhibited in venues throughout the U.S., as well as in Japan, Turkey, Greece, and China.
Got more tips and advice for breaking through creative block? Share them in the comments below!