By Jean Haines
Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your motivation as an artist? These tips from renowned artist Jean Haines can help you get your groove back — and keep it.
Artists love painting. It’s in our souls. An ever-present hunger to create drives us with a sense of urgency to express ourselves in our chosen medium. But what happens when our motivation starts to fade or disappears entirely? It’s a real possibility. I’ve met many longtime artists who no longer enjoy painting as they once did, even though they had successful art careers. Is it possible to use up creativity?
I’m often asked how I keep my motivation and stay inspired in my own art practice. I think I’ve been fortunate because I had the opportunity to study multiple forms of art. I began my career as a botanical artist and eventually developed my own painting style, which has continued to evolve over the years. This distinctive style and my general enthusiasm for the watercolor medium have led to a busy schedule of workshop teaching.
Despite my hectic and exhausting schedule, however, I stay motivated by recognizing, then prioritizing and balancing my creative and personal needs. Here are five tips to help you do the same!
1. Be realistic.
As artists we put so much pressure on ourselves to create (pressure and motivation don’t quite mix). There’s a huge amount of stress involved in having to meet deadlines for art societies, exhibitions, art galleries, even writing or teaching. While a heavy workload can be a good problem to have, it can also be overwhelming — affecting your very will to pick up a brush. If painting becomes a chore rather than a way to feed your passion, the results will be reflected in your work (and not in a good way). Don’t take on too much at one time or commit to deadlines that you know will add unnecessary stress and pressure to your life. Approach painting, and your art career, in a way that suits your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself about what you can (and can’t) do. Set realistic goals and prioritize.
2. Try something new.
Take a break from your regular routine and paint something completely different every now and then. For me, this usually means creating abstracts, trying out products I haven’t worked with before, or intentionally selecting colors I would normally avoid. This element of adventure always takes me right back to the beginning of my art career when everything was new and exciting. The heady feeling of not knowing what might happen stays with me when I return to more familiar ways of working, and I often gain knowledge that can be applied to my new compositions.
3. Be selfish.
Set a period of time during which you slow down and paint something for yourself, just because you want to. It doesn’t matter what the subject is or which medium you use — just as long as it’s something you look forward to painting. Make yourself finish the piece within a predetermined time limit. That way you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something, even if you only painted for 30 minutes. After all, any time spent painting to get your motivation back is better than not painting at all.
4. Stay connected.
Even if you genuinely don’t feel like painting, that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying art. There are so many ways to stay connected with your craft, whether looking at art-related sites online or visiting art galleries and museums. Take some time to study the Old Masters, or explore what’s new in the art world. Learn how other artists create and let their passion reignite your own. You’ll begin to feel frustrated again, not about a lack of motivation but about not having enough time to paint.
5. Go easy on yourself.
So many of us are guilty of putting everyone and everything else in front of our own needs. It took me years to realize that I have choices. If I’m too busy or too tired to create, there’s only one person responsible — myself. Never feel guilty about how or when you pick up your brush, but try to find a way to paint so that each creative session is quality time spent achieving results you can feel proud of. I emphasize the word “you” for a reason. Your time matters. Your well-being matters. You matter.
Bonus! Try this at home.
Write an advice column for other artists.
Honestly, I can say that I wouldn’t change my career in any way, shape, or form. I love what I do and am so passionate about painting that I wake each day eager to start creating in my studio.
I try to follow my own advice and keep my enthusiasm and motivation high, always. This positive attitude has flowed into every aspect of my life. It even prompted me to write two books on the subject: Paint Yourself Calm (Search Press, 2016) and Paint Yourself Positive (Search Press, 2019). Those projects were a huge leap of faith for me, but they’ve found their way to many readers.
Now imagine that you have to write a column offering other artists tips on how to stay motivated. What would your most valuable advice be? Then listen to yourself and follow your own advice.
You may also like:
- How to Be More Creative: The Best Tips from Artists and Experts
- How a Strict Artist Schedule Can Lead to Creative Spontaneity
- Surviving the Trauma of an Artistic Breakdown