Updated: Sep 19, 2021
Being an artist is really hard work. We aren't born with a complete understanding of the artistic elements and color theory; that takes time and hours of dedication. Over time, it can be easy to give up or take a break that turns into years away from the easel. So how can we overcome this and stay motivated? Today I'm giving 5 Tips for Staying Motivated as an Artist.
No one wants to hear this, but we need to take regular time away from our studios. I know, that's not an easy thing to do - especially if you're trying to maintain an online presence. But it's simply not good for us to be in the studio all the time. If you're in an inspiration groove, by all means, follow that thread. But don't require yourself to spend every waking moment creating artwork. The key to a healthy and fulfilling artistic practice is the balance between work and rest. And that's not just something I came up with, science has confirmed that rest is a key part of creativity. I mean, just compare how your brain functions before a trip to how inspired you feel when you get back from vacation.
So how exactly does this relate to motivation? It's quite simple. If you don't incorporate a sense of balance in your practice, you're far more likely to experience burnout. Overworking isn't glamorous or something to be worshipped. If you want to remain motivated and excited every time you step in your studio, you need to give yourself a break.
Join an Art Community
One of the best ways to stay motivated and invested in your artistic practice is to surround yourself with other artists. Being able to sound out ideas, talk about our struggles, and participate in critiques is so important to our development as artists. Plus, having other artists supporting and encouraging us makes it so much easier to accomplish our goals. For me, having other artists' eyes on my work is imperative to my process. Having a fresh perspective makes my work stronger. It also gives me a sense of accountability.
Finding an art community can feel intimidating, but there's a group for everyone. For an in-person group, hop on your favorite search engine and look for local co-op galleries or art groups. You’ll be surprised by how many artists are in your local community. If you have artistic friends, you could form a group and get together on a regular basis. And there are plenty of different groups online. (My personal favorite is Art Prof.) So do a little research and get involved with a community that would best fit you. It’ll bring a whole new level of motivation to your practice.
Raise your hand if you've ever left a piece unfinished. (I know you can't see, but my hand is up, too.) It’s so easy to hit a wall with an in-progress piece and give up. Or to be swept up by inspiration and abandon something we’re working on for an entirely new project. But have you ever thought about how these habits can actually kill motivation? This is even more true if you’re actively trying to improve your technique. Think about it: how are you going to get better if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong in the first place? And if you constantly give up right before a breakthrough, your motivation is sure to take a hit.
Instead, make a commitment to finish every piece you start. This doesn’t mean you have to post it online or that you can’t paint over it later, but finishing all of your work gives you a chance to analyze what you do and don’t like about it and take that into the next piece. This is key not only to improving but to staying motivated. Everyone makes bad work. But the ones who become masters are those that don’t give up when something goes wrong. They finish it, analyze it, and try again.
Seek Out Inspiration
One of the key aspects of being an artist is taking inspiration and channeling it into a visual representation of said inspiration. So it goes that without inspiration, motivation will also dissipate. Thankfully, finding inspiration is not only pretty straight-forward, it’s also fun! Inspiration lurks in many different places: movies, books, music, long hikes, trying a new recipe, and so on. It’s essentially doing something enjoyable that doesn’t involve your art and taking what you experienced into the studio.
Now, remaining inspired all of the time is really difficult. So don’t try and force that to happen. Instead, make room for balance in your artistic practice. There will be seasons for inspiration, seasons for making, and seasons for rest. Honoring those seasons is the best way to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy level of motivation.
Allow Time for Play
So you know how I just mentioned the seasons of an artistic practice? Play is a vital component of those seasons, and it typically lands in both the inspiration and rest phases. Making time for play in your studio is crucial for maintaining artistic motivation. Playing around brings a sense of fun and ease back to your practice. This is when new techniques, ideas, and rejuvenation happen. If you’re only ever making “serious” work, you’ll slowly lose the love for art you started out with. It would be like if a musician only ever played classical arias day in and day out. That would get boring and stale after a while.
The same goes for artists! We can’t make intensive studies exclusively; we need to scribble and throw paint around! This brings a sense of life and levity to our studios, which is so important to maintaining motivation long-term. Think of having to go to work every single day of the year without a single day off. You would lose motivation for getting projects done or even showing up at the office. That’s what happens when you don’t allow yourself to make a mess in the studio. So stop putting pressure on yourself to have everything be perfect, and give yourself permission to play. Our artistic practices truly depend on it.
Staying motivated as an artist is hard. But with a little bit of thought and planning, we can stay excited and happy every time we enter the studio. After all, if this is something we love doing, why wouldn't we do whatever it takes to keep it fun?
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Thanks for reading and happy creating!