Finding Inspiration in Hard Times
By Dan Scott of drawpaintacademy.com
It has been a strange year. Crazy to think it’s almost over, with only a few months left in 2020.
Artists are lucky in the sense we don’t need much to enjoy the art life, and it’s not easily taken away from us. I could find at least some joy with just a pen, sketchbook, and my thoughts. But, it has still been hard. Impossibly hard for some.
What can you do to keep spirits high during these times? Here are some ideas:
- Reminisce over old work. Compare it to your recent work. Are you improving? How is your style developing? If you had to paint them again, what would you do differently?
It’s easy to forget all that you create. I recently visited my parents' place and saw all my old work stacked up in the corner of the garage. Some from when I was just a child. I had forgotten most of them, but as I saw each painting, I could distinctly remember when, where, and why I painted it. Each painting seems to capture a point in time. I got a warm feeling seeing how far I’ve come. You might get that same feeling.
- Find beauty in nearby places. You don’t need to travel to remote islands or vast mountains for inspiration (though it doesn’t hurt). There’s beauty all around us. It might be the interesting light and shadow patterns created by the tree in your backyard. Or the flowers in your garden. Or the gesture of your partner or pet. And if all that fails to spark your imagination, try recreating famous paintings or paint from reference photos (you can grab some of mine here).
- Try a different medium. If your surroundings are static, invite change through other means. Try watercolors, charcoal, gouache, water-based oils, pen and ink. Mix it up. Personally, I did a few watercolor paintings recently. What a wonderful yet frustrating medium!
- Quick sketch. Keep things fresh and simple. A little bit every day is better than long periods of absence. Buy a sketchbook and try to do at least a page each day. I like to date the corner to track my progress.
- Do the boring things you have been procrastinating. Restock on supplies. Clean up your studio. Fix the lighting. (I think I’m subconsciously writing this for myself.)
- Plan for the next 12 months. Hopefully, it will be better than the last. What do you want to learn? Who do you want to learn from? What weaknesses should you work on? What strengths should you push?
- Catch up on theory. Do you understand what color really is and how we see it? Do you know what makes a composition interesting and inviting? Do you know the light and shadow terminology? This stuff doesn’t require a brush in hand, but can result in vast improvements in your work.
- Use this as an opportunity to take a step back and enjoy your surroundings. "Go do nothing" as Jeremy Mann puts it in this video.
Want more painting tips? Check out my ebook, 21 Easy Ways to Improve Your Paintings.
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