Art is a journey. I truly believe anyone can be an artist. Not everyone chooses to be, and thats ok. But art is such a wonderful way to open up your mind and express yourself in a new way.
If you are interested in exploring what you can do in art, you need to understand something first. Creativity is something you need to nurture. Creativity requires time. Above all else it needs your time and focus, it needs a chance to ignite and take off. My longest creative black hole was from 2010 to 2016. It wasn’t because I suddenly lost the ability to think creatively… in was simply because I didn’t access that part of my brain and heart. Instead, I was prioritizing my brand new relationship and then children.
“Creativity requires time. Above all else it needs your time and focus, it needs a chance to ignite and take off.”
People think of creativity as a rare ability, but every human on earth has the capability to be creative. Its how we are so inventive, its how we solve problems, its where ideas come from. Art is communication as much as it is expression. We tell stories, we capture a moment, we give others a different point of view, we utilize satire and humor. People connect with art because its not just about you as the artist, its about how other people can relate to what they see or hear coming from you.
Maybe you want to be an artist, or maybe not even so ambitious, maybe you simply have something you want to express. Many people are put off by their lack of technical skill. Let me tell you something… technical skill is learnable, it just takes practice. Like anything else, it takes lots and lots of practice.
Even if you never become an expert, I’ve seen many pieces of artwork that are more rudimentary but still communicate strong messages and move me to pieces. It’s not about your technical skill, its about your ability to communicate, your willingness to take whats inside you and put it out.
Then theres the reality that even if you are technically proficient, you will still put out bad art (yes there is such thing).
In my personal art journey, I might get an idea… its usually the more ambitious and poorly planned ideas that result in “bad art.” I get tired, I get lazy, I get uninspired. If you’ve squeezed the motivation out of an art piece, its ok to start over, or maybe even ditch it all together.
“It’s not about your technical skill, its about your ability to communicate, your willingness to take whats inside you and put it out.”
If you want to get technically good at creating art, you CAN learn. Take classes, watch youtube videos and keep practicing.
The Struggle is Real
My most recent pattern started out with a very ambitious idea. The concept itself wasn’t terrible, and the original sketch was a good plan… but my experience in arranging textures and shapes aesthetically is still limited when it comes to more complex patterns. So far, my patterns have all been fairly straight forward and all the shapes maintain a distance from each other.
So, for the Spoonflower challenge involving the Tortoise and the Hare, this was my original sketch:
I wanted to create a scene, add humor, and involve many different pieces. Well, when you work with patterns, this gets a little crazy if you don’t simplify, simplify, simplify (not my strong-point). Using procreate, I got started, spent way too much time on the first few motifs which almost immediately burned me out for the rest.
At first, it felt like everything was turning out great and I was fairly satisfied with what I had. Then I realized I had 3 more fairies to draw and another turtle and two rabbits. I’m listing off everything I felt I had to do, but the quantity was not the issue. The piece was losing inspiration. I find myself overwhelmed with a piece of artwork and “how much more I have to do” when I am no longer inspired by it.
Now, this happens, especially with larger, more detailed pieces. This also is not the same as a creative block. Losing your inspiration kills your motivation altogether. Creative block is when you simply feel stuck and feel like theres a wall between you and that rich creative flow. Losing inspiration is closer to the feeling you have when you don’t want to go to work anymore.
There are a few ways to handle this, and it takes some self-assessment.
- Put the piece of artwork down for a week. Come back to it with a fresh mind.
- Power through it, look at the plan you had laid out and rely on your technical skill (at whatever level) over the inspiration you relied on before. This is common if art is your job or if you have a deadline. Sometimes you have to be tough with yourself and just do the work at hand.
- Drop the piece all together. Consider it a flop, move on, sometimes what you thought would inspire you didn’t actually follow through.
- Start over. You can also start over whenever. Maybe you really liked the idea you had but didn’t feel like the execution went very smoothly, come back to it later. If you are still working on a deadline, just start over right away. Sometimes loosening up with a more ambitious piece opens up a creative flow for a better and simpler piece.
With my piece, each of the next motifs I did had less and less quality to them. Then when I plugged the images into Illustrator to work out a pattern, it looked even worse. Here was the final scene from my workings:
My decision was to power through, I would make it work, edit the motifs I needed to edit to make it look how I wanted. For me, I work on a deadline and need to push past the lack of inspiration.
But when it came to the actual pattern, it left me hugely unsatisfied. It wasn’t working, plain and simple. So, I decided to start over.
The steps I took were drastic. I kept the themes I wanted only in semblance. Still, all that wrestling I did over the older pattern had loosened me up and the new design came easily to me. Below is the time-lapse just to show how straightforward the ideas were after the hours put into the first pattern.
This sketch took me maybe an hour, maybe less.
All this to say, the difference between the two patterns is stark. Artist or no artist, drawing and creative expression take time, practice and nurturing.
I’ve mentioned a few times now that creativity takes nurturing. I know people who think that they don’t have a creative bone in their bodies. However, I don’t know how strongly I believe that. Let’s talk about the process of accessing your creative flow.
Your goal when you are in the pre-discovery stage is to find your inspiration. Get the juices going. Find what inspires you. It could be literally anything. Looking at other art, or photography, going on a walk or a hike, spending time with your family, a quiet day in a coffee shop, listening to music or listening to a podcast, even watching a movie! Find what inspires YOU. When something hits you, an image or a feeling or even sometimes its as vague as a thought, that is your inspiration.
Sometimes inspiration takes a little more work. Very similar to a brainstorm, start thinking of ideas and see where they take you. Maybe do some sketches. Maybe you like dragons? Draw some dragons, maybe you don’t feel skilled enough to draw dragons, draw their wings. Dragons like to fly, maybe you want to visualize flight in some wind lines or clouds, or maybe you want to draw the mountains said dragon is flying through. You need to kick your imagination into gear, give it ideas, feed it random things and see what gets it going.
Play movies in your head, make up situations, fantasize.
Once you have that inspiration, work on it. Doodle some ideas out. Expand on your inspiration. Maybe you need to write actual words down, or maybe you need to simply create a sketch and layout the plan.
Think of this like a warm up, similar to warming up before a run. If you are drawing figures, get someone to model for you and just sketch some images out. This helps your brain connect with proportions and how to follow certain curves. You find yourself struggling less and less the more time you spend drawing.
Spend time thinking about whatever it was that inspired you. Get lost in thinking about it. If it was a feeling, let yourself keep feeling it. If it was an image, play that image over and over, add to it, get lost in it.
Execution is how you actually create your piece. Execution can often times not go the way you want it to. Here’s one of the most challenging parts, but you can make it fun if you teach yourself to let go of perfection… let the art go where it wants to go. Sometimes (not always), you might really like what comes out. You drew that dragon but it looked more like a Godzilla than a dragon, try going with it, keep drawing around it.
You could also start over and simply improve on your ability to draw what you were aiming for to begin with.
Still, sometimes, regardless of all our efforts or even our relaxation, our execution flops. Think back to my example with my pattern that just didn’t turn out. At this point, go back to the options I gave you. In my case, I started over and achieved what I felt was a much stronger and clearer piece.
Completion is the satisfaction. Its stepping back from a finished piece of art and feeling that sense of pride and self-worth at what you just created. This is very personal. Someone else might look at your piece and not give you the hopeful response you had pictured in your mind of being impressed and supportive. Ignore that. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. There are so many reasons someone might not respond the way you might hope to your work of art. It might not be their taste, they might just not like the content or even care for art at all. Maybe your talent has room to grow and they don’t know how to appreciate you at the level you are at. Thats ok!
Now, if you are anything like me, not being able to finish a piece and find that feeling of satisfaction is very frustrating. Often times, the pieces I pass off as failed, I will actually save and come back to in hopes of improving it upon a second work through. In the case of this Tortoise and the Hare pattern, I had to finish my original one as soon as I could. Mainly, I had an idea of how I wanted to do it and needed to carry it out.
It’s definitely still not 100% and definitely not a quality pattern, but its done. I am happy with it being done as is.
Nurture that Creative Flow
If you don’t spend time inspiring yourself, your mind won’t bother. When your focus is your work or your family and you don’t stop to let your mind wander, your creative flow gets blocked up. Thats how I felt for years, but we were in family survival mode. I didn’t have the energy to give myself time to just let my mind go to the wonderful places it does when I want to be inspired.
Even if you don’t have a goal to be an artist, draw every day. A little sketch, an idea, a person you saw on the street that made you think, doodle those things down. Or maybe all your doing is a doodle, little squiggles and shapes… you should see some of the people I follow on Instagram for whom, thats how it all started. You never know what you are going to tap into.
Lastly, draw what you love. Let your creativity be an expression of your heart.
Tips for Getting your creative juices flowing:
- Find what inspires you
- read a poem
- read a book
- look at other art (Instagram is a great place)
- go on a walk
- go on a hike
- go to the zoo or aquarium
- watch a movie
- go sit in a coffee shop
- just sit and daydream
If you found this blog post useful or interesting at all, I would loooove to hear from you in the comments! If you are an artist and your process is different, share with me! How do you tap into your creative flow? If there’s something else you want to hear about, again, let me know in the comments!
My work can be found on the following three platforms: