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10 Tips to Find Artistic Inspiration and Creative Ideas

Read on for tips on finding artistic inspiration and creative ideas.

Read on for tips on finding artistic inspiration and creative ideas.

Inspiration for Artists, a Necessity in Art Making

All artists have days when they feel uncreative or uninspired. Sometimes the days become weeks or even months.

Periods of low artistic inspiration are common for every artist; however, these phases can cause us artists to suffer. We feel like we’ll never be able to create anything good in our lives, ever again.

When that happens to me, I want it to end immediately—but at the same time, I’m afraid to go back to my easel and face a potential failure.

I have developed some special “go-to” activities that help me get over the temporary impasse and go back to my art with renewed passion.

Here are my 10 tricks to shake away the creativity burnout.

10 Tricks to Shake Away the Creativity Burnout

1. Keep Your Art Supplies and Tools Easily Accessible

If in order to do your art you have to dig into closets, rearrange furniture, move lights, and whatnot before you are ready to start, it takes a strong determination just to get started.

During a phase of lower inspiration, that willpower may not come easily.

Keep your supplies in one location and organized. Focus on making the starting and cleaning up effortless.

This will also cut down on the amount of time you need to spend doing non-creative things, before being able to start working on your art.

2. Just Show Up at Your Studio

When you don’t feel the inspiration coming, go to your art station anyway. Look at your sketchbook; start organizing your materials and tools; read art magazines or art books. Often this will be enough to stimulate your creativity.

Even better, say to yourself “I’ll work on a small project for just 30 minutes.” Often you will end up enjoying it so much that a couple of hours go by and you don't even notice it.

3. Have Lots of Pictures and Reference Material

When we see or read something we like, we feel inspired. Don’t miss the opportunity and take a photo, save the article, take notes, anything you need to do to create a reference for your art. Then organize them in a folder or binder.

For painters, it is always better to use your own photos rather than someone else’s for reference. Definitely, you should not rely on magazine images for reference because they are copyrighted. Also, Google image search results give a lot of copyrighted material.

When you take your own photos, it means that you have seen it in person and experienced it, which adds to the value of the image.

4. Collect Reference Photos and Keep Them Organized

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip.

Throughout the year, clip out and save any pictures or writings that you like and that somehow inspire you. Store them in an organized way. I keep my digital files organized in folders on my laptop, and the hard copy ones in a binder, in sheet protectors.

A great resource for reference photos is free online photo databases. Make sure the images are licensed to allow derivative work. You can bookmark them in a specific folder or you can pin them and create a reference board on Pinterest.

When you can't find inspiration and ideas for new artwork, go through your reference material and focus on what made you save them in the first place. Maybe you enjoyed the subject matter, maybe you loved the style, or was it the composition/structure?

Looking at the saved references, you may find the spark that lights the missing artistic flame and the productive energy flowing once again.

The reference photo folder in my laptop has several sub-folders that keep images organized by subject.

The reference photo folder in my laptop has several sub-folders that keep images organized by subject.

5. Start Doodling

When you are out of inspiration for your creations, drawing can be an effective icebreaker, and it is a great exercise anyway.

Sit down with a pencil and a sketchbook and start doodling: draw, make sketches of what surrounds you, make plans for your next project, take visual notes, and sketch from your reference photos.

This is one of my happy doodles.

This is one of my happy doodles.

6. Try Something New

Networking and meeting with other artists to create art together is a great source of positive energy.

Fellow artists are the best to understand your lack of inspiration, we all go through that in phases, and the advice and ideas you can get from other artists are priceless when it comes to getting out of a dull period.

Some groups are project-driven; in that case seeing how others approach a certain problem, or how they simplify a difficult aspect, can really give you the push you were looking for.

7. Network Within the Art Community

Artists have the tendency to work in isolation, alone in their studio, and this solitude can make a temporary lack of inspiration may seem impossible to circumvent.
Get out, meet other artists, join local art leagues, go to gallery openings, talk art, and breathe art. Each conversation will give you food for thought, and stimulate your creativity in some way

Attend local arts and crafts fairs. Seeing what other artists are doing and chatting with the vendors can be great sources of inspiration.

You can also meet other artists online, visit art blogs, leave comments, and sign up for their newsletters.

Sometimes an online relationship can grow into real artistic mutual support, especially if you find someone with whom you have a lot in common, artistically and/or personally.

Take a Class and Learn a New Technique

I enrolled in a paper-cutting class—see some of the photos below!

8. Read Books That Inspire Your Creative Genius

When I am looking for ideas, I go to my local library and check out the non-fiction shelf in the 700 range. All of the books about art are there.

I always find some inspiring books to check out.

When I really love a book, I buy it. I love to read some books again and again. One of my favorites is The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri. The first time I read it I underlined several passages. Now I just pick it up and randomly open it to read those inspiring parts.

Find books that may teach you new techniques, or inspire you to create something new. Reading a book is like taking a class—you can learn so much, and you can get lots of new ideas.

9. Participate in Art Challenges

There are several online websites that have monthly or weekly art challenges. This is particularly true for painting and drawing.

If you Google for it, you will find a lot of artists posting reference pictures or themes, and inviting other artists to make a representation within a certain deadline.

Once you have completed your artwork you need to take a good-quality picture of it and submit it. It will be posted on the website, often with the opportunity for artists to write reciprocal comments and constructive.

I love to participate in the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, twice a year. These are the daily paintings completed in September 2017.

I love to participate in the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, twice a year. These are the daily paintings completed in September 2017.

10. Create for the Sake of Creating

Making art just because you enjoy the process, without worrying about anyone else seeing the final product, can be very liberating.

Try focusing on a technique, or on a specific medium. Experiment, try new things, or just go with the flow and create art because you enjoy it, without worrying about the outcome

One of the main challenges for beginner artists is that the artwork does not come out looking like what you had in your head. How our imagination envisions the final piece is often very different from the results.

Don’t get discouraged if the artwork takes a different turn during execution and comes out differently than you had expected. It takes a lot of practice to be able to render specific effects.

Keep creating and don’t forget the most important thing: in art making the fun is in the journey, not the destination. Enjoy every step of it, even the mistakes, because they teach you a lot.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: I'm a self-taught artist. I love art like crazy, and I am fifty-two. I draw and paint. I started drawing, and then I got into acrylic painting. I feel like I'm too old, and cannot make it right. Do you think I can make it as an artist?

Answer: It seems to me that you are doing exactly the right things. You are following your passion by drawing and painting; you are motivated to teach yourself and improve your skills, you are reaching out to other artists for advice - that honors me. Fifty-two is not too old. To be honest, no age is too old. I know a lot of people that wanted to paint all their life, but had to wait until after retirement to be able to do so. Make sure you are enjoying the process, creating something that makes you happy, and that you are proud of your achievements, no matter how small.

I believe art is a wonderful way to improve the quality of our lives.

Some people can only enjoy it as viewers, others, like us, can enjoy at a deeper level by creating our form of art, and that is wonderful.

Do it for yourself, don't worry about what others will think about it. Some will love it; some will not. It's ok. Keep creating.

Question: I find it easy to be an expressionist artist, be it painting or drawing, but I still find myself trying to get engaged with realistic art. What do you think I need to do about that, what's your opinion?

Answer: I say if you feel attracted to a certain style, if it inspires you and you admire works of other artists in that style, you've gotta give it a try. However, don't expect your first attempts to be satisfying to you.

People around you will probably say they are great, but you, as an artist, will see all kinds of things that you don't like in your first attempts at any style. And that is great, it means that you have good taste, and the best thing you can do is to try again, and again, and again.

Put yourself on a schedule so that every day, or every week (whatever works for you) you finish a new drawing or a new painting. The more you practice, the better you get. Guaranteed.

You are so used to admire the works of others, that yours will look bad in comparison. And it may seem that it comes easy to them but it's a struggle for you, you may want to give up. Don't. Keep doing what inspires you. The artists that make it look easy have been practicing for 20-30 years. Their early works were nowhere comparable to what they make now. Follow your art, create a lot, set aside the work already done, and create some more. You'll end up liking what you produce.

Question: Does inspiration in the domain of clothes creation have a link with these 10 tricks to artistic inspiration?

Answer: Sure, these tips can be applied to any kind of creative art, just change the name of the supplies and subjects to the ones you are using, and you'll see that the general concepts in each of the 10 points can be applied to you.

Question: I too am mostly self-taught. Creativity comes in all forms. We are never too old. I'm 75 and still love to try new things. From Lock-latch rugs to pine needle baskets and now into stamping and making cards. I am wondering if the true artist is ever satisfied? No matter what my project, I can always see something I could have done differently.

Answer: Ah, are we ever fully satisfied with what we create or how much we know? I'd like to think the nature of the artist is to explore and challenge him or herself, so my guess is that no, we are bound to be always trying new things. I'm like you, I enjoy creativity in all forms. I actually have to restrain myself from trying new art mediums, since I started in my 40s I try to stay focused on painting, but it's not easy. The struggle is real, lol.

© 2012 Robie Benve


Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 10, 2020:

Oh Pauline, so sorry to hear you are going through such a hard time! It's hard for me to give suggestions when you are in such a difficult situations. I hope you will find the energy and inspiration to create. Try to use anything you have available. Pen, pencil, coffee, tea bags, food containers and wrappings, scissors, glue... There is no need for fancy supplies to express yourself through art. Sit down and create using inexpensive things, worse case scenario, what can happen? You used up some low cost materials, or some trash, but you get those good creative juices starting to flow again. I wish you lots of good fortune and great health. Peace.

Pauline Ramirez on April 08, 2020:

I am a artist from birth so I have been drawing and doing art since I was in kindergarten.i won art competition thru grade school and up to me. College I am now 36 years and I have been going thru so much the lost of mom to now my storage was just broke into and the theaives stolen every art supplies I owned I now only have a few pencils and markers I am now getting so agitated with my creativity going blank what can I do to bring my creativity back

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on August 20, 2019:

Thanks a lot Dbro, I really appreciate your feedback

Gaurav Dey on August 17, 2019:

Hi, I am a fashion styling and fashion design student. I love art and photography and the art of illustration. However, I can't seem to get myself to actually sit down and create something on paper. There was a point in time when the back of my high school notebooks were filled with silhouettes and designs, however that seems to have withered away with time. I know that deep down I still love to illustrate, but something inside me stops me or puts me away from illustrating even though I know I have quite a lot of time to do it. How do I make myself sit down and draw without overthinking too much ??

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on August 15, 2019:

You are very welcome Mike! Best of luck with your future creations and finding your Muse. :)

Dbro from Texas, USA on August 14, 2019:

Hi, Robie! Very good tips here for keeping your creative juices flowing. I wrote a similar article about overcoming "artist's block" several years ago. I think all of your suggestions here are spot on and will be helpful to any creative person who feels stuck.

mambrose on August 13, 2019:

Hi Robie,

Thank you for you helpful pearls of wisdom,

i really needed to hear this today as i have had a hard time starting and had some barriers that were holding me

in neutral base for quite a few weeks,trying to make myself start was so hard it was painful.So now i have some clear direction now and will take the first step.

thankyou once again.Mike A

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 19, 2019:

I think the main thing to find inspiration is showing up at your creative spot, desk, studio, couch, wherever you paint or doodle, and force yourself to do something, with the idea that it's just an exercise, a warm up, an icebreaker. Low expectations are crucial when the issue is being negative towards your creations.

Try something that is outside of your comfort zone, new subject, new medium, new colors. Embrace it like you would a class for dummies, trying to learn (with the benefit that it's free since you don't actually go to any classes) and experiment, knowing that nobody really will ever have to see your work, unless you end up loving it and want to show your awesome results. I hope this helps.

A on February 18, 2019:

These are great tips, but I still can't find inspiration when looking for art ideas. Another thing is that I can be negative towards my creations and If I doodle, I would most likely think that it would look bad. Do you have any other advice for finding inspiration?I would appreciate it.:)

- A

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 25, 2019:

Hi Hathart, we ll go though some slumps of inspiration, the important thing is the will to get out of the static situation and start doing something, anything, that gets us going. Glad to hear you find some of the tips in the article effective. thanks for your comment.

hathart on January 23, 2019:

Thank you for sharing these tips. There are actually some artists that find it hard to get inspiration. I also used some of the mentioned tips and find it very effective. :)

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 03, 2016:

Hi Jane Jones, I hope that you'll get to finish your tryptic soon, oh boy, I sure understand the frustration with a dragging art project! Here is a tip for you, inspired by Feng Shui, that can be very beneficial to get out of stagnant situations. Reorganize your space. Clean up clutter; throw away broken things; clear up walkways; clear your desk. Move things around, re-arranging according to purpose and convenience. This can truly change the energy and feel of the space. Great luck and happy painting!

Jane Jones on November 01, 2016:

Thanks for the great ideas hopefully they will help my lack of motivation to finish a lage tryptic piece thats been driving me insane for over 15 months

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on August 25, 2014:

Thanks Rizz!

Rizz Wilson on August 24, 2014:

Great Hub:)

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on May 23, 2012:

:D Glad to be useful Dbro. Happy painting!

Dbro from Texas, USA on May 23, 2012:

Great Hub, Robie! I wish I'd have thought of this subject! I enjoyed your ideas about finding inspiration. I've tried a few of them myself over the years. Thanks again for a great article. Now I think I'll go paint....

Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on January 18, 2012:

Thank you Little Light for your insightful comment! I checked out your profile and loved your writings. :)

Lilly May Rose from Australia on January 12, 2012:

These are fantastic ideas. I so often get caught feeling uninspired and it drives me nuts. I feel so unproductive when that happens. These are some great ways to get motivated again. Thank you for sharing your inspirational thoughts.