How to Stay Inspired as An Artist!

How to stay inspired as an artist?

There is no doubt about it,  maintaining a drawing habit is like feeding a hungry animal. I guarantee you will sometimes stare at that blank page and wonder where your next sketch is going to come from. Or there may be days when you get proverbial “Sketchbook block.”

If you find yourself discouraged often, however, you can come to associate your drawing as laborious as opposed to enjoyable. If you’re not careful you start on a spiral that ends with you abandoning drawing with a belief system that you are no good!

We often think that the key to successful drawing is the actual skill itself.

Before I launch into his article on inspiration I need to qualify this with what I feel you need to be aware of!

  1. You will go through phases where you lose your ‘mojo’ or any interest in the actual production of any drawing or artwork. This is normal and a vital part of the creative cycle. Recognise it when it hits.
  2. Inspiration and how it is gathered, nurtured and developed will, inevitably, contribute to the process of creating! You will make lots of mistakes and be discouraged at times by what you produce. See the PROCESS and not the outcome and use inspiration as the catalyst.
  3. Be aware of the language you use to describe yourself when it comes to drawing. Are you really no good or have you never really been shown how to do it before?
  4. Why is it important to stay inspired? Inspiration and being finely tuned to it will support you develop your own creative style. Inspiration is a building block to your creative development so where you invest your time and energy doing so is important.
  5. We want everything instantly. Inspiration enables us to appreciate the power of time and reminds us of the cycle of creativity! (See below!)

One of the tools in my artistic arsenal is the ability to stay inspired and invest quality time in getting inspired as part of my artistic process. This means that I build “inspiration time” into my weekly schedule.

But where does one start when thinking about where to get that inspiration? Inspiration lies everywhere and in itself can be overwhelming.

I want to share a list of the things that inspire me (which I will do)! But before I do so I thought I would explore the process in understanding this whole theme of inspiration as a way to boost your skill as an artist.

Understand your what, why, and when!

In order to unlock where to find inspiration in your sketching habit, the best way to create is to find your why, what, when and where.

  1.  Understand what motivates you to want to sketch – what is it that pulls you into this habit? Is it to feel good, to inspire yourself, to document what you do, to improve as an artist, to develop a range of artworks or a collection, to steady a busy mind, to record your day and create a memory. The key to getting inspired is to understand WHY you do something and then feed it that inspiration. Whatever you decide motivates you there is a deep vein of resources waiting out there for you to find.  The more focused you can be about the reason you are drawn to sketch the easier it will be to feel motivated when you discover inspiration that encourages you!
  2. What naturally interests you? You will find that you naturally gravitate towards things that you are interested in. Its easier to sketch what inspires you in day to day life.  Make a note of your interest areas. Why does it inspire you? I’m sure you have all heard of a mood board.  Well….make a virtual one in your mind that you add imagery to. You will also find that when you sketch what you love you will improve your drawing technique faster. So, for example, if you love your garden or nature just stick to sketching them for a whole week. Collect objects, articles and follow others that share the same interests. Believe it or not there are niche areas for all things sketchbook from just sketching buildings or recipes, people or still life.  I love exploring a vast community of sketchbooking options for ideas for my own.
  3. Your when. Make a concerted effort to book some time in that is solely focused on inspiration time. Put all the sketchbook tools down and go get inspired. Whether like me you take some time out once a week in the bath with a biography of an artist (I’m currently fascinated with the sketchbooks of the great masters), or your morning quiet times where you may keep a thankfulness journal of sketches.  Dedicate a small portion of time to this thing called inspiration where you don’t draw but simply absorb and indulge in learning.
  4. I’m hoping by now that you might have read my earlier post (found here) on the “Artist’s Date” that Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way” insists on every artist embedding into their creative routine.  This is an excellent way of ensuring you set time aside to feed your inner artist. I love to do this!!!!
  5. And your where! Linked to my Artist’s Date, physical location is sometimes important. Decide where to put yourself to get that inspiration. So many sketchbook artists love to just go sit in an environment absorbing what they see and drawing it. Perhaps you are lucky enough to take a few moments to yourself and have a room of your own to dedicate to creating things. (Virginia Woolf would be proud!) The world is your oyster but you could literally start with your front door step, street and community to get visual inspiration.  A simple thing such as looking up and noticing details that you may never have seen before (cornices on a building, an unusual climbing plant, the colour of a front door) can trigger ideas about what you put on paper.
  6. Share what you sketch with others! In inspiring others you inspire yourself and motivate yourself to keep going. Learning and embedding your habit by sharing what you have found out with others is inspiring.

Who or What Inspires You?

My passion is seeking out the sketchbooks of famous artists and studying them to see what I can learn in my own practice. Every month I treat myself to a new biography on such sketchbooks. Some are easy to source, others rare to find. When I find I’m flat I pick up these books to read and be inspired by the stories within them.

All of our creativity takes inspiration from things that have come before us. Use it. Relate to it. Get really good at sourcing what inspires you! Keep a list of who you want to follow and make notes as to why they inspire you. Chances are they resonate with a part of your own personal story.

It could be a person or a movement or a particular theme.

With the dawn of social media it is easy to start to follow other artists to inspire and encourage you, as well as support you discover your own voice. Ignore the fads and social media trends of the day though and make a pledge to push a little deeper to really appreciate why you affiliate to a particular artist or style.

Acknowledge the importance of being inspired!

How do you acknowledge inspiration? Inspiration is part of a wider cycle of activity.

If you are serious about learning to draw I want you to stop for a moment and appreciate that the creative journey is based on a cycle of activity. I think when we first start out we expect ourselves to pick up a pencil and get to it and then wonder why we are unable to maintain momentum.

1.When we first start out it is with great gusto, whether we are 5 years old or 70, we are inspired.

2. We then need to maintain the desire to keep creating.

3. Then we might experiment and fill up pages of our sketchbooks based on the ideas we have been exploring.

4. We then might stop and assess, adapt and amend, or learn from our mistakes.

And so the cycle keeps going.

Inspiration becomes integral to every part of this process. We continually use it to check in with ourselves. Can you, therefore, see how the process is so much more valuable than the final object we produce?

Your challenge is to now start becoming aware of how you want to get inspired to move forward to create.

Regularly getting inspired and making a concerted effort to seek out inspiration starts to do some amazing things. You become adept at setting small realistic and achievable creative goals because you are CLEAR on the objectives you want to achieve. This gives you the confidence to keep sketching.  In my case being inspired in line with the points I have outlined above means that I choose what I sketch, when I sketch, how I do so and when I do so.

Inspiration is a daily task to build into your creative repertoire. You become so much more adept at how you look at the world and realise that this technique becomes part of your subconscious practice!

It’s ironic, but applying logic to this unwieldy creative thing called inspiration will go a long way to ensuring you maintain a healthy sketchbook habit.

Want more tips, access to free downloads and resources? Join Emily’s Sketchbook Community here.