Not the content of today’s blog post, but it certainly gets more attention than talking about painting. Or maybe we should discuss politics in America instead!
Wait: it *is* better to talk about painting!
I find myself in a bit of a painting slump right now. Coming back from painting and teaching on Cape Ann MA I have a lot of new references to paint. I took lots of pictures in Gloucester and surrounding areas. It’s just that I don’t feel inspired to paint them. Quaint boats in harbors. What normally sounds great just makes me yawn. Maybe it’s the heat, I don’t know..
How do you find new, inspiring subject matter? You have painted the same things over and over. You need something else! One of the biggest things in painting is the continued inspiration to keep it up. Being able to be inspired over the years.
Below are my thoughts on this topic. Feel free to pipe in what works for you. I would certainly want to hear it! Thanks.
Travel to a new place
Arguably, this one should always work, except it didn’t for me this time. A new place – new inspiration!
Paint something you’ve never painted before
This is harder than it sounds. If you’re like me, painting a still life might not be something that sounds so interesting but it is definitely worth a try.
Start sketching with pencil or charcoal
If you just draw, you get into the mood. I do this quite a bit in my sketch book. It usually works to get new ideas for painting. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’re still sketching and therefore honing your artistic skills!
Look through art books
Very good for inspiration! We all have books with high quality prints of artist’s work we like. Internet can work too but pictures are usually not high resolution and often distorted. Colors also look different on every screen.
Experiment within your medium
When painting in my studio, I always try to do something new. Well, almost always. It can be something really small like experimenting with new pigments, white paint, or some new technique. It can lead to new discoveries and bring freshness in your work Take risks you normally wouldn’t take, even if you ruin it…that’s how new styles are discovered!
When I don’t feel like painting in watercolor I paint oils. It’s usually so much easier and more relaxing, so a very nice change.
Go paint outside
That one almost always works for me. Meet with some friends and go paint. Even if you don’t feel like it, you have no choice. Once on location I usually get into it.
Pick a picture and just do it
That is another good tip. I just pick any reference and just start without thinking much. The motto is, better to paint than not to paint..
Visit a museum or a gallery exhibit.
Great for inspiration. Nothing like seeing new work or paintings of artists you admire in person. Makes you want to go home and paint!
Do something completely unrelated to art and painting
Taking yourself away from the whole thing form time to time is important. There is a whole world out there and if you’re like me you have other interests as well: hiking, playing a musical instrument, researching the next gun you’re gonna buy etc. (I do live in the wild west, it hasn’t changed)
Spend time in your head
You need to be alone for that one. It helps to zone out sometimes, clear your head
Listen to music!
Doesn’t have to be classical, can be anything
Work out your body
Another unrelated activity that can recharge the creative juices. A run or workout in the gym etc. can make us feel like new
Some artists do drugs or drink when they want to write songs or paint. I’ve never tried it and wouldn’t know what drugs to get, but it’s no secret that many experimented with LSD, Cocaine or even just Marijuana. Probably not a good tip!
Play with your dog, cat or your kids!
Less harmful than the drugs!
I am sure everyone goes through creative slumps every now and then. To get out of it will be a different process for every one of us. I will most likely just paint portraits for a while. Something I am not that known for but love doing. That will get me back into watercolor landscapes eventually.
On another note: my 2019 workshop dates are up on my site! Consider joining us!!
Recupera la inspiración. Ven a pasear junto a los volcanes y el mar en Lanzarote, Islas Canarias.
When i was young there were comic books, and one of them was Jeremiah if I remember well. And on the back of the book he wrote when you read this book listen to this music album. I never tried. But I certainly store your ideas on my computer! Thanks Frank!
Reblogged this on and commented:
Thank you! Nice of you to reblog. I have friends in Utrecht and Amsterdam. Holland is beautiful!
I tried to reblog, but my wordpress is different then the one you use! But I made a page with your wise words on my website!
A couple of years ago I was reading an article about the “heads” of technology who met as a group – including Elon Musk. At that conference he said that odds were about a billion to one that we don’t live in a hologram. Wait – I looked it up to be accurate – “a one in billions chance” that reality is not a simulation. That has been my inspiration for some time – so stunning to think about that I doubt I’ll ever have an “artist’s block” again!
I like that. Found the article on Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2016/6/2/11837874/elon-musk-says-odds-living-in-simulation
Read the comments section!
Hi Frank! Your title did catch my attention. I was wondering why you’d be talking about Amazon Prime…funny! I did like your article and thought it would be interesting to see a Frank Eber still life. Thanks!
thank you, Peggy! Just trying to be funny and lighten people up. Artists can be a strange bunch…I think we may spend too much time alone!
Great to get your comment!!
Ahhh, I hate painting blocks and I’m in a bad one right now!
A change of scenery is what helps me, I can’t find inspiration with painting the same scenes repeatedly, despite how great they may be. When I struggle with a lack of artistic creativity, I take a break and pursue other interests… hiking , paddling, dogs, etc. There’s nothing worse than painting when I’m not inspired… then the result is usually very disappointing.
Pack a lunch, a few beers, and head out to the shipwreck location!! It’s a great spot and I think you may find it refreshing.
Looking forward to September!
Thanks, Pam. Yeah, good tip, the shipwreck. We were just down there doing the fiscalini forest hike we did with you! We just love it and thought how grateful we are to you for showing us…
I am with you. I can’t paint the same things over and over. If I am not inspired my work shows it as well. Even if others think it’s great, I don’t think so. I am just taking a break from painting. I’ve been doing lots of drawing and that makes me happy…look forward to September!
Good tips Frank. I’m still inspired to do better, that is probably the #1 thing that keeps me going. I know I haven’t painted very long (just starting last year), but I can see how one can get “painters block” – similar to “writer block”. Sometimes, when the mood strikes me, I watch those APV videos of JZ and Herman, which inspires me greatly. Painters like yourself and others who are out there teaching and meeting new painters always inspire me. Keep up the great work! I think if your painting, no day is a bad or boring day!
That’s true, Al. It usually isn’t a problem for me either but this last year I had to deal with it a couple of times. It happened to me while I strictly painted oil in the 90s also. I think if you paint a long time it is inevitable…but like you said, no painting day is a bad day, no matter the outcome. I totally agree with that. Thanks so much for signing up for Austin. I look forward to going there!
We have to inspire each other, not work against each other and see the other guy as competition! Some people don’t get that!
Yes Frank, we will have to paint some plein air again, and I look forward to sitting down again for a nice conversation over a nice meal!
Look forward to that, Al!
Oh, BTW, I’ll see you in Austin next year, just signed up !
Hi Frank, very interesting to hear that you too can slump. I think the painting you posted last week with the buildings at dusk is something that haven’t seen before and I thought it was very interesting. Hope to see you do more with the saturated colors.
Jane, thanks for your comment! Everyone goes through slumps, I think it’s inevitable when you’re painting for years and years. The painting at dusk, yes, a bit different. Trying to find new inspiration.
Jane, I don’t think I’ll ever do anything with saturated colors LOL, although in that piece I did go strong with the yellows. I think night scenes have that character..
Gosh Frank, I hope the Cape Ann workshop wasn’t the cause of your creative slump. I left reenergized!
I’m enjoying your wonderfully subtle Alliac painting posted above. It’s a lesson, at least for me, in restraint.
No, I don’t think so Randolph. It happened a while after that. Not sure what the cause is but I am slowly getting out of it. I like what you say, a lesson about restraint. It’s like the saying ‘less is more’. So easy to say yet so hard to do!
I often do feel drained after workshops and sometimes students feel reenergized. It is almost as if I am giving away all my energy. I have to learn to pace myself better, I guess.
Hey Frank. Loved to hear you’re stifled.HaHa! I wish we were closer to assist. I’m indulged in the new season of “This Old House”,or more like Tim Allen’s show.Otherwords I’m painting more exterior than watercolor. I can totally relate to the same old same, same old majestic Sierra. Not sure what it takes to be inspired like those old timers were. Keep up what you do because you’re a master too! Roger
Good to hear from you, Roger. I am already over it (I think). Painted a good SF street scene yesterday. Definitely no boats in a harbor for me right now..LOL
I am binge watching the old Battlestar Galactica series right now, love those cylons!! See you in Geneva!