Study for Sick Child by Edvard Munch
What should you do when you don't feel like painting?
We all have days when we don't feel like painting. Maybe we're tired, uninspired, or just feeling a bit discouraged. It's okay to take a break and give yourself some time to recharge, but it's also important to remember why you love painting and why you started in the first place.
Here are some tips to help you stay motivated when you don't feel like painting:
1. Find inspiration in the masters
One of the practices that I picked up from the Nerdrum school is to continuously look at the masters. Whether you’re eating breakfast, taking a coffee break, or even watching a movie, you can have masterwork references nearby to offer you inspiration for your own work. Another great way to find inspiration is by going to a local museum.
La Pieta by Titian
2. Look at the work of colleagues
A great way to remind yourself of what’s possible in painting is to look at the work of colleagues that you admire. There's an added bonus here because you can even ask them about how they achieved particular effects!
Painting by Melissa Calabria
3. Share inspiration with colleagues
Any time I find a great painting, I love sharing it with my kitsch painter friends. It’s always exciting to share something you love with friends. I find that they usually point out some specific qualities that make the work great that I didn’t notice. On top of that they will feel inclined to reciprocate, and share great paintings with you when you least expect it.
Burghers of Calais by Rodin
4. Ask for a critique
If you are feeling uninspired or down and out about your painting, the problem might just be that you’re not sure what to work on. Getting a critique from a trusted colleague is a great way to see the painting again with fresh eyes and recognize a more clear path for moving forward.
Sleep Valley by Odd Nerdrum
5. Take a walk
Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to get your creative juices flowing. Take a walk outside, visit a park, or explore a new part of town. You might find inspiration in unexpected places. When you’re in a rut, getting your mind off of painting, and on something else is almost always sure to be refreshing.
Mother and Son by Odd Nerdrum
6. Try a new technique
If you're feeling stuck in a rut, try experimenting with a new technique that you want to learn. It can help you break out of your comfort zone and take your painting process to the next level, reinvigorating you.
Local glazing demonstration Via Nic Thurman on Youtube
7. Do something simple
Instead of trying to tackle a big project, set a small goal for yourself, like painting for only 15 minutes, or completing a quick sketch. Accomplishing small goals can help build momentum and motivation. Getting started is the most difficult part. So if you just force yourself to paint for 15 minutes, you’ll find that it will often turn into a much longer painting session.
Skull sketch study Via @nic.thurman on instagram
8. Listen to great classical music
Listening to music can help set the tone for your painting session and get you in the right mindset. It also serves as a source of inspiration and deeply impacts your mood which will affect your painting. So try to choose music that matches the mood you want to convey in your painting.
Brahms Double Concerto : David Oistrakh (violin) & Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
9. Make a study
Doing a small study or something that can be finished in a relatively short amount of time is a great way to feel accomplished. You get the excitement of starting something new AND the pleasure of feeling like you finished something. You can make a still life, a master copy, a quick portrait etc. The key here is to just make sure that you are having fun, and that you don’t have high expectations. That will take away the pressure while offering the satisfaction of actually doing something. This is a great way to remind yourself of how fun painting can be.
Time lapse portrait study via @nic.thurman on Instagram
10. Remember your why
Take plenty of time to understand why you love painting and what you want to accomplish. Having a clear purpose is crucial, especially with a craft like this which takes a lifetime to master. Remembering your why can help you reconnect with your passion and motivation and help you to push through the times when you don't 'feel' like doing it.
The Golden Cape by Odd Nerdrum
11. Grit leads to good habits
Sometimes when you don’t want to paint it’s only because you’ve created a bad habit of not doing it. Oftentimes you have to power through even when you don’t want to. Being able to practice and improve even on the worst days is what really makes a master. The funny thing is that it usually only takes one determined session of forcing yourself to practice in order to get back into a good habit. From then on, it only gets easier.
Sisyphus by Titian
Remember, it's okay to have off days. Take care of yourself and give yourself grace. When you know you should be painting, but you’re just not doing it, try using these tips to get back in the groove. Happy painting!