Has Your Creative Muscle Atrophied? Some Solutions!

by Leslie Miller in Thoughts on Painting

I’ve heard from various students that they are missing the weekly class, and somehow they do not find the motivation to paint at home on their own. This seems to be a fairly universal problem for aspiring artists. Here are some thoughts from one of my favorite artists, Alain Picard.

“I know what happens when artists like you start showing up every day to practice your creativity. Beauty flourishes. Confidence builds. Dreams come true.”

“Creativity is not a skill or a result of tapping into the “muse.” It’s a habit you develop, a learned behavior that allows your ideas to become manifest. The muse is attracted to those who are busy practicing their creative work.”

~~Alain Picard



Blue Blossom Symphony: Acrylic skin collage, 16″x20″

In my personal experience, creativity is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it expands. Every painting and every experiment, whether successful or not, leads to a slew of new ideas. That level of ongoing creativity is a very exciting and fulfilling state to live in.

But like any other muscle, when it comes to creativity you need to use it or lose it. Seriously.

Have you let your creative muscles atrophy? Do you find you simply cannot make yourself get into your studio or you just have no ideas or inspiration? Taking the time to immerse yourself in art on a regular basis gets that inspiration and creativity flowing again… it doesn’t even have to be your art! Here are some ideas.

  • Look at other artists’ work online. If you like any Old Master’s, Google their art and keep a file on your computer of your favorite works. If you like contemporary landscapes, Google that. If you like abstracts, find some that make your heart beat a bit faster and make a folder for those. I have many folders on my laptop with paintings that inspire me; I look through them and add to them on a regular basis. I find it exciting to come across wonderful new (to me) artists I never knew existed, and there are hundreds if not thousands of them.
  • If you’re looking for ideas of things to paint, Google photographs, choose the ones that excite you, and keep them in a separate. I have a folder for clouds, ocean scenes, trees, etc!
  • Follow other artists you like on Instagram or Pinterest. When you look at your feed, you’ll see a constant flow of inspiration. Both of those platforms will suggest other artists for you to check out as well. I find a lot of cool workshop opportunities, freebies, and amazing different styles of artwork in this way.
  • Share your work on your social media. The positive and supportive feedback will really get you going!
  • Watch artist tutorials on YouTube. This is one of my favorite, completely free ways to learn new things and get fresh inspiration. I’d rather watch an artist at the top of their game teaching me a new technique than the evening news any day of the week! There are many high caliber artists teaching on YouTube these days, and many host live streams. You can paint along, just watch, or even ask them questions in the live chat.
  • Paint something small, say 6”x 8” or 5”x 7” on a daily basis. Have your surface prepared and ready to go each day so you can just step up to the easel and get going. Give yourself anywhere from 20-40 minutes (or even less if you’re very busy), and when the time is up, you’re done. This is a very different practice than working on a painting for hours and hours, struggling to get it “right.” You’ll be amazed at how your skills, your artist’s eye, and your color sense will progress if you do something like this.(Daily painting is an actual movement in the artist community. Check out the work of Lisa Daria Kennedy, who has been doing a painting a day literally for years! She’s up to painting  #4,629 as of the time of this writing!!!!!)
  • Keep your favorite work on display, so you can enjoy the fruits of your creativity and remember how much fun and how rewarding it is! Keep your least favorite work on display, and notice how far you’ve come or if you suddenly know how to make that piece so much better. Make your home into a gallery!
  • Go to local art shows. Here are two that are currently on at the time of this writing:
    1. Littleton Fine Arts Guild presents the Contrast Show, 1/25 – 3/26 at the Town Hall Arts Center
    2. Foothills Art Center’s annual Members Show, 1/29 – 4/24

How do you immerse in art and get those all-important creative juices flowing? I’d love to hear any other ideas that you have!

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