Lost your artistic mojo?
Here are 10 ways to find it again…..
It happens to all of the artists I know. Sometimes we just lose our motivation, and it can take a while to realise that it has gone, let alone how to deal with it.
So here are 10 ways to work out what happened and then how to get creating again….
First of all, let’s have a think about why we might have lost our artistic motivation….It doesn’t disappear because we’re lazy, or because we have suddenly lost our talent or ability.
Maybe it’s good to take a step back and be kind to yourself. I find my mojo leaves the building when I’m tired, bored, sad, lonely, too busy, or life has just changed, or become too demanding or overwhelming. Some of these apply to many of us at the moment, as I am writing this a year into the Coronavirus pandemic, and in our third lockdown.
Identifying which of these (or something else?) might be the problem will be a good way to finding a solution. Even as we stay at home and keep safe, there are things that we can do to help ourselves. Thank goodness we can still go out to exercise!
So first of all be kind to yourself and see if any of these remedies fit the bill…..
If it is a short term blip in your mojo, a blast of fresh air can work wonders. Fresh air and exercise are words that have my children running for cover, but they are my ‘go to’ way to refresh myself and recharge my batteries. Staring at a canvas/piece of paper/screen for too long isn’t good. So get out there and breathe!
If you are feeling energetic, or have the level of fitness you need, go for a walk/run/bike ride, and get your heart rate going. If you are a carer, then maybe you can push that baby-buggie/wheelchair a bit faster than usual. My 3 children’s first words were ‘duck’, ‘tree’ and ‘duck’ because they had spent their early months being pushed around the park several times a day.
Take a break
If you are genuinely tired or run down, you need to recharge your batteries. Being creative takes lots of energy, and we can’t just keep using that energy without replenishing it. So have a think…..do you need a day off? Or a weekend, or even a proper holiday? Now, keep calm, I know if you are reading this while in lockdown you are shouting at me that you cannot go on holiday.
But you can still get away from that easel/desk/drawing board and go in another room/in the garden. Or just do something different. Why not bake a cake/bread, take up knitting/sewing. Have you ever had a secret desire to take up singing? Dancing? Yoga? You can learn anything in your living room these days, with the power of zoom.
Tidy your workspace
I know things have got really bad when all of my pastels are the same colour of grey. I have to clean them to rediscover the reason they bring me joy. It’s a horrible job, but the reward is spectacular.
It’s the same with the studio. If it’ cluttered, then I can’t think properly. So get cleaning!
Work bigger/smaller/change the format
If I am low on energy, I may just need to work on a smaller scale. I know many artists who do a series of really small pieces to give themselves a different perspective on how they produce their work.
Or if I am bored, I go REALLY BIG to get a bit of adrenalin going and to get out of my comfort zone. It’s like being set free.
As for the format, sometimes I think I’ve seen enough standard rectangles to last me a lifetime, and have now fallen in love with squares (I don’t ask for much in life…).
Have a play day and make a mess
If you start out by thinking ‘It’s all going in the bin today’, it can be fantastically liberating. We can freeze up if we are putting ourselves under pressure to produce a masterpiece, so it’s great to stop trying to.
So have a ‘play day’; work on the floor, get out loads of different media, bits of paper, anything that you can glue, daub, make a mark with. Put ink on with twigs, work with your other hand (left or right? Use the one you’re not used to), close your eyes, throw water on it, stamp on it, give yourself a time limit, etc, etc…… just HAVE SOME SILLY FUN!
Last of all, don’t throw it in the bin straight away, come back tomorrow to decide on that.
Change your palette, or your medium
There is a whole world of colour out there, so why do I keep using the same ones? Is it laziness? Or just habit? Especially as I have so many pastels to choose from. It’s a really good game to grab a different set of colours and just see what happens. I changed to using bright primary backgrounds for my animal paintings, which made my life really difficult, but so much more interesting.
It’s like a voyage of discovery, after being in a safe harbour for too long.
As for your medium, throw your brush/pencil/pastels up a corner for a few days and pick up something else that’s been sitting in the cupboard for a while. Be curious, see what happens.
Find a new teacher or a new book
It is great to learn new skills/techniques/approaches to our creative work. There are some fantastic books out there, written by inspiring and inspirational artists. I subscribe to a monthly magazine, love getting book recommendations (thank you Glynis), and can’t get over the wealth of information there is on Youtube. So if you’re bored with what you are doing, refresh yourself by learning from someone else!
Change your subject matter
I have put this one in as I have just discovered the sheer joy of life drawing by zoom. It has been years since I drew from a life model with just pencil and paper. It has rekindled a love of drawing from observation that I had forgotten about, and re-energised all my other work. There are lots of sessions out there to take part in.
Work from life
Depending on the circumstances (pandemic or no pandemic?), this could mean heading for the hills with a sketchbook, or heading into your garden/sitting on your doorstep. Or just drawing what you have around you at home; from beetroot to boots, plates to pot plants. Drawing and painting from life can completely re-energise your love of creating art. It does with me. I start to notice and appreciate simple things that I have forgotten about, such as the pleasure of drawing the curve of the form, or just the quality of my line.
Drawing from observation becomes like a journey of discovery. I also classify it as ‘sketching’, which means I have taken that pressure off myself again, of having to produce a masterpiece. Just look, focus and enjoy!
Listen to music while you work
My lovely friend Nel Whatmore puts her music on REALLY loud and dances round her studio to get in the creative zone. Her paintings are full of life and energy.
Take a break from it and do something completely different
After my Mum died, I didn’t paint for several months. Grief is exhausting, and you need energy to create anything, but when I went back to my art, without doing it consciously, I changed my subject matter, my palette and the scale of my work.
I had been painting small pictures of children, with a light and sunny palette, and I came back to produce large theatrical pastels of ballet dancers, on vivid backgrounds, with dramatic colours and lighting.
I‘m not sure where it came from, but after that break, it just happened.
Go somewhere beautiful
Nature is beautiful. So if we are not living with restrictions, and my mojo has failed me, as soon as I realise it’s gone, I head for the hills, or down to the sea. During lockdown, I can walk half a mile to a little strip of woodland, which is beautiful in afternoon sunlight.
Or I can always just look at the clouds in the sky (this one’s not so good on rainy days in January.)
If you live in a town or a city, go to the park, leave the path, and walk under the trees. Stand still, look up, and listen to the birds. Nature is beautiful, restoring, and refreshing. Modern life brings pressures and stresses, but nature has the power to bring us back to balance and calm.
Architecture can be equally uplifting. Cathedrals, churches, museums and art galleries fill me with awe, and always change my mood.
But I have to say, if all else fails, there’s nothing quite as useful as a good tidy up.
When I can’t see the studio floor anymore, I know I have to face the inevitable, and sort it out. I find lots of things I had lost, usually feel very smug, and guess what?
I usually find my mojo again, buried under all that rubbish!
Hope some of that helps!
Just remember; be kind to yourself xx
Well done if you spotted that there were more than 10 suggestions. If you would like to know more about Rebecca’s zoom drawing classes, pastel demonstrations and one-to-one tuition on zoom, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll leave you with a rare photo of me looking SO happy after I’ve tidied my studio.