Be inspired. Get out and paint! 9 tips to get out of the rut
by Brian Sutton with some helpful tips from Karen Saunders
It's easy to get in a rut. Painting similar subjects all the time and not pushing the limits of your skills and creativity can sometimes make painting less enjoyable than in the past. Don't let it! Do something different today. Get that paint brush in your hand and be bold. Here are a few things that can help you get inspired again when things are getting dull in the studio. You may find yourself challenged enough to love it and break out of that rut.
Paint something you have never painted before - Changing subjects will often kickstart your creativity. In the painting above I was out driving looking for inspiration. You can see the whole story about that painting here. It really pushed me in a new direction that has me loving painting every day again. I had never painted a hay bale and it was harder than it looks. I used only a palette knife for the front bale. The middle bale was painted with brushes.
Try a new brush - I am a gear junkie, and nothing excites and motivates me more to get out and paint than to try something new or something I haven't used in a long while. Brushes are by far the thing that gets me back at the easel!
Paint with people - This may seem obvious as a motivator, but it's an often overlooked tool in everyone's kit. Painting with people puts a small amount of positive social pressure on you to do your best. Get out and paint around other people or, better, WITH people and you will feel better. Come to a class, workshop or private lesson to put yourself on the spot. You'll find you'll leave feeling happier and inspired to paint again!
Learn a new technique - Learning something new is always inspiring because we all think we can rush out and do it right away on our own canvas! Being excited and wanting to immediately apply a new technique is one of the many ways you can grow. More often than not you'll be impressed by what you can do! The positive energy created by THINKING you can do it ends up meaning you CAN do it. Woohoo, You!
Take a class or private lesson - Private lessons and group classes or workshops allows someone else to set the agenda and pace. It can be motivating because you have committed money to learning something new. Get the most for the money you spent by learning all you can from others. At the studio Karen and I learn from each other and we spend thousands of dollars each year on professional development to learn from as many top-notch artists as we can. It is money well spent and always comes back to us in both enjoyment of our craft and in the classes where we spend time with all of you painting your next masterpieces!
Paint yourself into a corner and then paint your way out of it - Often times it can be fun to pick up a painting that you painted and didn't know what to do with it or how to finish it. Take the painting below, for instance. I painted myself into a corner without an idea how to finish it. I set it aside until Karen gave me the inspiration with a Bible verse about sunrises. I was able to paint my way out of the corner with a bit of inspiration from an outside source. See its full story here.
7. Find a subject everywhere you look that is paintable and just paint it! - I know, easier said than done, but look on your patio, or in your back yard and you will find something wonderful and fun to paint. Take a look at what Karen painted on our back patio. Charming, right? All subjects don't have to be earth-shatteringly awesome to paint. There is beauty in so many things we look at every day. This painting is particularly special to me - so much so that I am considering taking it for myself!
8. Look for subjects hidden right in front of you for new inspiration - All it takes is for you to open your eyes while on a stroll. You'll find something within a few minutes! See Karen's birdhouse painting below.
9. Join an online artist group - They are usually free (ours are!) and you can find cheerleaders and coaches online. Into Bob Ross or studio painting? If so, join our group here. Like to paint outside? Then join our Plein Air group here. We post some helpful tips, videos, book recommendations and other goodies in our groups. You can interact with the folks in the groups and post your work. So if you think you can't find something to motivate you to pick up your paint brush and get to painting, look at the inspiration Karen found on the way to work early one morning while stopped at a traffic light.
I hope this helps you get out of any rut you are in and motivates you to begin your quest for new inspiration. We want you to be the best painters you can be and not painting isn't going to get you there, so up! up! up! and get out your gear!