Three Things To Do When You Can’t Produce Good Art

2014 Artwork Can't produce Good Art Sketch

If you create things on a regular basis, then you’ve probably experienced something like this before. You know, one of those horrible periods of time where whatever you create always ends up being… well… kind of crap.

These are times when you produce stuff like this badly-drawn cartoon/comic that was so terrible that I didn’t actually post it here on the 4th July, as I’d originally planned to do so:

"Time Travel" By C. A. Brown

“Time Travel” By C. A. Brown

Sometimes these times can just be annoying, but if they go on for more than a day or two, then they can start to shake your confidence in your own artistic abilities.

Since I went through one of these “crappy” phases with my art both late last month and early this month (and I went through one with my articles a couple of days ago), I thought that I’d list three tried-and-tested tricks which helped me out back then – in case they’re useful for you too 🙂

So, let’s get started:

1) Keep going: This might sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve often found that – if you keep going on producing crappy stuff on a regular basis, then you’ll suddenly start producing better stuff again. Don’t ask me how this works, but it does.

Yes, there will probably be a part of your mind which will say things like “Well, you used to be an artist. But, with terrible paintings like those – you can’t call yourself an artist any more!” and it’s very easy to feel discouraged. But, keep going. It will resolve itself.

And remember, if you’re producing art on a regular basis – regardless of how terrible it is – you’re still an artist. Likewise, if you write (whether fiction or non-fiction) on a regular basis, then you are still a writer regardless of how good the stuff you’re writing is.

Likewise, if you’ve been through a crappy phase before, then you’ll probably know that it doesn’t last forever. But, if it’s the first time that this has happened to you, then don’t let it frighten you. It will pass. Just keep going.

2) Go for the easy stuff: During my most recent crappy phase, I was actually able to paint something vaguely good.

The only problem was that it wasn’t really something I could fully call my own work. It was fan art – and, since I was playing a lot of “Duke Nukem 3D” at the time, it was Duke Nukem fan art:

"Fan Art - Always Bet On Duke" Art By C. A. Brown. 'Duke Nukem' character design and 'Always bet on Duke' slogan by 3D Realms ( Since this is fan art, this painting is NOT released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind, unlike most of my art)

“Fan Art – Always Bet On Duke” Art By C. A. Brown. ‘Duke Nukem’ character design and ‘Always bet on Duke’ slogan by 3D Realms ( Since this is fan art, this painting is NOT released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind, unlike most of my art)

Since my main problem was coming up with good original ideas for paintings, taking my imagination pretty much out of the equation and painting a character that someone else had designed helped me to actually paint something good.

Yes, the original painting that I made a while afterwards wasn’t really anything special – but, painting that piece of fan art beforehand helped to remind me that I could produce good art and it reassured me that I was indeed an artist.

3) Do something small: Despite the fact that, during the uninspired period earlier this month, making a painting often felt like squeezing blood out of a stone or doing the hoovering – I wasn’t completely unartistic.

As well as making the fan art I mentioned earlier, my sketchbook still had it’s fair share of random spontaneous doodles in it. Like this one:

It's a flower of some kind... I'm not sure why I drew it.

It’s a flower of some kind… I’m not sure why I drew it.

One of the things which can make a crappy phase even worse is when you expect literally every piece of art you create to be ground-breaking earth-shattering ART (in all-caps and bold letters). You’ll end up comparing every painting, digital painting and/or coloured pencil drawing you make with some kind of imagined definition of what “art” should be is in your mind.

So, do something small which most people (including yourself) probably wouldn’t consider to be “proper” ART. In my case, these were just simple doodles in my sketchbook which I drew with a rollerball pen – but they can be any small act of creativity which isn’t surrounded by huge expectations or high standards.

Yes, these might not help you out with the rest of your art immediately. But, on the plus side, they subtly remind you that you are indeed an artist and – most importantly – they allow you to actually create something without judging yourself harshly. Yes, it might not be ART , but it’s still art. And you’ve made it.


Sorry that this article was so short, but I hope it was useful 🙂

One comment on “Three Things To Do When You Can’t Produce Good Art

  1. […] Of… Distractions” – “Limitations Can Spark The Imagination” – “Three Things To Do When You Can’t Produce Good Art” – “Four Basic Tips For Writing Villainous Protagonists” – […]

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