Well, it’s been ages since I last wrote an article about making art. And, after having an unusual moment of artistic inspiration recently, I thought that I’d talk about one way to get inspired and/or motivated again if you’ve fallen into a bit of an artistic funk.
A few days before writing this article, I’d been relaxing by watching random online videos about computers when I saw a demonstration of one of the latest graphics cards (which used real time ray tracing and cost several times as much as my entire computer did) and finally understood why some gamers are so obsessed about graphics. The game footage in the demonstration was almost photo-realistic – especially the reflections. Naturally, this made me fascinated about the topic of realistic reflections.
So, I thought “I’ll try to focus on this in my next painting” and to my susprise, focusing on something as boringly technical as this resulted in a much better and more inspired painting than I’d expected. Seeing the painting as a “tech demo” for my own artistic knowledge gave me a reason to make the painting good (including using some digital painting techniques for the sky that I haven’t used in a while and some cloud shading techniques I’d learnt from making a landscape painting a couple of days earlier). It made the painting matter to me. Here’s a detail from the upcoming painting:
Likewise, after seeing another almost photo-realistic demonstration of two modern game engines running on powerful systems that can use them to their full potential, I became interested in the topic of realistic lighting. Since I had a little bit more time than I’d expected that evening, I decided to put everything I’ve learnt over the past few years about painting light and shadow, about digital image editing etc… into just one painting. To make a painting with the most realistic lighting that I could. To make another “tech demo” painting.
And, because I had a purpose for painting (rather than it just being a part of my daily practice routine), I found that I felt a lot more inspired. The painting not only ended up being a stylised piece of mid-late 2000s nostalgia, but it also led me to experiment with things like using different contrast levels whilst editing the painting and using softer chiaroscuro lighting rather than the more vivid tenebrist lighting that I usually use. Here’s a reduced-size preview of the painting:
So, how can any of this help you feel inspired?
Well, as boring as “tech demo” paintings – where the focus is on technique and/or using everything you’ve already learnt – might sound, they are really useful for feeling inspired and motivated again for at least two reasons.
The first is that it gives you something to focus on and this will automatically give you some instant ideas. For example, if you want to practice or show off everything you’ve learnt about painting reflections, then you’ll need to include a reflective surface (eg: water, a mirror etc..) in your painting. After all, how can you practice painting reflections if there’s nothing reflective? So, you’ve already got part of an idea for your next painting.
Likewise, since the focus is on making one aspect of the painting look good, the rest doesn’t matter as much. For example, in the two paintings I showed you, the backgrounds are actually just generic towns and buildings. They are about the most uninspired and uncreative backgrounds in the world. Yet, I still felt motived and inspired whilst making these paintings because I was focusing a lot more on the reflections and lighting than on interesting backgrounds.
Secondly, it gives your art a purpose and makes you take pride in your work. If you’re feeling uninspired, it can often be because making art either feels like a chore or because it feels meaningless. So, making a painting where the goal is to impress yourself (or possibly other people too) with everything that you’ve learnt about things like lighting, reflections etc… can solve both of these problems. It also pushes you to experiment with new and interesting techniques and ideas (or combinations of stuff you already know) which makes the painting feel more like actual learning and practice rather than just “practice”.
So, if you’re feeling uninspired and you’ve already been practicing art for a while, try making a “tech demo” painting to show off what you already know about one aspect of making art.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂