What To Do When Unenthusiasm Strikes In The Middle Of A Painting

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take yet another look at the topic of artistic uninspiration. In particular, I’ll be looking at when you suddenly feel a total and utter lack of artistic enthusiasm during the middle of a drawing or a painting. Mostly because this happened to me the evening before I prepared this article.

At the time, the drawing/ painting I’d started making was going well. I’d planned to make a digitally-edited painting of a 1990s-style video rental shop and, at first, the line art was going well. But, parts of the picture started to be a bit less well-drawn than I’d hoped, my planned background just seemed far too complex (and there seemed to be no way to remove, reduce or simplify it).

Thanks to the hot weather, the fact that I was tired and the fact that the painting looked like it would guzzle up a lot of time, I suddenly realised that I had no enthusiasm for it whatsoever. Or, more accurately, I realised that there was no possible way that I was actually going to finish this painting. Sure, I made a few vague attempts at adding more detail, but the painting just felt like a total waste of time – even though it would have looked really cool.

This painting could have turned out well, but it was failing quickly and my levels of enthusiasm were running low.

So, I abandoned the painting and decided to do something that I felt that I could finish. In fact, I realised that the quickest and easiest type of art I could make would be a piece of digital art (since I could make it less detailed and because there was no additional drying time or editing time).

The interesting thing was, as soon as I switched to making something that I thought I could actually finish, I suddenly felt a lot more creative and enthusiastic again. In fact, I even tried out a few techniques I hadn’t really used before – here’s a preview of the finished piece:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full picture will be posted here on the 7th July.

So, the lesson here is that if you feel completely and utterly unenthusiastic when you are in the middle of making a painting, try to work out what is causing you to feel unenthusiastic.

Sometimes, this can be external factors (like the weather, your mood etc..) but, more often, it has to do with the painting that you are trying to make. Often, it is because the piece of art you are making isn’t filling you with enthusiasm. Sometimes, this can be because the idea behind it doesn’t interest you as much as you thought, but sometimes it can be because your planned idea is too complex, over-ambitious etc.. when compared to your current levels of enthusiasm.

Abandoning failing paintings halfway through making them is something that gets easier with practice, but it can still be a little difficult if you’ve already invested time and effort into said failed painting. But, if you’re genuinely filled with the heavy, miserable, futile feeling of “I’m not going to finish this!“, then it’s the only thing to do. But, make sure that you immediately start a much easier piece of art (that you feel you can finish) as soon as you do this.

Not only does starting an “easy” piece of art mean that you’ll stop those feelings of failure from festering and becoming worse (because you’re still making art. Not only that, but art that is easy to make look good), but it also means that you’ll feel more motivated because your new piece of art feels a lot easier and more successful in comparison to the painting that you just tried to make.

So, dropping what you’re doing and switching to something easier as soon as you realise that your current painting isn’t going to get finished is one of the best ways to deal with sudden moments of artistic unenthusiasm.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Three Tips For Making Rushed And/Or Uninspired Art Look Better

Since I seem to be going through a bit of an uninspired phase at the time of writing, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make rushed and/or uninspired art look better.

Whilst this won’t result in ultra-high quality or ultra-detailed art, it will at least make rushed and/or uninspired art slightly less noticeable to the untrained eye.

Although I’ve probably mentioned some of this stuff before, I’ll try to avoid some of the really obvious ways to make uninspired/rushed art look good (eg: remaking your old paintings, making studies of historical paintings, making still life paintings etc..).

1) Focus on the easy parts: If you’re feeling uninspired and/or you don’t have a huge amount of time to make a piece of art, then one of the best ways to make it look better is to focus on the “easy” parts of the picture and to either leave out the more complex parts or find some way to hide them.

For example, people are often relatively difficult to draw well. So, in an uninspired digitally-edited painting that I’ll be posting here in early July, I made sure that the person in the foreground was facing away from the audience (and, thanks to the positioning of the painting’s light sources, was also little more than a silhouette). Here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 1st July.

By devoting less effort to the person in the foreground, I was able to spend more time on the “easy” parts of the painting – such as the background and the lighting. This allowed me to make these parts of the painting look reasonably ok (or at least better than they would have done if I’d focused my time and effort on drawing a more detailed character instead).

So, find the elements that you find “easiest” to paint or draw and focus on these.

2) Detail control: One of the best ways to make uninspired and/or rushed art look better is to add lots of detail to one element of the picture whilst reducing the detail levels in other parts.

This can be as simple as drawing or painting a detailed foreground and adding a rather quick or impressionistic background (or even leaving the background out altogether). But, it can also be done in much more subtle ways too. For example, here’s a preview of a somewhat rushed digitally-edited drawing that I’ll be posting here in early July:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 2nd July.

Although this picture looks reasonably detailed at first glance (due to the detail on the plants), the picture’s colour scheme is considerably less detailed. For the most part, it is just a simple orange/black colour scheme (with some grey and white too). By devoting much less time and effort to the colours and choosing an “easy” – but striking – colour scheme, I was able to save a bit of time whilst making it.

So look for areas where you can add detail and, more importantly, look for areas where you can reduce the detail level (without affecting the quality of the picture as a whole).

3) Have a unique style: Although it can take quite a while to develop a unique art style, it can be incredibly useful when you’re feeling uninspired and/or are in a rush.

This is because even a less-detailed or lower-quality piece of art in your own style will still look more unique and visually-interesting than a piece of art that uses either a more realistic style or a more commonly-used style. For example, here’s a preview of a slightly uninspired painting that will appear here in a few days:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th June.

Although I wasn’t feeling that inspired or enthusiastic when I made this painting, it probably still looks reasonably ok since it includes most of the key features of my art style – such as high-contrast lighting (where at least 30% of the total surface area of the painting is covered in black paint), my usual colour palette, my usual drawing style, some elements from the cyberpunk genre etc…

The thing to remember here is that even though an uninspired painting in your own style might just seem “mediocre” to you, it will probably still look interesting to people who either like your art style or haven’t seen it before. So, having a more unique art style can make even your uninspired or rushed art look a little bit more distinctive and interesting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (2nd May 2018)

Well, due to extreme uninspiration (including at least a couple of failed attempts at making paintings), I eventually ended up making this random piece of cyberpunk digital art. If you want to learn more about the long-winded creative process behind this picture, then check out this article.

As usual, this picture is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Shrouded In Static” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (10th April 2018)

Due to feeling even more uninspired/unenthusiastic, this picture ended up being a (very) heavily digitally-edited drawing. Literally, when I was preparing this picture, I eventually just scribbled an abstract sci-fi landscape on paper and then, after I scanned it, tried to turn it into something better with lots and lots of random “trial and error” digital editing.

As usual, this picture is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Sunday Afternoon Scribble” By C. A. Brown

Two Reasons Why Making Studies Of Old Paintings Can Be A Good Idea (When You’re Uninspired)

Well, as a way of gradually getting out of the uninspired phase I seem to be going through at the time of writing, I decided to make some studies of old out-of copyright paintings. This is something that I do every now and then, and it’s certainly worth trying for a variety of reasons.

And, yes, I’ve probably said all or most of this stuff before. But, it’s worth repeating!

1) It still gives your imagination some exercise: Although the idea of copying an old painting might seem like an “unimaginative” way to make art when you’re uninspired, it still involves a fair amount of imagination and creativity.

But, thanks to the fact that you have something to copy, there’s no pressure to come up with entirely new ideas. So, you can give your imagination a bit of exercise without stressing out about the fact that you can’t think of any totally new ideas.

Even so, you actually have to find an interesting painting that is no longer in copyright. Although sites like Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons contain plenty of public domain paintings, you still actually have to look for them (and check their copyright status) yourself.

Still, looking at lots of art isn’t exactly a waste of time – since it will help to remind you how awesome art can be (which can help you feel more inspired). Not only that, you might even end up discovering a few interesting artists that you’ve never heard of before.

And, no, not all out-of-copyright paintings are boring. In fact, if you’re willing to search, you can find some really cool ones. For example, the painting I used in my study was this rather gothic-looking late 19th/early 20th century painting called “Lady With Cigarette” by Oskar Zwintscher (1870-1916):

“Lady With Cigarette” by Oskar Zwintscher (Via Wikipedia)

Not only does this painting contain some brilliantly gloomy lighting and an ominously ornate background, but it also has something of a timeless quality to it too. Needless to say, I was eager to make my own version of it.

But, like any cover version of something else, I realised that I’d have to put my own spin on it. Initially, I thought about going in a minimalist direction and just painting the lady’s face and hands (and using a solid black background for the rest of the picture). But, this seemed a little bit too lazy.

So, I eventually just decided to make the painting in the same way that I would if I was making an original painting. In other words, I used my usual cartoonish style, slightly limited palette, mixture of traditional and digital tools, high-contrast approach to lighting etc…

I also simplified a few things and changed the picture from a portrait painting to a square painting (with film-style letterboxing bars too). In addition to this, I also took inspiration from a mixture of other things that have inspired me in the past (eg: heavy metal album covers, old computer games etc..). So, my imagination still got a bit of exercise, but without the pressure of having to think of a totally new idea for a painting.

Here’s a small preview of my finished study of Zwintscher’s painting. The full-size version of it will be posted here next month:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full painting will appear here on the 4th May.

So, yes, making a study of an old painting doesn’t have to be a boring exercise in copying something verbatim. In fact, using your imagination a little bit (in a low-pressure situation like this) can help to remind you of how much fun it is to be creative. Best of all, since you’re already copying a pre-existing thing, inspiration is much less of an issue too.

2) It reminds you of what making good art feels like: Although there’s certainly something to be said for just pressing on and making crappy paintings until you feel inspired again, this approach doesn’t always work. Especially when you’re producing original art that looks a bit like this…

This is a reduced-size preview, the full painting will appear here on the 3rd May.

Whilst, during more inspired times, your original art looks more like this…

“Architecture” By C. A. Brown

If you’ve been experiencing severe uninspiration (and are producing very low-quality art very slowly as a result), then seeing yet another low-quality painting can end up sapping your self-confidence rather than making you think “Yes! I made some art! Even though I wasn’t inspired, I made some art!

So, making a study of a good (out-of-copyright!) painting by someone else can be an easy way to experience the feeling of making good art. And, yes, it is a feeling. It’s a focused feeling of purpose, of pride in your work and of complete and utter immersion in the process of making art. It feels like the literal opposite of feeling uninspired.

Feeling that “making good art” feeling once again can remind you of why you became an artist in the first place. It can distract you from the emotions that being uninspired provokes in you. It can make you feel proud of producing a piece of art that you gladly want to show off to other people. It can remind you of how unique your own way of making art is (if you compare your study to the original) and how it’s worth continuing to develop your own art style.

In other words, it’s a way to feel like you’re more inspired. And, when you’re feeling inspired, then you are much more likely to get inspired again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Don’t Let Uninspiration Win! – A Ramble

Well, it’s time for another thrillingly melodramatic account of staring total and utter uninspiration in the face and still making a finished piece of art.

I know that I’ve told stories like this more times than I can remember, but they’re worth telling for the simple reason that feeling uninspired is something that all artists face from time to time – and it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s often something that can be defeated with the right mixture of inventivness and/or determination.

This is the kind of determination that comes from wasting investing large portions of one’s life in playing fiendishly difficult computer games from the 1990s and early-mid 2000s. The kind of determination where, even when the feeling of “Oooh! A challenge!” has faded slightly, you keep going because… dammit… all games can be completed! Yes, this is one of those stories.

Anyway, let me set the scene. It was a long, sweaty summer night last year and I had to make something for one of this year’s daily art posts (yes, if you’re posting art online regularly, make your art as far in advance as you can – it takes at least some of the pressure off of you. It isn’t “cheating”. It’s common sense!).

I’d had a large meal and a bottle of vaguely hipsterish “craft” beer earlier (seriously, the description on the back of the bottle read like a piece of found poetry), and I was feeling somewhat lethargic as a result. Something not helped by the hot weather or the fact that I was fairly tired and had spent far too long writing and editing this review of an episode of “Doctor Who”.

Still, I needed to make some art! A sensible attempt to make some art earlier in the day had failed miserably when my idea for a cool 1990s-influenced cyberpunk picture ended up looking more like something from the 1970s:

Yeah, this didn’t end up being the badass 90s-inflenced picture I’d originally anticipated. So, it ended up being abandoned.

But, it was late and I had to make some art! So, I put a DVD on in the background and started sketching. After two episodes of “American Dad” and one episode from a “Futurama” DVD, I’d eventually come up with the beginnings of what looked like it could be a “film noir” painting. Except, to my horror, I suddenly realised that it looked so terrible that I had no choice but to abandon it.

*shudders* Seriously, it looks like former prime minister David Cameron posing for a professional photograph!

No, this would not do! I’d have to take emergency measures! So, I drew a few angular lines in my sketchbook, with the plan that I would scan them and cunningly disguise them as “art” using image editing software. No-one would be any the wiser! But, alas, this devious plan didn’t turn out well….

For a while, I actually thought about just saying “f*** it” and using this in my daily art post, but…

After a lot of editing, my computer suddenly crashed. Bands of glitched-out pixels streaked the screen, as if in protest at the monstrosity that I had wrought. Taking this as a sign that I needed to take a break and do something new, I restarted my computer and got a refreshing glass of ice water whilst I tried to think of what to do next.

Then it struck me. I’d make a picture using nothing but digital tools – I’d done it for a large part of this highly-uninspired comic update and I could do it again!

So, I created a blank image file, filled the background with solid black and opened it in my ancient late 1990s image editing program. The plan was to cunningly use silhouettes and the program’s “noise” effect to create a piece of quick, cool-looking cyberpunk art that would be inspired by both “Blade Runner” and this Doom II level.

Taking up my mouse (because, by this point, I really couldn’t be bothered to dust off my graphics tablet) and telling myself that victory was close at hand, I began my task. Things were going well. The picture looked cool and I also soon realised that, by messing around with the brightness levels, I could add a fog-shrouded city to the background too. But, then… Disaster struck!

My computer crashed again! I hadn’t saved my work!

By now, I was tired, sweaty, in a state of mild fury and … determined. Punching the reset button, I told myself that I would rebuild!

And I did! Within fifteen minutes, I’d re-created the picture. Yes, the lines looked less precise than those in the original “lost” version of the picture, but it still looked a bit similar. Best of all, this time I’d remembered to save my work! And, wow, it actually looked like art! Here’s a reduced-size preview:

The full-size picture will be posted here on the 2nd May.

Yes, this tale was a little melodramatic and it is hardly typical of an uninspired day. But, it is proof that “not feeling inspired” isn’t the end of the world! It is possible to make art even when it seems like a near-impossible task.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Finding The Right Type Of “Easy” Art To Make When Making Art Feels Difficult

One of the annoying things that can something happen if you practice making art regularly is that you’ll have times where making art seems like an extreme hassle. This can be due to things like feeling uninspired, being in a rush or being tired. It can also be caused by other factors such as the weather or the mood that you happen to be in.

But, rather than just repeating my usual list of techniques for dealing with this type of problem, I thought that I’d go into much more detail about one of them. I am, of course, talking about making “easy” paintings.

Every artist has their own definition of what an “easy” piece of art is and this will often depend on what is causing you to feel unenthusiastic about making art. So, the real trick is knowing which types of “easy” art work well in different situations.

For example, the night before I wrote this article – I was tired, in a slightly bad mood, in a bit of a rush and the hot weather had rendered me somewhat lethargic. But, I still wanted to keep up with my daily art practice. So, I decided to make a painting that involved relatively little artistic detail. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 3rd April.

Although I was able to disguise this somewhat with my choices of lighting, colours, subject matter etc.. the fact remains that I chose a painting that required little time and little effort. It was a painting where I only had to bother adding detail to about a quarter to a third of the total area of the picture.

However, when I was feeling both uninspired and very slightly short on time a few nights earlier, I did something a bit different. Since I had the energy for a more detailed painting, but didn’t have the time or inspiration to come up with an original idea, I decided to paint a study of an out-of-copyright painting called “The Day Dream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Here’s a reduced-size preview:

The full-size painting will be posted here in early April.

I had the energy and enthusiasm to add more detail to this picture, but I didn’t have to worry about coming up with a totally new idea. So, this painting was fairly “easy” to make in this context since copying an out-of-copyright painting meant that I completely bypassed the problem of not having the time or inspiration to come up with a new idea.

I did something a little bit different the day before I made this painting. The problem that night was that I just didn’t have the time to develop an idea for a painting. I had about an hour to make the painting, but I felt enthusiastic about making art and wanted to make some vaguely good-looking art. So, what did I do ? I made a still life painting of some of the random stuff on the desk in front of me. Here’s a reduced-size preview:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 31st March.

Since I’ve practiced still life painting before, it was fairly straightforward. I could just quickly copy the scene directly in front of me, which allowed me to focus on things like lighting and realistic artistic detail whilst also allowing me to draw and paint a lot more quickly (since I didn’t have to waste time working out what to draw or choosing a colour palette).

On another occasion, the problem was entirely due to hot weather (and, yes, I write these articles and make daily paintings quite far in advance of publication). In this case, I was feeling inspired and I had a little bit more time. However, about halfway through the line art stage of making a painting, I was starting to feel drained and overwhelmed by the heat. But, I needed to finish this painting! So, instead of the detailed background I’d originally planned to add, I quickly added a fairly basic wall to the background instead (and covered about two-thirds of it with shadows). Here’s a reduced-size preview:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 2nd April.

Yes, none of these paintings are as good as the kind of thing that I’d make during a more inspired, awake, relaxed etc.. day. But, they are finished paintings. They are paintings that actually got made, despite obstacles and problems. And this is all due to choosing the right type of “easy” art to make, depending on the problem I was faced with.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂