Three Ways To Make Better “Uninspired” Art

2017-artwork-better-uninspired-art

If you practice making art regularly, then you are going to have off days. You are going to have days where you either can’t think of a good idea for a painting/drawing or days when the enthusiasm for making art just isn’t there. It happens to all of us and it’s perfectly normal.

Still, the true test of any aspiring artist is whether they can still practice making art when they are feeling uninspired. And, yes, it is possible to do this! In fact, sticking to a rigid practice schedule pretty much makes you learn how to do this.

At the time of writing this article, I found myself making a run of mildly uninspired digitally-edited paintings over several days (which will be posted here in early July). However, the thing that surprised me is that – even though I seemed to be lacking my usual enthusiasm for making art – I was still able to produce vaguely ok-looking, but mediocre, paintings. Here’s a reduced-size preview of one of them:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 4th July.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 4th July.

As you can see, the perspective is slightly off, some of the people are badly-drawn and there’s less detail than there should be. Not to mention that it’s also kind of vaguely similar to at least one better painting that I’ll be posting here in June. Yet, I was feeling slightly uninspired and I still made a painting which doesn’t look entirely terrible.

So, to use a popular phrase, how can you “fail better” at making art when you’re feeling uninspired? Here are three ways:

1) Know yourself and play to your strengths: If you have a particular art technique, colour palette, lighting technique etc… that you really like to use, then this is the time to use it!

Since it’s something you enjoy, there’s a good chance that you’ve practiced it a lot and it’s the kind of thing that you can almost do in your sleep. In other words, even a mediocre and uninspired example of it will probably look mildly impressive to non-artists.

For example, one of the things that I absolutely love is high-contrast lighting. I love how lighting stands out in dark locations. Since painting even vaguely realistic lighting requires a fair amount of practice (to the point where the thought processes involved are almost automatic), it’s something I’ve done a lot when I’ve felt inspired. So, when I’m uninspired, using this technique is almost second-nature and, as a result, it instantly gives even my mediocre and uninspired art a more distinctive “look”.

Likewise, if there’s a particular genre of art that you really enjoy making – then make something in it, no matter how dull or similar to your previous paintings it is – when you are uninspired.

Since this is a genre that you’ve probably practiced a lot, you’ll probably find it easier to come up with ideas for paintings in this one genre – even if they’re a bit mediocre. So, make something in this genre – it’ll look better than an uninspired painting in any other genre!

For example, the cyberpunk genre is one of the genres that I really love. It’s one of the genres that I tend to make art in when I’m feeling really inspired. As such, I’ve got a fair amount of practice at making cyberpunk art. So, when I’m uninspired, it’s one of the genres that I’ll instantly reach for because I can use all of that prior experience to come up with a better, but mediocre, idea for a painting.

2) Keep up your practice!: One of the good things about regular art practice is that you’ll improve without even knowing it. If you want to “fail better” when you are uninspired, then this is something that is worth bearing in mind. Every painting that you make, even the failed ones (especially the failed ones!) will make you very slightly better at making art. You won’t notice it at the time, but it all adds up eventually.

Although knowing this won’t directly improve your uninspired art, reminding yourself of it will help you to keep up your enthusiasm for making art. To do this, look at a “good” drawing or painting that you made a long time ago. Look at something that made you feel really proud when you made it, then compare it to your current “uninspired” art. Believe it or not, your current “uninspired” art will probably look better than your old “good” art does!

To give you an example, here’s a digitally-edited drawing that I made in late 2012 after about a year and a half of regular art practice. I was really proud of it at the time:

"Lot 89 (II)" By C. A. Brown  [ OCTOBER 2012 ]

“Lot 89 (II)” By C. A. Brown [ OCTOBER 2012 ]

Now, here’s another copy of the “uninspired” art preview that I showed you earlier.

And this is something a bit more modern...

And this is something a bit more modern…

Even though the perspective isn’t perfect, it still looks better than the perspective in the “good” drawing from 2012. Likewise, the lighting is significantly better, there are realistic reflections, I’ve used more sophisticated digital editing techniques etc…

So, if you keep practicing, then even a “bad” painting that you make will look better than the “good” art that you used to make in the past.

3) See it as a challenge: Your attitude matters a lot when you are feeling uninspired. Back when I saw myself as a writer (rather than an artist), I used to react badly to writer’s block – I’d spend ages staring miserably at an empty page in frustration. This is the last thing that you want to do when you are uninspired!

These days, having an uninspired day might still involve me staring at a blank piece of watercolour paper for a few minutes, but I’ll usually end up trying something fairly quickly. I’ll challenge myself to make something, no matter how good or bad it is. Or, I’ll start randomly sketching some shapes in pencil and challenge myself to turn them into a painting – for example, the “uninspired” painting that I showed you earlier started out with a random doodle that looked a bit like this:

This is a reconstruction (made in MS Paint) of the aimless doodle that ended up turning into a painting.

This is a reconstruction (made in MS Paint) of the aimless doodle that ended up turning into a painting.

If you think of being uninspired as a challenge (rather than bad luck or something annoying), then it can really help you to think more creatively.

After all, a challenge is an opportunity to test and/or prove your skills as an artist. It’s more exciting than “bad luck” and it will help to spur you into action, rather than leaving you staring at an empty page. All of these things will result in better “uninspired” art.

A good way to form an attitude like this is to find a computer game that you really enjoy, and then to play it on the hardest difficulty setting. Yes, you’ll fail a lot, but you’ll already know that the game is winnable (after all, you’ve probably already “won” on the lower difficulty settings) and you’ll want to see if – or, rather, how– you can still win.

It can take a while to get into this mindset, but it will usually improve any uninspired artwork that you make.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (18th April 2017)

Well, there was originally another painting that I was going to post today but, since it wasn’t very good and since I almost forgot my annual art tradition yesterday, here’s the painting that I was going to post yesterday before I suddenly realised that it was the 5th Anniversary of my decision to make art daily. At the very least, it’s better than the painting I was supposed to post today.

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

"Cold Road" By C. A. Brown

“Cold Road” By C. A. Brown

One Sneaky Trick For Getting Artistically Inspired Again (Plus An Art Preview :) )

2017 Artwork Turn Uninspiration Into Inspiration

As I mentioned in yesterday’s article, I had been going through an uninspired phase. But, the day after the events described in that article, I found a cunning way to make a much more inspired digitally-edited painting.

So, I thought that I’d share this sneaky technique with you. But, first, here’s a reduced-size preview of the inspired painting I made:

The full-size painting will be posted here in mid-March.

The full-size painting will be posted here in mid-March.

Since I’d already been feeling uninspired for one day, I was determined that the next day’s painting would be better. So, I started out by using one of my tried-and-tested techniques for producing good art when I’m really uninspired. In other words, I originally planned to make a “low-imagination” type of art.

In this case, it was going to be a piece of “Silent Hill” fan art. Since the characters and settings have already been created by someone else, fan art requires less imagination to make than original art does (since you only need to find a new interpretation of something that already exists).

Other types of “low-imagination” art can include things like natural landscapes (since they don’t involve drawing people, and include relatively little visual storytelling) and still life painting (since you just have to paint what is in front of you). Although this obviously varies from artist to artist.

Once I found a “low-imagination” type of art, I started to make a preliminary sketch. And, this is where the clever part happens!

Whilst making the sketch, I asked myself “is there any way I can turn this into an original painting instead?“. Since I already had the basic parts of the painting sketched out and because I knew that, if I couldn’t think of a good idea, I could still make my previous fan art idea – there was no pressure whatsoever.

Within minutes, I’d thought of a better, and significantly more original, idea of what I could do with my original rough sketch.

Uninspiration (or artist’s block) can sometimes be caused by putting too much pressure on yourself. If you sternly tell yourself that you should make a good painting (rather than just focusing on making a painting, and hoping that it will be good) your high expectations might cause your imagination to freeze up.

So, starting out by planning a “low-imagination” type of art takes some of the pressure off of your imagination. Since you know that you will produce a decent-looking (if unimaginitive) painting even if you can’t think of another idea, then there’s no fear of failure. Not that failure is a bad thing, as tomorrow’s article will explain…

Not only that, if you plot out the basics of your “low-imagination” painting or drawing in pencil, then you’ll also take some of the pressure off of your imagination by turning the task ahead of you from being “creating a totally new painting from nothing” to “extensively modifying a pre-existing plan“.

Generally speaking, modifying things (even very heavily) takes a lot less imagination than creating totally new things does.

So, start with a pencil sketch of something that you could “paint or draw in your sleep” and then see if you can convert it into something more imaginative and original.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Inspiring Things To Remember When You’re Having A Totally Uninspired Day

2017 Artwork Three Things To Remember On Uninspired Days

Well, the day before I originally wrote this article was an uninspired day. It was a really uninspired day. It was the kind of day when the first painting I made was so terrible that I actually tried to make a second daily painting… only for that painting to turn out just as bad, or worse! Even after a lot of digital editing:

Here's a reduced-size preview. Which, ironically, looks better than the full-size painting (to be posted here in March) does.

Here’s a reduced-size preview. Which, ironically, looks better than the full-size painting (to be posted here in March) does.

It might have been that my imagination was slightly burnt out from making all of the webcomic updates that will appear here this month (and early next month) within the space of a single fortnight, but it was still an uninspired day. Perhaps the worst uninspired day that I’d experienced for a while.

Making art felt like a difficult, meaningless chore. When I’d actually finished the day’s excuse for a painting, I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment. I felt disappointed. I felt like a failure. If you make art regularly, then you’re going to have days like this every now and then.

So, here are a few things to remember when something like this happens to you. Although some of the points on this list are things that I’ve mentioned before, the ending of the third point on the list is certainly worth reading!

1) If you keep making art, you’ll get inspired more quickly: If you make art regularly, then the most important thing is to keep up with your art schedule – regardless of how uninspired you feel or how cringe-inducingly terrible the awful uninspired painting that you’ve begrudgingly made looks. Even if it feels like a chore, you still need to make that next painting!

The thing about uninspired times is that, if you keep making art regularly, then they don’t tend to last as long. If you’ve worked out how to make paintings or drawings even when you’re uninspired (eg: if you use an ‘easy’ genre of art like landscape painting, minimalist art, remakes of your old art, fan art etc.. on uninspired days), then uninspired times won’t last as long.

After a while, the heavy cloud of uninspiration will lift and/or you’ll find something that inspires you again. Uninspired times don’t last forever and, if you keep making art regularly, then they can even only last for as little as 1-4 days.

But, the thing here is to keep making art and to remember that your uninspired time will pass.

2) It’s all about contrast: Remember that the sense of bitter disappointment that you feel after producing a crappy painting on an uninspired day is the exact opposite of the sense of pride and satisfaction that you feel when you make a great painting on an inspired day. They’re two sides of the same coin.

In other words, without one, you won’t be able to truly appreciate the other.

When you’re feeling really inspired, the idea that you could ever have a miserable, uninspired time seems completely impossible. When you’re uninspired, the idea that you ever had a highly energetic, inspired time seems equally impossible.

This feels really depressing and/or frustrating when you go from inspired to uninspired but, when it happens the other way round, it is one of the coolest feelings in the world. But, it’s a cool feeling that you’ll never get to experience if you don’t have uninspired times every now and then.

So, see your uninspired time as a sign that you’ll get to experience the awesome feeling of being inspired again at some point in the future.

3) Being uninspired means that you ARE an artist! : When you’re feeling uninspired, it can be easy to look at other artists and feel jealous of the fact that they appear to be “inspired all of the time”.

Likewise, it can be easy to compare yourself to other artists and feel like you’re a “failure” or “not a real artist” because you aren’t currently feeling as inspired as they are.

I’ll let you in on a secret, no artist is inspired 100% of the time. The only reason why some artists might appear to be inspired literally all of the time is because they’re very selective about which paintings or drawings they actually show to other people.

Yes, they probably have days where they produce nothing but absolute crap – but they hide it away in order to give the impression that they only produce great things. Even so, being uninspired is an integral part of being an artist.

So, and this is the most important thing to remember, if you’re genuinely upset about the fact that you’re currently feeling uninspired, then this means that you are an artist!

If you’re frustrated by the fact that you can’t think of any good ideas for your next painting, this means that YOU ARE AN ARTIST! I cannot emphasise this enough. If you weren’t an artist, then you wouldn’t care so much about the fact that you were uninspired.

Caring about being uninspired means that you care about making art, which means that you are still an artist!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂