If you make art regularly, then you’ve probably gone through a mediocre art phase at least once. This is a time when your art isn’t exactly terrible, but it isn’t exactly at it’s best either. Whether it’s because you were feeling uninspired, or were mostly focusing on other projects or just didn’t have quite enough time, it can happen.
In fact, it can sometimes happen annoyingly often. I mean, some of this month’s paintings and quite a few of next month’s paintings and comics (as well as some paintings that will appear in early October), were made during these phases.
So, what should you do if you find yourself in the middle of one of these mediocre art phases?
1) It isn’t as bad as you think: Chances are, if you’re able to recognise that you’re going through a mediocre art phase, then you’ve probably got a bit of artistic experience. You probably practice regularly enough to notice both subtle and large changes in the quality of your art over time. You’ve also produced good art, which allows you to notice that your current art is mediocre by comparison.
Well, one of the great things about practice and experience is that it can help you out during the difficult times. If you practice regularly, then there’s a good chance that the “uninspired” or “mediocre” paintings that you seem to be making at the moment are probably better than the “good” paintings that you made a 1-2 years (or more) ago.
So, if a painting is “mediocre” by your current standards, then it’s probably jaw-droppingly excellent by your old standards. In other words, it’s a sign that you are still improving and that you should keep practicing.
2) Get some inspirations: If you have a solid idea of what you want to paint before you start painting, then this can improve your mediocre art. The more specific the idea, the better.
For example, during the mediocre phase I was going through when writing this article, I made a relatively decent painting during a fairly rushed day purely because I had the idea of “cyberpunk hackers using typewriters” before I made the painting. Here’s a reduced-size preview:
But, where do you find these ideas?
Before I go any further, I should probably link to this article of mine that explains the difference between inspiration and plagiarism. That said, don’t be afraid to do a bit of artistic research (eg: image searches, films, games etc..) before you start making your painting if you don’t have any ideas. As long as you only extract the general themes/general ideas/general techniques etc.. from those things and use them as the basis for your own ideas (instead of copying specific details), then it’s ok.
For example, both this short story of mine and my “Cyberpunk Typists” painting were – amongst other things – partially inspired by an episode of “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” (one of the few superhero-related things I actually like, due to 1990s nostalgia) where the city’s computer systems are damaged and the newspaper that Lois and Clark work at has to return to using typewriters and linotype machines. I was curious what a “low-tech modernity” storyline would look like when transposed into the cyberpunk genre. Hence the painting and the short story.
3) Keep going: This one is pretty self-explanatory, and it’s something that I’ve said in many other articles. If you’re going through an uninspired phase or a mediocre phase, keep making art. Even if it’s crappy art, keep making it. Even if it feels like a chore, keep making it.
If you keep up the rhythm of regular practice (to the point where not making art every day or every week or whatever feels somehow… wrong) , then you’ll be able to get back to making good art a lot more quickly after the mediocre phase.
Likewise, if you have a brief moment of inspiration or a bit of extra time during your mediocre phase, then you might just even be able to make a good painting or two. Sometimes, this will help you get out of the mediocre phase (by increasing your confidence). But, sometimes it’ll just break up the mediocre phase slightly and remind you of what you’ll be able to make when the phase passes.
For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of a good painting that I made during a mediocre phase that affected the art I made in late September/ early October. If I hadn’t kept up my practice during the “mediocre” times (eg: if I’d waited until I felt totally inspired again), I probably wouldn’t have made this good painting.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂