All creative people sometimes have to deal with lack of inspiration!
Lesly and I travel a lot and change countries as often as every 3 months. So packing/unpacking, searching for a new apartment, settling in etc often kills a desire to create and I can procrastinate for a few days before picking up a brush again. Guilty!
Not feeling creative can happen for many different reasons, we all have routine and daily tasks which put painting (or any sort of creation) down the priority list. Inspiration is a whimsical thingy, sitting and just waiting for it to come will lead nowhere. The important question is not why inspiration is gone but how to bring it back and start making things again.
This is what I do to inspire myself to get back to watercolor painting:
1. Scroll beautiful pictures online
I go to social media or photo stocks and just procrastinate there. I mean I am already procrastinating so why not do it with an actual advantage? On Pinterest you can type a keyword and see a nice selection of images, and when you click the one you like the most a system will offer you similar pics (even better ones). This will suck you in for hours! You can create a board “inspiration” and save all the images you find inspiring or you’d like to paint one day.
We have a board called “What to paint” where we save cool images for future tutorials or courses:
Sometimes when I scroll Pinterest I find such an amazing composition or color decision on a photo that I just can’t resist the urge to sit down and paint it!
If you prefer Instagram you can use hashtags like #watercolorpainting #watercolorblog #watercolorillustration etc to see what other people do. There are more than 5 million posts published under each of those hashtags, so I am sure you will stumble upon some painting ideas that will make you want to pick up a brush! Now, it doesn’t mean you have to copy another person’s work, just see an idea and twist it in your own unique way.
Another option to scout for visual inspiration is to check out free photo stock. I often visit Unsplash https://unsplash.com/, Pexels https://www.pexels.com/, and a few other platforms. If you feel like photography/watercoloring trends on social media are getting old & overused (like I feel sometimes with those palm leaves and cacti) you can check out niche photographers’ work to find new fresh angles or color solutions.
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2. Watch your favorite artists create
When I feel creatively down I often revisit a collection of watercolor artworks of my favorite artists. I have a list of famous artists whose work is absolutely stunning. When I see their new creations or video of the process it pretty much always kicks me to sit down and paint too!
Here are some of my favorite modern watercolorists:
3. Change routine
I often feel like even a tiny change in your daily life can bring some new perspective and idea for your art. Listen to a new playlist. Try another path to work/university/home. Find a buddy to do creative things together! Lesly and I often push each other to go out and paint somewhere together.
For example, I loooove to paint in coffeeshops. Not that I can create especially good artworks there (lots of distraction) but just an idea of painting somewhere else than the usual home set up brings some excitement to the process. Often I show up with zero ideas of what I am gonna do, but then look around and paint some random stuff. Or even sketch still life. And inspiration just comes!
This is me sketching in a coffeeshop in Bordeaux, France. I tried a few different things, some of them sucked (and that’s ok!). But one sketch turned out pretty well, a bicycle parked near the coffeeshop. It turned out to be the owner’s bike. I left him this painting and he treated us with extra cappuccinos ?
This is no big news but nature truly has the power to fill you up with energy, peace and new ideas. Maybe all you need is to be somewhere quiet, recharge and find that inspiration in a funky entanglement of veins of a leaf that has just fallen on your head.
When Lesly and I live in Thailand we have this tradition of going on a road-trip to the mountains/jungle on a weeked. We would take a book, paint and brushes and hang out all day soaking in the energy of mother-nature.
You can try a local park, maybe lake or river, or you could take a trip outside of your city to the nearest village. Anything with trees, birds, flowers and fresh air will work.
Physical activities are proven to help clear mind, reduce stress and increase productivity. I connect it with creativity too because often when I run on a treadmill or lift weight in a gym the background buzz in my head disappears and I am left with just an empty mind. And we know: in order for new things to come in we need to create (clear up) space to let them in.
Some of my best ideas of a subject for my watercolor workshop (it must be not only fun to paint but also useful to practice particular techniques, right?) came during work out in a gym. True story!
Of course you don’t need to sign up for a gym to be creative. Do what fits your personality best! Can be yoga, hiking, swimming, pretty much anything that makes your muscle work. Two years ago, when I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I used to ride a bicycle. I would put on some music and just ride with no specific goal across the beautiful landscapes. It was almost like meditation. Once I got so much in a zone that after a while I “woke up” in another village with no idea where I was! Fun fact: the coffeeshop I decided to take a break in was all bicycle themed.
6. Let go of fear
A fear of a white paper sheet is a very common thing. Yes, it IS a thing! Even professional artists with decades of experience feel little shivers before starting working on a big piece. So don’t be intimidated by the whiteness of that blank paper, it is a learning process, want it or not but you will throw away a bunch of “bad paintings” before you create something you are proud of. The longer you wait and postpone it the longer it will take to become better.
Worse case scenario: you will just flip the sheet and start over on the other side. I also often use “unlucky” paintings to mix colors and prepare color palette for the future artwork. It should be done on a watercolor color paper anyway so why not just use an old painting to test colors instead of taking a new clean sheet.
If you are a beginner just use a student quality paper so that mistakes and start-overs don’t damage your wallet. For example, Canson Montval is a cellulose paper of a high quality at affordable price so you can experiment all you want without compromising the quality of your work.
If you still have the fear the painting won’t turn out the way you want – just tell yourself “I have no expectations. I am taking this paper, and going to play with it! I am ready to destroy it!”. Most of the time you won’t, and the painting will turn out great. But all that pressure will be lifted from your shoulders.
Another thing to ease your way into starting to paint again is to…doodle. Just do some easy stuff you KNOW you can do and you are confident with. When you see a result you like you will feel more encouraged and warmed up to try something more advanced. I usually do that when I buy a new brand of paper and not sure what to expect from it.
7. Take classes
In especially lazy cases when I feel no power or energy to think of creating something new & unique, I turn to inspiring artists for a master class (another good reason to have a list of fav artists). This way I don’t need to invent anything, just follow the guidance, repeat and still be creative! Taking a class pretty much always guarantees a good result in the end so you will be satisfied with your work, and that might inspire you to paint a piece of your own.
I love taking master classes from Julia Barminova as my watercolor style is similar to hers, and I find Julia’s techniques helpful for my growth.
This is one of the artworks I created following her class. Pretty happy with it!
You don’t need to jump right into complicated courses, you can start with simple and fun tutorials just to warm up, play with pigment and doodle. The goal is not to create a masterpiece but…well… to practice! The biggest problem with lack of inspiration is not that you don’t create amazing art, but that you just stop creating at all. There is no magic pill that would make you a great artist, only your constant practice backed up with some guidance from a professional would. So online tutorials might be a great way to create a new habit of painting regularly.
To wrap it up
How do you keep yourself creative and inspired? Share in the comments, we are excited to know your experience. You may also want to check our article: 50 watercolor painting ideas