7 Ways Artists Can Motivate Themselves

There are many, many ways you can motivate yourself as an artist. Here are just a few ideas to get you inspired and motivated at the same time.

1. Translate your work into another medium

This one is always a big motivator for me. It is so easy to create the same type of work time and time again. Why? because it’s easy. It’s what you know how to do. But perhaps try something different. Try, for example, to translate your work into another medium. If your a painter translate your recent work into a drawing or watercolor. If your a sculptor, translate your 3d work into a 2d one. You get the idea.

I love doing this for a number of reasons. One it allows you to almost instantly create more work. Second, it allows you to get lost in the physical process of creating the work. You don’t have to re-envision the whole composition.

No one does this better than painter Jasper Johns. Johns, who made the US flag quite famous continually “re-purposes” either parts or often times (in the case of the American Flag) the entire composition. See the many versions of Jasper Johns flags. You can easily do this as well.

2. Go to a museum

I always get motivcated by going to museum shows. I was recently in NYC and went to see the show “Abstract Expressionist New York” at the Museum of Modern Art. It was a fabulous show. Nothing like seeing those amazing Rothkos, Pollocks, DeKoonings, Klines, etc. paintings up close and personal. You can really see (and feel) the commitment and conviction in these seminal works.

Of course, not everyone has availability to NYC or other metropolitan areas but there are always good, local museums in almost any part of the country. It’s really beneficial, I believe, to really slow down, get outside of yourself and immerse yourself in anothers work – whether or not it’s the same medium you work with. Just allow whatever inspiration is there to bubble up.

3. Sell your work

Nothing more motivating than selling some of your work. It’s immediately gratifying and motivational that other people find value in your artistic expression.

What to do? List a few pieces on Ebay, enter some local shows, add some Paypal buttons to your website, contact friends who might be interested. There are tons of things you can do to sell more of your work. Just realize it doesn’t happen automatically. YOU initiate the conversations that result in sales.

Once you see that $500 (or whatever) in your PayPal account or an email inquiry to purchase one of your works you will be motivated beyond belief to create more and more work to sell.

4. Aim High

I wrote about this in another article here on this site called, Aiming High – Lessons from “The Boss which is an article on Bruce Springsteen and how, when creating the album, Born to Run, he set out to create the great American Rock Album. It’s an amazingly inspirational story to see how he set out to create something great, something powerful, something memorable.

And you can do the same. What about creating something great. Not just “another” painting or sculpture or drawing. Ask yourself what qualities, themes, materials would I need to touch upon to create this. It’s really asking these big questions that will create great work.

Challenge yourself to – up it a notch – to really raise the stakes in your work. Aim high. Once you begin operating from this new paradigm you’ll reach a new level of motivation.

5. Change your pace

This one is fun. Try to change the pace at which you create your artwork. If you tend to take a long time (say 3 weeks to create a painting) try to create one in a day. Or maybe a 10 paintings in 10 days. On the opposite side, if you create your art quite quickly the try slowing down. Try to become more intricate in your process. See what it reveals.

Not long ago I produced a DVD called, Oil Painting Tools and Materials, and it seemed like it took me forever (actually it was like 6 months I think) and I loved the process but when I recently spoke with a talented friend of mine his goal is to produce a DVD week. I was floored when I heard that! I couldn’t belief the audacity (and the the power) in that goal.

Immediately my mind was set on fire. Can this actually be done? How would one do that? What process would I have to create to accomplish researching, writing, shooting, editing and producing the DVD. The specific answers are not important but what it did to motivate my thinking was amazing.

6. Dig deeper into your craft

Not long ago I did a tremendous amount of research into Van Gogh’s materials relating to a project I was working on. I called the Tate Gallery in London to speak with a conservation specialist, communicated with a number of other experts in museums through out the world to find out his exact materials, color palette, type of supports and painting techniques. It was immensely informing and enlightening at the same time. I felt like Sherlock Holmes trying to get to the bottom of some great mystery.

However, it really deepened my understanding of Van Gogh’s craft. His craft, of course, was an Alla Prima style of painting which encourages spontaneity sand is much much different, than say the process of Rembrandt who orchestrated translucent layers upon layers of oil paint.

So I encourage you to find out more about your materials or research famous art that particularly intrigues you. Find the best in your artistic niche and learn from them. Many of them have workshops and working seminars that can teach you more about your particular craft.

As your understanding increases your art will become all the more richer and deeper.

7. Re-Arrange your studio or working space

I do this about every 6 months or so. Kinda of a “out with the old in with the new” type of philosophy. It’s extremely liberating to rid yourself of old stuff (or stuff that just doesn’t serve you or your goals anymore) Or maybe just re-organize your current space.

There is always something to moving stuff around to. I know it’s a very Feng Shui thing but you do create new paths for energy to flow. I always feel fresh and newly inspired when a new “Spring” or “Fall” cleaning or new arrangement has occurred. I bet you will too.

For me, cleaning, re-arranging or organizing is always a way to invite “instant motivation” to embark on a new series or just create space for something new to happen.

Image above:
Joan Snyder
“Big Blue Two” 2010
Oil, acrylic, herbs, seeds, paper mache, twigs on linen; 63 x 96.”

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