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12 Ideas for Keeping Things Fresh in Your Art Studio.

Strategies to prevent boredom from creeping into your art practice.

12 Ideas for Keeping Things Fresh in the Studio.

People often ask if I get bored painting landscapes all the time, to which I reply, “Yes yes I do!”. But it’s not the subject I get tired of. I get weary with any painting that does’t materialize quickly enough.

I suffer from ADD, an infliction that wasn’t on the radar when I was growing up. Back in those days it was known as the “He’s such a boy” disease. My eldest son has ADD too, which became apparent when he started performing poorly in school. It wasn’t until I started helping him, along with three special service teachers, while reading many books and attending many seminars on the subject, that I noticed they were also describing me...


One of the symptoms of ADD is frequent boredom and getting easily distracted. Once boredom sets in, the focus quickly gets fuzzy and nothing gets accomplished. In order to combat this creative inertia, I have had to create strategies to prevent it from creeping into the studio and crawling onto the easel.

Here are few nuggets that help to keep me in the groove:

  1. Keep a large stack of prepared surfaces at the ready - preferably in a wide variety of dimensions. Prepared canvas, hardboard, birch ply panels, gesso boards, sized paper, etc.
  2. Switch from landscape to figure to still life and abstract. This can mean using different palettes and mark making, helping to spark the imagination. I tend to follow seasonal phases, painting landscapes most of the year and switching to the figure in the winter, but it’s good to change it up randomly.
  3. Use a different, or even an unfamiliar medium. I use oil most of the time but for a game changer I also paint in watercolour, charcoal, pen & ink. You may not be well versed in all these mediums but changing it up is very invigorating.
  4. Keep a growing inventory of reference photos. I keep 500+ photographs on my desk at all times and also a large cache of pics on my computer. Create a folder called “Yummy Things To Paint” and add to it constantly. This will become your source for quick inspiration.
  5. Surround yourself with examples of other artist’s work. Pin up a variety of reproductions of paintings in varying subject matter and compositions, especially of things you’d never think to paint. This keeps your eyes fresh. Reading art books or just flipping through the pretty pictures is another way to stay inspired.
  6. Paint fast! It keeps the boredom away! Working on the same painting for long periods of time sucks your energy and tends to leave you dry. Winslow Homer tells the tale of painting models on the beach… He was into day four of the painting and got bored, so he hired a kid to pour water on his subjects. Suddenly, after 4 days of attempting to finish the painting, he did so in 30 minutes.
  7. Practice often with variety of styles, colour themes, subject matter and techniques to expand your repertoire. Use the try and true method (patented by Julie Hamilton) of “Paint and Pitch”. Trying things out, again and again, until you are familiar with the technique and then switch to something new. Don’t worry if you make lots of false starts, just start.
  8. Thinking and painting are two different beasts. In my studio I keep 2 easels - one is for creating and the other is for evaluation. I create on the painting easel and the other easel is for critique - that’s where you hunker down into the big comfy chair and wallow in the harshness of self analyzation. For this process I suggest a wee dram of Scotch…
  9. Music. Change it up! If you have the same routine daily expect the same outcome daily. Music is an important detail in setting the mood and shifting your mind into unfamiliar territory. Playing a variety of music genres will help keep you on your toes.
  10. Treat yourself for your efforts. There is nothing like framing your best artwork in a beautiful exotic frame. When it looks that good it makes you excited to do another.
  11. Move your finished paintings around. Once you start painting lots, your studio will likely become your own private gallery. Don’t let your work hang in the same place too long. Rotate it and add some of your new work to keep things fresh.
  12. Put some juice back in the gas tank. Strangely, painting all the time can drain your creativity. You can’t always give without getting something back. Go see some live theatre, hit the movies or dance to a live band. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing someone else create. They give, you receive.

There are a bajillion more things one could do to keep inspired. Please share YOUR favourite tricks for staying inspired.

Your friend in art,

Doug

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