When you’re not as creative as you’d like to be, you’re likely comparing yourself to something or someone with the expectation of results.
You don’t think you’re a real artist because so-and-so is so much better—they’ve done more pieces, more shows, and made more money from their work.
It’s great to sell paintings for thousands of dollars, but most people who want to know how to be more creative are not trying to be professional artists.
If you’re a working artist, your level of creativity has higher stakes since it’s the source of your livelihood, but the weekend artist can get creative blocks for the same reasons as the pro.
If you want to know how to be creative in art, understand it has nothing to do with your work but everything to do with what’s going on in your head.
Doing Art the “Right” Way
Many people have a hard time with the word creativity. When you pair it with art, it gets even more complicated.
Being creative is a matter of perspective, choice, and even courage. What we tell ourselves about what we’re doing (or not doing) is what opens or closes the door to inspiration.
Somewhere down the line, we think it has to be done this way or that. We have to use oil because all the greats used oil. Or we have to use acrylics or think watercolors are not as professional.
Interesting Read: How to Get Answers from Your Subconscious Mind
We tell ourselves the strangest things that have very little to do with being creative. When someone looks from the outside, they see you’ve made something they either like or don’t.
They don’t really care what you used to make it. They might ask questions about technique and medium, but the impression is what matters. Did it make an impact?
The subjective beauty of art on the viewer matters most—and it has nothing to do with you.
Art of Creativity
What is the nature of art and creativity? Should an artist have a goal?
The art of creativity is experimentation—and that’s what we forget. We get lost in what we want to do and get into a pattern of expectations.
The joy of art is creating something that makes you happy, but we also want it to matter to someone else. Artists want to paint a piece that makes someone cry because it reminds them of their significant other or long-forgotten memory.
It’s that very goal to create an experience that eats creativity—instead of creating, we hope we create something worthy. If you want to be more creative, you have to remove that pressure.
The tools, the size of the canvas, the quality of the paints, the style, the comparison to other artists… None of it matters. The goal shouldn’t be a specific tool or outcome but something else entirely.
As an artist, you do have to be open to other perspectives, and you have to be critical of your work, but you also have to be willing to experiment. Not everyone who does art is good, but anyone can embody the spirit of experimentation that creates good art.
Our willingness to experiment is what makes us creative. The faster we get back to that focus and drop the expectations and pressure to create experiences, the more creative we will be.
Ways to Be More Artistic
One of the best ways I’ve found to be artistic is to forget about judgment.
When we were kids, we didn’t care if something was good or not. We didn’t care about the results or what others thought. We made things because it was fun. Curiosity guided our actions.
If you can forget about the results, outcomes, and all that loaded shit that triggers you, you’ll start having fun again. Without fun, you can’t be creative. And that’s just it—we spend our time forcing a situation that can never be forced.
Another way to look at it is acceptance of what is instead of what we want it to be.
Whenever I start a new piece, my benchmark is to create art without judgment. Some of the best work that I find myself is when I let go and don’t have anything in mind other than a desire to create.
I enjoy the experience, and it is fun. I’m not criticizing and judging along the way. I’m just experiencing it—experimenting—open to what I’m doing, and curious.
If you start with the intention of creating a masterwork of art that you’ll sell for $10,000, those parameters will sabotage your creative spark. What if it doesn’t happen? That what-if will be the thesis of the artistic session.
On the flip side, if you make your intention to learn something about yourself, experiment with colors, try new brushstrokes or try a different kind of paint, you’re open to whatever happens.
If you remember back when you first started painting, you did it because you enjoyed the experience. If we had to describe this in terms of movement, it would be inward.
When we have a creative block with our art, the pressure of achieving a result makes the process less enjoyable. What happened is that you changed your focus from inward to outward.
Being more artistic has everything to do with going inward.
Creativity Painting Blocks
There are many times I want to paint, and the very idea creates a sense of dread. The pressure comes from wanting to paint something that someone else likes.
Will they want to buy it, frame it, and put it on the wall in their multi-million dollar home? These are possibilities, but thoughts like these interfere with creativity.
Cool video: Inuitive Art Journaling – Timebox
I’ve turned into a professional artist in less than a year. I’ve sold large paintings for thousands of dollars, which is something that friends and family didn’t think would be possible for me.
With those kinds of outcomes, there’s a building pressure to do it consistently. This pressure knocks the basic instinct to create something without judgment offline.
There are a few things you can do when this happens.
Tips in Creativity Painting
Change up the size of the canvas and flip the orientation. If you’re painting horizontally, change it up to vertical orientation.
If you use an aisle or your canvas is mounted on a wall, throw the canvas on the ground. Attack it from every angle instead of one. You won’t get attached to any perspective and will let the painting emerge.
If you primarily use oils, try using acrylics. If you use heavy body acrylics, incorporate fluid acrylics. Try different patterns, spreads, and textures. Let the paint dry for a bit and try something else.
If you only use a brush, don’t use it for the session. Use different tools like a palette knife, a squeegee, a sponge, and your hands.
Be more curious about how you can create textures versus creating the next masterpiece.
How will you mess with color? What happens when you mix different colors and then layer them using a different tool?
It’s just an experiment. You’re the mad scientist. Change it up.
How to Increase Artistic Creativity
The pressure to create hangs over you all the time. We get overwhelmed because the possibilities are too much.
A helpful way to increase artistic creativity is to use timed sessions. Creating that boundary, block of time, that slice of reality, will help you from procrastinating.
Ironically, it’s constraints that open up our creativity.
Have set times that you will create art and for how long. Try once a day at 3 o’clock for an hour. Creating a schedule will help you focus because each session has a beginning and an end.
Related Read: How to Organize Your Goals Using Day Design
When we work within a boundary—a time frame using an interval—it’s easier to say yes to the activity. We get relief built-in. OK, I’m just doing this for an hour. You’ll be surprised at what happens.
Do that for a week and fine-tune it as you go. If you haven’t painted for a while, start creating a set time and duration. The beauty is that you’re in and out. It’s up to you for how long, but start small.
Don’t say you’re going to paint every day for five hours—that’s just going to stress you the hell out.
You’ll be sitting there like I need to be more creative, getting upset because you’re ruining expensive canvases.
The trick is not to take a session too seriously. This is tough for professionals because their livelihood is on the line.
Some canvases don’t work out. You paint it over and over and over again, but it’s still an ugly duckling. You can’t figure it out and wonder if the piece is cursed.
That energy becomes a personality and stays in the painting. Give yourself permission to walk away from it and start something new.
Experiment with two blank canvases. I like using large ones like 4’X6’. I’ll say, ok, I will paint for 90 minutes and create two pieces. I’ll give myself 45 minutes for each and see what happens.
Maybe the first one doesn’t come out, or it’s just so so. Going into the second piece, I won’t care as much, and that’s the piece that turns out to be good in my book.
You have to go through the crappy painting to get to the mental state where you can release yourself from the pressure of the outcome.