How to Stay Creative and Productive as an Artist

When I look back at the last 6 months of my life, I see a constant struggle to be creative and stay creative and busy. In early October, I was on a massive creative roll! A ton of ideas and piece came to mind, and I was excited about doing them all! Well, then I wound up getting sick, which made me mad. It took me a month, but I got back to speed… only to have it happen again in December. When I got sick that time, I was out for nearly a month.

So looking back at the last month, its incredible to say the least.

I wound up taking it only a little easier than when I got sick the last time and I kept pushing myself to be as creative as possible with everything I did! Not only that, but I stopped falling into the traps we set for ourselves.

Trap #1: I can do it later.

How often do you come up with an idea on paper, only to say “Well, I can draw or do this later”? How often do you actually come back to it? Even more importantly, how often did that piece actually get worse with time?

This isn’t to say I encourage you to just do a piece of art just because its fresh in your mind, but it does tend to be the best time… well, at least for me. A teacher of mine once said it best; If you let an idea sit for too long, it can get stale and stagnant, and it won’t look as good as if you simply did it at the time you had the idea. I’ve had a few ideas fall into that trap, and in the end, they were lost to history.

If you know for a fact that by just sitting down you can knock out a piece that you’ll be happy with, if you know you’re ready for it, sit down and do it.

Trap #2: Money Shouldn’t Be the Only Motivation

Being able to make money off your art is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be the only motivation. I wrote a while ago that part of art has become merchandising, and that’s still true. Munny dolls, t-shirt designs, posters… they all are artistic venues and statements. In the end, though, if you’re going into art to make money, you will be sadly disappointed.

Trap #3: Forcing an Idea instead of Allowing Them to Come

This is a tricky trap, because it isn’t so much a trap as it is a skill. One thing I mentioned was that I wanted to get more consistent with my art, and the best, if not only, way to do that is by drawing a lot. Sometimes you’ll get an idea, put on paper, and spend a ton of time on it and it just won’t work. Sometimes you’ll knock out a piece and not be thrilled with it but it works.

The main thing is to realize when a piece isn’t working and to let it grow. If you’re spending 20 hours on a piece and all you have is the basics and it isn’t going anywhere… let it go. Move on. Maybe the piece isn’t meant to be, or maybe you need to go back to it later down the line.

Trap #4: Listening to Nothing but Praise

This is the easiest trap to fall into, and its also the easiest to realize… but it can be the hardest to escape sometimes.

Imagine going to a place where no one is really that creative. They don’t draw, they just kinda live, work, and die. You come along and you have some talent (maybe not a ton, but some) and your immediately praised for your talent and skilled. You’re thrilled with it, happy to get it, and all you do is get positive feedback. Imagine how much it would suck to go up to a major magazine, show them your stuff, and finally be told the obvious: You’re not that good.

I LOVE getting praise for my work! We all do! But to grow as an artist, no matter what your skill level, you need to take the bad with the good.

I grow incredibly suspicious whenever I don’t hear a negative criticism for a long period of time about my work. At the same time, it can get to a point where when you do hear one from someone you know and trust, yet are getting praised from everyone else, that you don’t know what to think. You need to be your harshest critic, and even online you may get more praise than you could expect.

Go on forums, get feedback, and learn how to improve. Remember: Even the best artists still get negative reviews.

Trap #5: Listening to the Critics Too Much

Listening to too many peoples opinions can actually be detrimental to a piece of art, or anything, really. Sometimes your vision and idea is actually right. Imagine if the guys in Metallica listened and decided to turn down the volume of the guitars and not play so damn fast. Metal as we know it would not even exist!

If someone is telling you that you draw too much of the same stuff (in my case, skulls, Satan, and tits), leverage that against what you want to do. Maybe that’s just what you enjoy right now and maybe that’s just what you do.

It can even get to a point where you rely on critics to finish a piece or even start one! I, sadly, fell hard into that one and it can be incredibly hard to get out of it.

Trap #6: Not Taking Any Time to Relax!!!!!

Get out of your house, go out, watch a movie, TV, read a book… just don’t spend all your time working! The reason you were so creative int he first place was because you took in the world around you. Well, if your world is just creating, its hard to do anything else outside of that. Get out, have some fun, and live!