Falling in love again: what to do when you're fed up with art

We've all been there: those dark days, weeks, months where you're stuck in the office or working from home and it feels like you're forcing yourself to draw or paint. When the desire to create new artwork evaporates, leaving a residue of laboured, unrewarding pieces saved on your PC, and you staring at a blank canvas.

The good news is that it happens to everyone. Whether you're a creative director, seasoned graphic designer or just starting out as an artist, chances are you'll lose your way at some point – perhaps multiple times. So what happens if your art spark fades in 2016? How can you get back on track if the creative juices stop flowing?

Finding your artistic voice

Last year, freelance Berlin-based artist Jana Schirmer faced exactly this problem. "The rare times I'm coming up with a personal illustration it feels like I'm forcing myself to paint," she wrote in a Facebook post that attracted an outpouring of replies from established artists around the world. "I also dislike the style/stuff I'm doing right now," she continued. "Being an artist feels complicated for me, so I procrastinate a lot... I need to get back into finding the fun again."

What to do when you're fed up with art?

“I needed to find the fun again,” says Schirmer

If you feel as though you've lost your artistic voice, the key, says illustrator Winona Nelson, is to stop worrying about how or what to paint, and figure out why you paint. What do you want to say? It's an important question, even if you're not struggling with motivation – and January is the perfect time to reflect on your motivations.

The way to find your message is to paint the things you're afraid others won't like or understand

Nelson knew there was a problem when she realised her message had become, "Look what I can do!" instead of articulating a deeper truth. To tackle the issue, she took a step back and thought about what was truly important to her, not what would impress a client.

What to do when you're fed up with art?

First Fire: Guardian of the Eastern Door is based on a prophesy of Winona Nelson’s tribe, the Ojibwe, that foretold the coming of the Pale People.

"The way to find your message is to paint the things you're afraid others won't like or understand, which in my case come from my dreams and my identity as a Native American and as a woman," she says, adding that it worked. "Those more personal pieces are the best received, despite those fears, and led to more sales and new clients than my more standard portfolio pieces or previous client work."

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Julia Sagar
Editor-in-chief retail

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.