Do you love drawing
and painting beautiful pictures, but something’s wrong? Are the
creative juices just not flowing like they used to? Do you even WANT
to create something, but nothing works and you end up frustrated
Don’t give up just
Try some of the following 15 art ideas guaranteed to rekindle the flame and get you back into the creative flow that makes you forget about time (and space).
1. Try A Different Medium
Are you a pencil artist? Are you a
traditional painter using acrylic paint? Do you like colored pencils?
It might be that you are tired of the medium you use most of the time
and need something new.
If you are a pencil artist, try drawing something with fineliners (like Sakura Pigma Microns or Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens). It’s still black and white, so it’s not THAT different – but it does require a somewhat changed approach. You can’t use (50) shades of grey, but you have to simulate them by thinking in terms of crosshatching.
If you are a traditional painter using acrylic paint, try some digital art with a graphics tablet (the Wacom Intuos Pro M has kind of become the industry standard – I use it, too). It opens up a completely different world for you: You have to look at the computer screen while drawing, instead of looking at your artwork. You can pick and choose colors instantaneously without an arduous mixing process that dirties your fingers. And you can enjoy the comfort of „CTRL + Z“.
If you like colored pencils, try normal pencils. It’s similar enough that you don’t have to relearn the mechanics, but it’s a novel challenge because you have to think in terms of values instead of colors.
2. Paint Something Large (Or Small)
The size of your artwork is another
aspect you can experiment with. Changing it will rock your world and
confront you with a new challenge.
For example, I normally only create artworks in A4 size (8,27 by 11,69 inches), but last year I challenged myself and did this street painting that is even bigger than my body (which is unbelievably big). It was quite intimidating at first, but I got the hang of it sooner or later.
With a big picture like that you have to work with your whole arm and even your whole body instead of just using your wrist and fingers. And you constantly have to take a step back to get an overview of the whole picture.
This year I did an even bigger street
painting, a collaboration with a fellow (tattoo) artist of my
She is used to working on these big pieces and said that she finds it
more difficult to create something small.
So it goes the other way, too. The idea is to challenge yourself with a size that is way bigger (or smaller) than what you are used to and learn from it.
3. Paint In Black And White
Painting in black and white is a great challenge. I love using black and white (check my gallery to see for yourself)!
This is a great way to try something
new, especially if you are used to creating colored artwork. Like I
said above, you have to think in terms of crosshatching instead of
You can take this one step further and make it really interesting by just using black shapes and no outlines at all. A great example of this is Frank Miller’s art style in Sin City.
Most of the time he doesn’t use any outlines whatsoever. Doing this makes you have to think about how you use black and white: You have to balance describing silhouettes, form shadows and cast shadows all by just using black and white shapes.
So simple and yet so hard!
Doing it wrong can quickly lead to an unreadable mess of a picture, but doing it right can make for a maybe simple, but really amazing piece of work!
4. Create An Artwork In Greyscale
This is similar to art idea #3. Drawing or painting in greyscale forces you to learn how to use values effectively. In this style of artwork you have to use values to describe local colors. This can be a little challenge at first.
You will see what I mean, if you convert
an image to greyscale in Photoshop (or any other graphics program):
An image might look great in color, but it somehow doesn’t work in
Let’s say you have an image of yourself
with the sky in the background. It might look alright, but as soon as
you convert it to greyscale, it looks like the sky and your face
become one object. You lose the hard edge.
That’s because the sky and your face
have the same value, but different colors. The colors enable you to
differentiate between them, but take them away and you are left with
a grey mess.
That’s a problem you have to overcome with artwork in grayscale. Instead of thinking „What color am I going to paint this?“ you have to think „How bright am I going to paint this grey value?“.
It can be hard at first, but it’s also liberating because it simplifies things: You don’t constantly have to think about color theory and harmony all the time. You get back to the basics!
5. Make A Painting With A Time Limit
How much time do you usually need for a
As for me, I
happen to need around 10 hours for one of my finished A4 sized
pieces. That’s partly due to the media I like to use: pencils,
colored pencils, fineliners and brush pens. These materials have
small tips and thus take a long time to cover a lot of space on the
canvas or paper.
A friend of mine I mentioned above
usually only takes 2 to 5 hours for a finished (big) painting.
However long YOU need, you can try to set a time limit. Doing this forces you to think and act faster and keeps you from drawing too many details.
Depending on how far you want to push this game you can even do something like the „Drawing X in 1 hour / 10 minutes / 1 minute“-challenges that are popular on YouTube. Like this:
6. Do An Art Challenge To Push Yourself
Art idea #5 was all about time and a way to push yourself by limiting it. You can take this one step further and do some crazy art challenges to really test your mettle!
Try something like this and see, if it
doesn’t get your creativity back:
Limiting your colors can pose
some new challenges, but still produce amazing pieces of art.
It’s not as extreme as black and white painting where you basically reduce everything to two values. But it’s similar in a way because you restrict your color choices somewhat. This forces you to stop thinking about local colors too much and makes you think more creatively.
If you only use 2 or 3 colors for your
whole image, you can’t paint everything in its local color. Somewhere
there might be a blue banana or a green human being (which you could
probably call an alien then).
This approach turns the focus away from (photo)realism and emphasizes color harmony. The few colors you use have to work together well and create a compelling atmosphere and the right emotions.
8. Paint Something Entirely Different
This one harks back to art idea #1. But instead of trying other materials, you can try to draw or paint something entirely different!
The point is to try something new: If you usually draw figures or faces (like I love to draw superheroes), try to draw something else for a change: Draw a house, a landscape, an animal or a still life.
If you are a landscape painter, try
something abstract. Throw around some colors without it making any
sense at all! (Did I feel a little jab at abstract painters…?)
If you love drawing architecture, try
figurative drawing for a change.
Whatever you do, do something else!
The point is to get out of your comfort
zone and start learning again. On the one hand it might be hard at
first and you will probably feel like you’ve never drawn or painted
before… but on the other hand the learning curve is steep uphill
This might be just what you need to get
you out of that creative rut and spark some new ideas!
And who knows, maybe your newly acquired skills might come in handy sooner rather than later…
9. Draw Something With Just Outlines
This is more of an exercise than a real
method for creating good drawings.
It is simple though and can help you get
a better understanding for forms and drawing 3D objects on a 2D
surface – making something appear plastic that actually isn’t.
This exercise is a form of live drawing,
but it’s still simple and you can do it pretty much anywhere.
The gist of it is this:
Look around and draw something you see… a car, a book, a lamp, a chair, whatever. But draw it just using one outline – the outline in its literal sense. Don’t draw any inner lines. Pretty much just draw the shape of the object, but in perspective instead of graphically.
Here are two quick drawings of objects on my desk I did to illustrate the concept:
You might find it difficult at first,
but it will help you think about drawing differently. It will help
you think three-dimensionally and you will learn how to put that into
your normal drawings. Even better, it will probably happen
automatically the more you do this exercise.
Give this one a try and see, if it does anything for you. I bet it does.
10. Copy A Photograph Meticulously
Whether you are into realistic drawing
and painting or not it can be a great thing to try your hand at it.
A pretty usual progression for an artist
is to start out wanting do draw and paint (photo)realistically and
later on, after achieving that, moving on to looser creative
If that’s the way
it will go for you or not, you should try out realistic drawing
Take a photograph you like (the subject doesn’t matter) and try to copy it as well as you can. Just like I did with the horse photograph above.
This will teach you several things and improve your observing skills. If you want to recreate a photograph perfectly, you have to look really closely and concentrate on shapes and edges. You will learn that in the end everything is just shapes in different values/colors with either hard or soft edges, like I describe in my guide on How to Draw Anything.
While this may seem like a tedious task, if you aren’t really into realistic drawing and painting, it can still be a valuable exercise and will help you create more convincing „unrealistic“ artworks.
11. Draw Something On Black Paper
Drawing or painting on black paper
is a really nice change of pace, if you haven’t tried it yet.
While it’s obviously best suited for artworks with dark and shady scenes, the cool thing about it is that you don’t have to draw the dark parts. So, if your picture has a lot of dark shadows, you won’t have to fill those with black because they already are! Yay!
That way you can
create a finished piece of art in a much shorter time span than you
could drawing on standard white paper.
Most of my A4 sized pictures I draw
with colored pencils take about 10 hours. But this image of the Joker
that I drew on black paper only took me 2 hours!
Try it out! Black paper is an amazing way to create atmospheric dark pieces of art in a relatively short amount of time. It also requires a different approach to drawing/painting in general because you only put the light parts on paper while the dark ones are already there.
I hadn’t until last year and this year
I’ve already done my second one.
If you’re like me, you’ve basically
always been drawing and painting for yourself and probably inside the
house most of the time. I have been, too, until
I got the chance to do a live painting in the middle of my hometown.
You can watch the
video of it here:
It’s an interesting experience to have
an audience while practicing your craft. In a
way it’s like public speaking: You might be anxious beforehand, but
the nervousness goes away more and more while you are doing it.
It’s a great way to push yourself to do
something new (and exciting and challenging) and learn something on
the way. It takes the private and recreational element of creating
art away and transforms it into a public „event“.
In my case it was a combination of this and art idea #1 and #2 because I hadn’t really painted anything that big before, let alone with brushes!
Sometimes you have to jump in at the deep end and just do it. Good things will happen once you do that, trust me.
13. Collaborate With Other Artists
Art tends to be a lonely hobby sometimes
because you’re so focused on yourself and your progress.
It doesn’t have to be!
This year I was contacted by a fellow
artist from my hometown. She painted a beautiful picture next to my
Joker picture of my first live painting that I mentioned above
and asked, if I wanted to
collaborate with her on a big painting.
It ended up being another live painting (see art idea #12). One thing can lead to another. This is what it looks like:
Collaborations can open you up to whole new worlds because you might be able to see things in a different light than you have before. Every artist has his unique style and history and will by himself be able to inspire you and point you in new directions you probably hadn’t even thought of before.
Reach out to people around you! Try to find like-minded artists in your hometown or use social media. The possibilities are endless!
14. Take An Online (Or Offline) Art Class
Sometimes being a lone wolf like Wolverine can be what holds you back. Like I said in art idea #13, sometimes the viewpoint and input of another person can be what sparks your creativity again.
Instead of directly collaborating with
other artists you should consider taking an art class.
A good teacher is probably able to see
if you make typical mistakes all his students make and can set you on
the right path to improvement. It might also be motivating, if he is
an amazing artist himself and shares his work and progress with you.
But even if that’s too old-fashioned for you, there are a ton of online art classes nowadays. Even on YouTube there are many amazing channels with videos teaching art. A lot of those offer premium courses, if you want to dive deeper, like Stan Prokopenko.
15. Put Your Art On Social Media
Put your art in front of people!
If you are only creating art for
yourself, a creative rut is preprogrammed! You are missing out! Art
is meant to be seen!
If you are not already on social media,
you should at least create an instagram account right after reading
this article. Instagram is THE online platform for artists nowadays.
It requires a lot of patience and a bit of luck, but is one of the
best ways to get noticed as an artist online.
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