Whether you’re just getting started or have a long history as an artist, there will be times when you encounter yourself feeling stagnant. Perhaps you simply aren’t inspired right now, or maybe you just don’t feel as though you’re improving at a rate you would expect.
There’s no need to jump to negative conclusions when you feel you are in advancing talent-wise. Just because your skill set seems to have stalled out doesn’t mean you’re not trying hard enough, or that you’ll never improve. Make the decision to use an artistic plateau as a turning point for your artistic career.
If you have found yourself in a situation where you haven’t progressed the way you would expect, there are many strategies you can use to help you along the way. After all, no matter where you are in your journey as an artist, there’s always room for improvement.
Dedicate an Hour A Day to Breaking Through an Artistic Plateau
It sounds so simple: an hour a day. But think about how much time you waste doing any number of things. Sure, social media can be entertaining, but it can also just be considered a time suck. If you were to focus just a fraction of your time and your energy that you spend scrolling onto working on your art instead, you may see an uptick in your performance.
Schoolism art instructor, Nathan Fowkes, thinks that one of the best things you can do is set aside an hour a day to work on your art. Many professionals use this time to sketch. You need to make your hour of art time stand out. If you’re working professionally, the last thing you might want to do is come home and sketch some more. Spoiler alert: try your best to do it anyway.
Everybody knows that practice makes perfect. And you know what? It’s a well-known cliche because it’s true! If you want to see genuine improvement in artistic growth you need to practice and study art. This can be as simple as taking a class. Yes, even if you just graduated and especially if you’ve been working professionally for years.
You’d be surprised how much a refresher course can jump-start your efforts. Or perhaps a class will serve only as new inspiration for old techniques. You might even decide to learn something completely new that forces you to grow both personally and artistically. Art classes rock and so does lifelong learning!
No great class options near you? Look online. That’s right, not even your geography can serve as an excuse to not take an art class. With plenty of pre-recorded class options available online, in many different techniques and fundamentals, you can find a class that suits your needs easily. You may even find art class to be the highlight of your day.
Moving Through an Artistic Plateau By Sketching
A great exercise is to rotate daily between sketching from life, from the work of the Masters, and from your imagination. These three things can help you achieve balance and find the growth to move past any artistic plateau you may be experiencing. Don’t be ashamed, it can happen to anyone!
Go ahead and sketch from life. Take an hour and just draw the things you see around you. Look for a new perspective, or don’t. Just the simple task of sketching for an hour will help build up your stamina and confidence as an artist. Sketching from what’s around you can help you break out of a rut.
The next day, opt to sketch from the Masters. It’s quite simple to find a piece of art you’ve always admired, and attempt to copy it to the best of your ability. Whether you end up with a replica or your sketch looks terrible, spending time looking at work that inspires you and attempting to recreate it can be a fun experience.
Focusing on the skills of the masters also gives you ample opportunity to learn from the original artist by breaking down the techniques needed to recreate the piece. Don’t anticipate you will create museum-ready pieces in an hour, but you can learn a lot and still build up your toolbox of techniques at the same time.
The third day of your rotation can either be the most fun or the scariest of the three because you should give sketching from your imagination a try. Wherever your mind takes you, that’s what you should sketch. Set a timer, draw for an hour and then take a break. You might be surprised how quickly an hour goes by when you let your imagination take over!
Sketching not for you? Paint, sculpt, spend time behind the camera, or design electronically. Just keep working on something that brings you joy for one hour. (You couldn’t even get a whole movie watched in an hour so it’s likely you can carve out the time if you consider your regular daily activities.) That hour could be life-changing when you do it every day consistently.
Having a 3-day rotation of jumping-off points for your one hour of creativity should be enough to keep you focused and engaged as you build up your skills. Over time you will see improvement and that will carry over into your professional artistic career as well as the work you do for fun.
Fair warning: you might end up enjoying your hour of sketching so much that it turns into 2 hours or maybe even 3. Luckily for you, that is still considered winning in the art world because all practice is good practice. Don’t underestimate what a commitment to yourself can do for your career. One hour a day isn’t that much when it comes down to it.
Capture Your Creative Flow Break Through an Artistic Block
Sure you may think it’s frou-frou to keep a record of all the times when you just feel creativity coursing through your veins, but it’s really not a bad idea! Keeping a list of those moments and what inspires you can help spark your creativity when everything seems lost and you can’t seem to focus. No bottles needed: try an idea book.
Whether you jot down a sentence or two that can help you paint a mental picture, or you keep an idea list of things you’d like to eventually doodle or sketch. What counts is that you can use those moments of pure creativity again the next time the sparks aren’t coming naturally. By remembering what was inspiring to you once, you can boost your creative spirit another time.
With just a few words to help you recall your creative and inspired moments, you may find yourself using your book not only as a way to explore your creative experiences but also to reminisce about those cherished instances. An idea book can help you to remember your purpose.
Your idea book doesn’t have to be more than just a few words to help you get back to a good place artistically. There’s no doubt that you have room for both a sketchbook and an idea book in your life. It doesn’t take but a moment to jot down a great moment you want to remember. This doesn’t need to be a full-fledged journal to take you back to creativity, just a couple of words or sketches that bring you back to a moment when you felt inspired by something.
Help yourself get back to the zone of creating with your idea journal or create memories. If an idea journal isn’t for you, you can try a vision board to help inspire you and keep you in those moments of pure creativity. Consider what inspires you: is it travel or a specific color? Maybe it’s a friend of yours or something you heard in the news? Surround yourself with those things to thrive and push past any artistic block you encounter.
Don’t Underestimate the Sketchbook
You opted to become an artist for a reason, so try not to mistake an artistic plateau for a loss of passion. If you find yourself being disenchanted with your work then the best thing to do isn’t to give up. As a disclaimer, it’s okay to take a break! In fact, it’s more than okay. There’s no reason to become burnt out since that will not lead you anywhere you want to go.
But after a jog or a fun movie break, you need to push through the plateau to keep climbing the artistic mountain. The easiest solution to this problem is basic and simple. Grab a sketchbook. See where the pencil, pen, or whatever your favorite writing medium is and see where it takes you. Some of what you come up with might be rubbish, and that’s okay. Not everything you sketch is going to be a masterpiece, but you might draw just the thing that will reignite your inspiration and motivate you to keep learning.
Remember that your sketchbook is for you and not for others to see. If everything you come up with bores you… at least you got an hour of sketching in. That’s the worst-case scenario, and you really haven’t lost anything in the end. The best case is that your efforts are not in vain and you figure out a new project that can both challenge you artistically and inspire you to keep growing as an artist.
No one likes to admit that they’re struggling, and you won’t have to because if someone asks what you’re currently working on you can say you’re sketching. Eventually, something you sketch will catch your attention and keep you occupied. At some point, if you keep working hard, you’ll find the improvement you’re looking for.
One idea is to keep a sketchbook near you so you’re always ready to create if the spirit moves you. On your bedside table or in your jacket pocket are great places to stash a sketchbook since your dreams may just be the thing that inspires your next masterpiece.
A Final Thought on Avoiding Artistic Plateau
Artists will face many challenges in their lifetime, the least of which is hitting artistic plateaus and not feeling as though you are seeing any self-improvement or creative energy. With your focused daily hour of creative work, taking an art class, creating and reading your idea journal, or just simple, daily sketching, you will get that forward progression you need to feel accomplished.
Not everyone is destined to be Van Gogh, and that’s good since he’s already done that anyway. When you allow your own passion and creativity to shape the course of your art, you can bring your own talent to the light. If you feel like you’re stuck and locked up tight, trying some of these ideas could make all the difference for you.