I know what it’s like to be starved creatively. Although art is now integrated into every aspect of my life, it hasn’t been that long since my life looked very different. In 2000, I worked at a high-powered hedge fund job that required long hours, and with a toddler at home and one on the way I barely had time to take a shower, much less any time to devote to art.
Missing my creative side
No doubt I was missing my creative side, and it had been years since I had touched my art supplies. I remember the thrill mixed with fear when I first started painting again in a corner of my kitchen table. I had the desire to get going but struggled to shed my corporate life to unleash my creativity.
Struggle for Fresh Inspiration
Even now, I sometimes struggle to find inspiration even though art is now my life’s work. In fact, sometimes it is even harder to come up with fresh inspiration when you create art on a more regular basis.
To help you overcome creative blocks, let’s take a look at the science of inspiration and the top ways I use it to get inspired.
The Science of Inspiration
Although In the past I have written about the magic of finding your creative muse, (see the magic of getting started or Invoking the Muse) scientists have shown that inspiration isn’t entirely spiritual or the result of being “breathed upon by God” as ancient civilizations thought. We can use this brain research to help us be more creative. Scientists identified the following times when our brains are poised for inspiration:
- Memory triggers: When memories or thoughts are triggered in your mind spontaneously
- Shake things ups: When you break beyond your usual way of thinking or viewing something, and see it in a new way
- Motivation: When you are motivated to express an idea
Inspiration not only motivates you, but makes you feel good about what you’re doing. Since no one is counting on you to make a painting, it can sometimes be hard to get motivated to take the first step. (There will always be something that seems “more important” to get done.) But just like exercise, you know how good you feel doing it… your brain needs art to help you relax so here are some ideas to help you get inspired in unlikely places.
When I’m in an inspiration funk or taking just too long to actually start a painting, here are some ways I break through.
Reconnect with your Inner Child
|"Yasgur's Farm" watercolor by Miriam Schulman|
>> collect prints
My father-in-law was a chicken farmer in the Catskills, just down the road a few miles from where the Woodstock Music Festival took place in 1969. Our family visits regularly, and my teenage son loves to spend time there helping Grandpa cut up wood or plant vegetables. When I visit the farm, I love fantasizing about my favorite children’s books and fairy tales.
The farm was actually my inspiration for my watercolor class Farm Animal Spirits, where we paint the animals in class that you see on my father-in-law’s farm and we will be painting the fuzzy yellow baby chicks that he raised, the cows that lived down the road, pigs like Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web and sweet baby lambs.
|sneak peek at a lesson inside of Farm Animal Spirits|
When you’re trying to squeeze more errands in your day, get your work done or help your kids with their math homework, you must be laser focused. But when it comes to inspiration it is actually more productive to daydream.
So next time you are bored, resist the temptation to keep yourself busy checking status updates on Facebook and use that time to space out and dream.
Wash the Dishes
Change It Up
When I spend too much time in my studio, I find my inspiration actually suffers. So to get inspired, you have to change up your routine. For me, a trip to New York City will usually fix that and the day off from my work means I come back re-energized and even more inspired.
Take what you usually do and change it, so that your brain is primed to be inspired. If you can’t take a whole day off to yourself just spend a few minutes to walk around the block or call a friend. (Just having a good old fashioned conversation can sometimes get those creative juices flowing.)
Just Do It!
|"Cows in the Meadow" watercolor by Miriam Schulman,|
If I paint something that doesn’t work in my art journal, I just keep layering until I like what I see.
The only failure is never starting, so just do it. (tweet this)
Farm Animal Spirit Watercolor ClassTo see how inspiration from visiting my father-in-law’s farm turned into an online art class, I hope you register for my Farm Animal Spirit watercolor class. This class is perfect for those who want to capture the personality and spirit of farm animals and to learn easy techniques to paint them so they look realistic, but not rigid or “cartoonish.”
|Learn more about my new class Farm Animal Spirits|