Normally, you can’t wait to get the chores done so you can grab the colored pencils and dive-in. It’s bliss.
But every once in awhile, for few days or a few weeks, you hit the wall. It’s like some dark ick seeps into your bloodstream and you feel kinda bored with your art. You feel dry. Creativity has fled. The thrill is gone.
What do you do then?
I’ve been there, too. Many times. And my advice is simple: When you stop being excited by what you are doing, stop doing it. Walk away from what you are working on. Just pack it up and set it aside.
When you are excited about creating art, you peak, you soar; but when enthusiasm goes flat, so does the quality of your art. Pretty soon you find yourself in a downward spiral: no-joy makes bad-attitude makes bad-art.
The longer you wait to walk away, the harder it becomes to break the cycle. Pretty soon you find yourself gladly ditching the pencils for, say, bathing the cat. Or worse: reaching for some plastic flowers and a hot glue gun.
Don’t fight the boredom. Take it as a sign that you need to recharge, and take time off. Just let your art call you back in its own time. Believe me, it will.
So in the meantime, what do you do with all that built-up creativity?
One of the smartest ways I have found to keep your skills hot when your mind is not is to grab a coloring book. Get yourself a coloring book just for this purpose, one with simple shapes and patterns.
My friend, the brilliant watercolor and colored pencil artist Elizabeth Kincaid, keeps one of these coloring books at-hand for times when she wants to relax and de-stress, usually in the evening. (Her current book is “Beautiful Patterns,” by Beverly Lawson.)
She flips through the book, finds a page that catches her eye, then studies it until she begins to see what wants to emerge from the patterns and shapes on the page.
Then she begins embellishing, perhaps turning a page of triangles into colorful fish in an underwater scene, or a pattern of circles into strings of balloons with a cloud background.
There’s no pressure to create here. For Elizabeth, it’s all about playing and relaxing. Eventually, she will have the entire coloring book — even the margins — filled with vibrant color.
As soon as I saw one of Elizabeth’s coloring books, I knew this would be a super way to take a break from my artwork while still keeping my skills sharp.
Here are some ideas to help kick-start your coloring creativity:
• Add a background to the objects on your page.
• Play with gradients, dissolving one color into another.
• Select a colored pencil you never use and make that the main color on the page. Which other colors work best with it? Which colors don’t?
• Add some of your own lines. Play with the shapes and patterns to create new ones.
• Try different shading techniques: cross-hatching, straight-lines, stippling (dots), even spirals.
• Color a page in cool colors. Color another page in hot colors.
• Try layering colors in different orders. Are the results different?
• Experiment with transparency. What if you could see a background behind the main objects on the page?
This should be plenty of ideas to get you started. Before long you will have a bunch of your own.
The really amazing and unexpected side benefit to coloring book play is that it helps you discover new ideas and techniques that you can bring back to your studio art.
And best of all, this play gets you revved-up. You’ll find yourself ready to hit the art-making again, with new ideas and a fresh spirit. The excitement is back. Your inspired artist-self is back.
Pretty mighty feat for a simple little coloring book, right? Next time you find yourself in a creative Bermuda Triangle, give it a try.
This is fabulous for all creative types – not just CP artists – writers, singers, dancers — we all end up in this place from time to time. Thanks for these great ideas for getting to the other side of the blahs!→
Thanks, Krysta. It’s so true. Even if something brings you joy, you still need a break from it once in awhile to keep from falling out of love with it.→
Thanks for wisdom and personal insight.→
I HAVE DONE JUST THAT. Although, I must admit, I got te coloring books for the hospital. My husband was in the hospital a lot a few months ago, and I was bored to tears…I got lost in the colors…Great article→
I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Judy. It’s a great way to de-stress and to teach yourself some new techniques at the same time. I hope your husband is doing much better now!→
Great idea! I will have to try this one when I am feeling uninspired!→
Excellent! Let me know how it goes!→
This is great stuff!→
Rhonda, you are so inspirational !!! Thanks, for the great ideas, here!!!→
Thanks so much, Karen. I hope this idea is helpful to you down the line.→