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By Tara Bell, Colored Pencil Artist


What do we do when inspiration wanes, your paint is dried up, your table is cluttered with pencils, and you have nothing you want to do? Where do you start if nothing stirs you?

Here are some things to do to keep you busy while you wait.

  • Join a monthly class. I enjoy one with Rebecca Grace Jones (an alumnus of the Over the Mountain Studio Tour) and after many months have made it a habit to show up and have something in mind to do or start there.

  • My space (let's talk about these spaces and their importance in another blog!) But for now, having a space, even if it is tiny, is so important while you wait for inspiration, someplace where you can leave your project set up for your next session. Visit it, and you will not be able to resist your unfinished project(maybe).

  • Don't be afraid to put a project away (even for good and forever), store it, or leave in an area with your other unfinished projects. It might call to you again. Cover it with paint, or gesso. (Oh, I just did this, and it felt great). It might free up that inspiration.

  • Work on more than one project at a time, even when uninspired. My friend Judy Rand suggested this and it works! Tape two or three projects to your board or set up a few easels, and when you run out of wind with one project, go to the other. Even if you are using different media, give it a try!

  • Doodle in a pretty new book, an old book, or your journal, at the kitchen table

  • Go to a coffee shop, park your car in front of a tree, or sit on a picnic bench with your parka on, armed with a notebook and a set of pencils or pens. See if that stirs something up. Don't expect much. You may still be annoyed or uninspired when you are working, and your project may even look ugly! Let it sit around a bit. It's good for us to make ugly things; new things will come. Overworking something you are determined to make look nice doesn't always work. You want the colors to contrast, everything looks flat or muddy. You keep adding things, or knocking them off balance, or you think you need to master a technique to make it right. Overthinking or overworking a project can be brutal to your inspiration, but it leads you on to the next creation, ... or the 10th one. (Have you ever noticed when you make something you don't like, it suddenly looks better a year later? Works the other way around too!)

  • Switch media. Draw if you paint, paint if you color with pastels. Try acrylic, oil, natural paints. Buy a box of colors or trade with art friends and see what happens. Oh, and your surface! Try all different kinds of paper and canvas; ask those art friends for suggestions for things to try. Crummy paper is a downer.

  • Make art friends. You don't have to rely on them, but ask for some advice, have tea and coffee with them, meet them at Cool Springs for a walk, or hang out by a warm fire. Bring along a little notebook to sketch in. Write a poem and illustrate it. That might bring a little inspiration.

  • Take a break and don't feel guilty. Look around you instead, see a girl in a tutu at the grocery, a bird on the branch outside your window, frost on a leaf, your cat or dog curled up on a pillow. Don't sketch it. Don't take a picture. Instead smile at it, and let yourself enjoy the break of thinking you are missing out on an opportunity to make art. Take it in for your mind's collection, bury it in your memories. Constant inspiration is not necessary for art, it comes and goes. It is a gift, and when it comes and you have a pencil or brush in your hand, time disappears.

Share your thoughts on this wide subject of being inspired! Happy 2019.

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I enjoyed readiing this


Vivien Chen
Vivien Chen
Jan 07, 2019

Tara, thanks for these wonderful inspiration words. Love your "inspiration" art.

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