You stopped making art a long time ago and you’re not sure if it’s too late to start again or don’t know how to get back into art. It can be tough to get back into the swing of things after taking a break, but it’s definitely not impossible.
In fact, there are plenty of ways to make the process easier on yourself, I should know, I stopped making art one day and that day lasted over 10 years.
Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to starting (and sticking with) an art-making routine that works for you.
What caused you to stop making art in the first place?
Was it a specific event, or just a gradual falling-off? If it was the latter, it might be helpful to pinpoint what changed in your life around the same time that caused you to stop making art. Was it health issues? Depression? Work? or was it that art just wasn’t doing it for you anymore?
Once you know what the trigger was, you can start to work on making changes in your life so that you can make art again.
If on the other hand you just stopped making art because life got in the way then it is a much easier proposition to manage. You just need to find the time or reason to make art again.
In my case, I got married and two kids quickly followed, I had all these plans to paint my kid’s portraits and draw them as babies. I took lots of reference photos and bought all the materials I needed.
Then I lost my studio space for a kid’s playroom and my art materials and easels ended up in the garage and then in the backyard shed where they sat for 10 years.
I was also in a different frame of mind during those 10 years than I was in my previous 30 years when I was first an art-obsessed child to an angry young man. Marriage and kids mellowed my outlook on life and art seemed like it wasn’t the outlet I needed.
In my experience, what caused me to stop painting had little to no correlation to what was required to make me start making art again.
I did not need to be angry or challenged, I didn’t need to express anything and I was not trying to make a social statement. I just needed to make art and learn how to get back into art again.
Did you compare your art to others and were discouraged?
Some artists stop making art as they are comparing themselves with the ‘popular’ artists on social media with millions of followers and fans who just make the same art over and over again.
Those artists are trapped. It is probably best to stop making art rather than becoming a performing monkey or one-trick pony.
Were you not progressing as an artist?
Some artists have this weird mental timeline where they need to be at a certain skill level by a specific date and when that date passes and they are not world-famous, they just quit.
Art is a long process and it should be enjoyed, it is not a race. If you are not progressing as an artist maybe you should consider taking a professional course or attending classes where a qualified teacher will review your work and show you where you can get better and teach you how to get better.
Being self-taught is probably the longest path to take as an artist, I know as I am self-taught and I wish every day that I had attended an art school so that I could have skipped the years of fumbling around as I worked things out for myself.
How did you feel when you stopped making art?
I felt relieved. I had been struggling with my art for a while and it was a big source of stress in my life as I had big expectations for myself and my art. When I stopped, I felt like I could finally breathe again.
It was a huge weight off my shoulders. At the same time, I had a nagging feeling on an almost daily basis that I needed to make art but I just never made any and I felt horrible. I was wasting my talent (which is how I came about the name for this blog).
For years I was a promising young artist with a steady stream of income from commissions but I was also juggling a very demanding full-time job.
The other issue I had was that I enjoyed making simple art such as portraits and still life paintings but I felt as though I needed to push the boundaries and make art that made a statement.
Social media was mostly at fault for this one as I could see artists receiving rave reviews for making art that made a social statement. I on the other hand could only come up with art that made a horrible statement about life that was at odds with how I was feeling or I could make “boring” art.
I wasn’t looking for a cathartic experience.
Now that you know how I felt when I stopped making art, ask yourself “how did I feel when I stopped making art?“. If there are any negative feelings about not making art then that’s a good thing.
Feeling bad about not doing something means you can work out what you like about doing something. In the next section, we will look at what you like most about making art. Before that, you need to just confirm how you feel again.
If you have no feelings for it or you just feel that making art is going to affect your health or mental health then maybe you shouldn’t get back into art.
What did you like most about making art?
When you think about the good times spent making art, what did you like most about it? Was it the feeling of creativity and self-expression?
Was it the connection you felt to other artists or to your artwork itself? Was it the satisfaction of completing a project? Whatever it was, try to focus on those positive aspects of art-making as you consider getting back into it.
Focus on the positives of making art
Making art can be a very rewarding experience, but only if you’re doing it for the right reasons.
If you’re getting back into art because you feel like you should or because you think it’ll make you more popular or successful, then you’re likely to be disappointed.
But if you’re getting back into art because you genuinely enjoy it and want to express yourself, then you’re more likely to stick with it and reap the benefits.
Find a community of like-minded people
One of the best ways to get back into art is to find a community of like-minded people. There are plenty of online communities dedicated to art and creativity, so you should have no trouble finding one that’s a good fit for you.
Once you’ve found a community, take some time to explore it and see what kinds of resources it has to offer. If you can find an online group or forum that’s specific to your interests, even better.
Show people your art and get some praise
What I liked most about making art was that it was a creative outlet that I could also use to get some praise. It is quite sad that many people do not receive praise for the good things they can do or make, they are praised for the things they bought.
I used to sell my art and in the later years I would only make art for money – that is, commissions only. That killed any joy I had left in making art. It was no longer a form of expression but a transaction based on the same boring images.
For me, no matter how much money I make, nothing beats the feeling of when someone looks at my art and is in awe and doesn’t believe that I made it.
Why do you think it’s important to get back into art?
What makes you want to start making art again?
I’m not sure what made me want to start again, but I think it had something to do with the fact that I missed it. I missed the creative outlet and the satisfaction that came with creating something.
Additionally, I realized that art was still a big part of my life even though I wasn’t actively pursuing it. I would still find myself drawn to galleries and museums, and I would still get inspired by the work of other artists.
My daughter has inherited the artistic gene from me and my dad and I found drawing with her and teaching her how to draw and paint made me want to start making art again.
With small steps, drawing cartoon characters, Pokemon fan art, and then small nature sketches I decided I needed to get back.
So, if you’re thinking of getting back into art after taking a break, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s never too late to start again. No matter how long it’s been since you’ve picked up a brush or pencil, you can always start making art again.
- Start small. Don’t try to recreate the Mona Lisa on your first try. Start with something simple and work your way up.
- Find your inspiration. I hate the word inspiration as it’s not real enough but for this article, I will use it as most people can relate to the intent. Whether it’s nature, other artists, or something else entirely, find what inspires you and use that to drive your creativity.
- Take your time. Don’t rush the process and don’t be hard on yourself if your first few pieces aren’t perfect. Just relax and enjoy the process of making art.
- Stop doing the parts you hate. If you hate only one or two aspects of making art then stop doing those parts. For me, commissions and pushing the boundaries or trying to be original were the parts I hated the most. So I stopped doing both. I no longer take commissions and I am happy to paint the ‘boring’.
These are just a few tips to get you started on your journey back to making art. The most important thing is to just start and not give up.
How can you make sure that you stick with it this time around?
There are a few things you can do to make sure you stick with art this time around.
- Keep an eye out for the small signs – now that you know what you hated about art and what made you quit being an artist, keep a look out for those signals, and when you see them setting off alarms in your head, stop, listen and assess.
- Schedule some time for art every week, even if it’s just an hour. Don’t wait to be inspired, even if it means drawing a happy face on a post-it. Keep yourself accountable.
- Find an accountability partner or join an online community of artists. Just make sure the community is supportive of you and not toxic. Reddit has some good groups for artists.
- Take baby steps and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The last thing you want is to feel overwhelmed and end up quitting again. Start with simple things like still lifes, landscapes, or even stick figures.
- No one becomes an artist overnight. It takes years of practice and discipline to become good at art. And even then, you’re never really done learning. So don’t expect to be amazing right away, it’ll just discourage you.
- And finally, have fun! Making art should be enjoyable so make sure to find ways to make it fun for you. If you’re not enjoying it then take a break or try something different.
Inspiration is for the weak – be disciplined instead
Waiting to be inspired gives you an easy excuse to not get back into art. If you don’t feel like making anything or you feel overwhelmed then you can just say you are not inspired.
As an avid Jocko Willin podcast listener, I liked his approach to getting things done, and that was just to do it. No excuses, no magic tricks or hacks. He said discipline beats (inspiration) motivation any day of the week.
So what does that look like for you as an artist wanting to learn how to get back into art? It means you just keep making art, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly you make art regardless of whether you are inspired or not.
Once you learn to make art for the sake of making art and to learn the skills needed and not rely on motivation to get you consistently making art.
Be consistent and stick to a schedule
The best way to improve is to keep practicing. A good way to do this is to set yourself some goals, like drawing for 10 minutes every day or finishing one piece of art per week. And then stick to it! The more you practice, the better you’ll get.
It’s also important to have someone to give you feedback on your work. This can be a friend, family member, or art teacher. But make sure they’re honest with you and not just trying to spare
Tips for getting back into a creative routine
Go shopping for supplies in person (not online)
The reason I say to shop in person is that an art store is an immersive experience. When you are surrounded by art supplies it makes you want to explore other materials, techniques, and styles which in turn fuels your desire to make art. If you purchase your art supplies online, you miss that experience.
Make smaller artworks
When you’re first getting back into art, it’s important to ease yourself in. Making smaller works will help with this because they won’t feel as daunting. Once you start feeling more confident, you can move on to making larger pieces.
Schedule time for art
Treating your art like an appointment will help you make time for it in your busy schedule. Block off an hour or two each week that is dedicated solely to making art. This will ensure that you don’t forget about your passion and it will also help you progress further.
Do daily Warm-ups
Warm-ups are a great way to get your creative juices flowing. By doing them every day, you’ll find it easier to start making art on a regular basis. Plus, it’s a great way to try out new techniques and mediums without committing to a full project.
Take inspiration from others
So one thing that really got me to want to get back into making art was watching Fake or Fortune. A series about possible fakes or priceless artworks that people may own.
One of the presenters is Philip Mould who owns Philip Mould and Company, an English art dealer and gallery.
It was watching some of his YouTube videos on 20th Century British portraitists such as Sir Oswald Birley that made me want to paint in my old ‘boring’ style again.
The same applied to the still-life paintings that Philip Mould displayed. It set off a spark that made me want to paint my children’s portraits and paint the still-lifes that I personally enjoyed.
Set small and easy goals for yourself
Start with something easy that you know you can complete and work your way up from there.
Once you’ve completed a few small goals, you’ll start to feel more confident in your abilities and be motivated to keep going.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is probably the most important tip of all. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to other artists, but it’s not productive and will only make you feel worse.
Everyone has their own unique style and there’s no need to compare yourself to anyone else.
Experiment and have fun
Remember that art is supposed to be fun, so don’t take it too seriously. Experiment with different mediums and styles and see what you like best.
And most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They’re part of the learning process and will help you grow as an artist.
Sticking with what you know or with what you were known for does not show growth as an artist. Try new things and maybe who knows, you will enjoy that new style even more.
Surround yourself with art
One of the best ways to get inspired to make art is to surround yourself with it. Visit museums, go to art galleries, and read books about artists that you admire.
Seeing all of this great art will definitely give you the urge to create something yourself.
You can also find inspiration online by looking at websites and blogs dedicated to art.
Read about art and how to improve
If you want to get better at making art, it’s important to educate yourself on the subject. Read books and articles about art theory, composition, and color.
There are also plenty of helpful how-to guides that can teach you new techniques.
Watch art-related documentaries and interviews
In addition to reading about art, you can also learn a lot by watching documentaries and interviews with artists.
This is a great way to get some insight into the creative process and how different artists work.
A while back I found a series of DVDs from the BBC at a thrift store and fell in love with interviews with artists I knew and did not know.
Watching artists such as Francis Bacon paint was eye-opening and inspiring.
Take an art class
One of the best ways to get back into making art is to take an art class. This will allow you to try out different mediums and techniques, and to receive feedback from a professional.
I took an oil painting class last year and it was a great experience. While I have worked with oil paint before, it was a chance to learn new techniques that I had not known about.
And since the instructor was a professional artist, she was able to give me feedback on my work that was both helpful and insightful.
Get a group of friends together and make art
One of the best things about making art is that it is a social activity. So get a group of friends together and make art!
This can be as simple as going to a painting class together, or setting up an easel in your backyard and painting whatever you like.
Making art should be fun, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create a masterpiece. Just relax and enjoy the process.
Don’t focus on why you stopped
Lastly, don’t focus on why you stopped. It doesn’t matter why you stopped, what matters is that you start again.
So don’t dwell on the past, just focus on the present and the future. Art is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).
While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.
While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.
His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia.
He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.