How to Get Out of an Art Funk

I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and before I knew it, I had spent the entire morning watching talk shows (ugh!) and not doing anything productive/creative/useful… 

I know I will feel better if I just started working on a painting or a drawing, but sometimes I get into an “art funk.”  It’s that feeling you get when you want to make something, but taking that first step is just so HARD.  Sometimes you feel like starting a piece of creative work would be like climbing a mountain.  Maybe it’s been a while (Weeks? Months? Years?) since you’ve drawn or painted, and you need a little help getting back into it.  Maybe you saw some artwork that blew you away, and instead of finding inspiration in that, you feel like your art doesn’t measure up.  Maybe for some reason, your inner critic just won’t shut up today.  Or maybe you’re like me, and you just woke up in a funk for no particular reason.  What are some things you can do to break out of the art funk?  Below are a few tricks I’ve used over the years.  Leave a comment and tell me some of your tricks!

Take Photographs: Often, taking photographs will reawaken my sense of composition and color, making me want to get back into the studio when I’m done.  Not sure what to photograph?  Try just documenting your life and taking some photos of where you live, the people around you, your pets, or even of yourself.  When we are little kids, our parents often fill album after album documenting our cuteness, but once all of our adult teeth start to grow in (dare I say, when we lose some of our cuteness), the cameras get put away, coming out less and less every year.  I’ll bet it’s been a while since someone made an entire photo album documenting your life nowadays, so why not start one today?  It might also give you the jumpstart you need to start creating again, and the photos themselves can be seen as art.   
Extra Tip: Bored with your camera?  Download some fun apps onto your phone that will make even your camera phone an artistic photography tool.  Try doing a search for, “Top Photo Apps for (Android/iPhone)” and see where it takes you.

Paint Something a Solid Color: Now’s the time to bust out that furniture repainting project you’ve been meaning to do, or maybe you could prime some canvases…  You might find that by keeping things simple and easy and not over thinking anything, you will slowly become comfortable with the feeling of a brush in your hands again.  Next thing you know, you might end up back in the studio.

Start with a Silhouette: Not feeling confident enough to draw and paint?  Again, try keeping things really simple by leaving out the details and starting with a silhouette.  You can do this by tracing the outlines of a person’s body or profile onto some tracing paper.  Now fill in those outlines with a sharpie, and you’ve got a finished piece of art.  Keep doing this until you feel a bit more confident, then leave the tracing paper behind.

Flush Away the Negativity: Write down all those negative thoughts that say you can’t or shouldn’t make art.  Now flush them down the toilet.  Literally.  When I was in college, one of my professors pulled me aside into her office and sat me down to tell me I should never draw again, not ever.  She said I was so bad at it, and I’d never be good at it, so I should just give up.  I was nineteen.  I was crushed, and for the next few years, I took her advice and made art with found photographs because I was too scared to make any imagery of my own. I didn’t feel comfortable drawing at all until I found an awesome new professor a few years later in the drawing department who encouraged me with her positivity and her fun assignments.  Even though it’s been ten years since that bad professor told me to stop drawing, I still hear her words sometimes when I bring out my drawing supplies.  It’s important to acknowledge those negative voices, so sometimes I journal about the negative things to get them onto paper and out of my head.  It’s also an important skill to be able to reshape that negative energy into something else.  For example, when I think of that bad professor, I often push her words out of my head by thinking of my positive drawing experiences in the good drawing professor’s class.  Maybe a similar mindset will work for you.

Kick Procrastination in the Butt:  For me, procrastination can be a huge enemy.  The best time to do something is NOW.  Get off the computer and into your sketchbook, even if the drawings will come out bad for a while.  You can always paint over the ones you don’t like later…it’s fun painting things a solid color, right? Don't think, just make...

Writing When You “Should” Be Drawing: When you’re ready to start a new page in your sketchbook, but you don’t know where to begin, use stream of consciousness writing to decide what to work on, writing directly on the page you wish to draw on.  Write until you come up with your subject matter, then leave the writing there and use it as a background for the image you will draw.

Start a Drawing Progress Log: Often, our drawing abilities become better and better, but we don’t see it happening, so start a sketchbook today that will be dedicated to your drawing progress.  Choose three photos of people you admire.  Maybe you could pick one author, one artist, and one musician…  Spend five minutes drawing a portrait of these people every day for a month (it’s ok if you skip some days!).  It’s fun to look back at your drawings and see how far you’ve come.  The photo above is a picture I drew of author Charles Bukowski, and below is the same picture drawn a few days later.  The sketch improved a little bit, and the page layout definitely got more interesting!

Did none of these things work?  Sometimes it’s best to ride out the funk and indulge yourself in some non-art related de-funking activities: 

Bake a Cake: The act of making something, anything, can be really satisfying.

Go for a Walk Outside: Gets your body moving and often gets your brain going too.

Try Something New: Go to a new store, restaurant, or someplace you’ve never been before.  This will not only get you out of the house, but it also exposes you to something new, and who knows what will come of that?

Do Something Nice for Someone Else: This is guaranteed to give you some good feelings and good karma too.

Read a Good Book: Great for getting your imagination going and for getting lost in a storyline other than your own.

Watch a Funny Movie: Nothing dilutes a funk quite like laughter…

Put on Upbeat Music: Turn off Radiohead, and put on The Donnas.

Rearrange Your Space: Even if it’s just rearranging your desk, it’s fun to shake things up sometimes.

Good luck getting out of your funk!  I think I will take my own advice and take some pictures for this blog post now…


  1. Oh my gosh, this gave me some ideas! ive had some big white and black sheets paper for a while, and bought 7 cans of spray paint in a lot of colors. Ive had the supplies for almost 3 weeks now and i desperately want to make something but i could seem to find the inspiration on what to actually make. I think ill try some of your tips! [; thanks

  2. Great Post! I love the drawings of the lady with the piggy tail buns (how else do I possibly describe that 'do?!)...she is bee-eautiful!

    I also find TV and the internet to be HUGE distractions for me. I've always said I need an art room that can stay messy all the time. I can shut the door when I need to, and always come back to where I left off. Since, realistically, with the tiny-ness of Toronto apartments, I cannot achieve this, how do I create the space and feeling without the room?

    I'm not sure, but I think as long as we continue to ask ourselves how we can grow and how we can get back to our core self, we are on the right track. Some days it's just really enjoyable to watch weight loss shows (x-weighted is my fav) and some days we can spend hours lost in the composition of a collage.

    Let's be proud of ourselves no matter what! xoxoxo Amy

  3. Thanks to you both for your thoughtful comments!

    I agree: let's be proud of ourselves no matter what! :)

  4. Turn off Radiohead?!? NEVER! But thanks for the list it really helped

    1. I'm glad it helped! Thanks for reading. :)


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