5 Ways to Connect to Your Artistic Voice

Bursting Sun - Acrylic on Gallery Canvas, Jaison Cianelli ©2009

Ever feel like you lost a bit of that “oomph” you need to be creative? Not sure how to explain what it is that really makes you obsessed with ink splatter? As artists, it’s typical that we may hit periods where inspiration feels just out of reach. Sometimes the ideas don’t steadily flow.

In one of my most recent posts I talked a bit about reconnecting with a part of myself as an artist after a visit to my old art school. It got me thinking that I should write about other ways one can do this, as it is so easy to get stagnant as an artist – especially when you have a full-time job! So I came up with a few tips that I hope will help you get through those darn unpredictable creative slumps, and connect with your artistic voice.

1. Revisit your older work
Look to yourself for inspiration – I’m serious! Revisit any sketches, paintings, class projects, graphics, etc. that you might still have and take a deeper look at it. Like an old journal, the pieces you’ve done over time chronicle your story. Taking another look at your pieces, even unfinished sketches can reveal a part of your mind or intentions that maybe you hadn’t noticed before. Take an extra step and ask yourself why you made a particular piece or sketch, and consider what was successful about it or needed improvement. This could be a good way to rejuvenate or expand upon old ideas to create a new path of creativity.

2. Travel
No, you may not be able to just pick up and go backpacking in Prague for inspiration, but there are probably plenty of places in your area that you have yet to visit. It could be a peaceful state park, or a road trip with some buddies. The point is to make an effort to go OUT. Go somewhere new, or to a place that you love but haven’t visited in a while. Even driving somewhere that’s 3 hours away could be a better opportunity to be inspired than doing nothing. When you get to your destination, pay attention to what it is that you connect with and why. Then try to envision how you can express those sensations and feelings. Maybe it’s through poetry? Photographs? Quick sketches? It’s not necessary but I encourage you to write down your thoughts. It’s a great practice to write them down so you can reference them later when you’re ready to execute a plan for a piece of work.

3. Visit art galleries, exhibit openings, and/or art fairs
This one might be a given, but you’d be surprised at how many artists neglect doing this. Seeing what other artists are doing is what many think is the biggest advantage of attending art school. Luckily, it’s free to visit most galleries so you can do this any time! At galleries and show openings, not only is there a huge chance to get inspired by looking at art, you are also in the presence of others that appreciate art or create it themselves. This is a great way to network and get into discussions about art with the general public, further gaining new perspectives and insights that could help your own process. Take the time to meet the actual artist of the show at exhibit openings, and ask them questions about their work. A bit on the shier side? Don’t worry. I’ve found that usually SOMEbody will step out and speak to you, haha. Or if all else fails, a great opener is simply to ask someone viewing the same piece as you, “So what do you think of this piece?” And don’t forget to have business cards handy!

4. Read
Yes, read. Anything. Read anything as along as it interests you. Blogs, news articles, magazines, fiction, non-fiction, self-help…whatever. It doesn’t even have to be about art. The point is to keep yourself plugged into the topics that arouse your mind and/or emotions to inspire ideas for your work. Sometimes someone else says something better than we can. Or says it in a new way. Words can create imagery – imagery that you, the artist, can create in your own voice for others to enjoy. See where I’m going here? If you can’t read well, learn to read better. It’s my opinion that reading is an essential way to gain inspiration and also ensures that you’re constantly learning.

5. Take an art class
Duh, right!? This might not need too much explaining, but I think this is such a good thing to do as artists. Even many well-established artists still put in some time for continuing education, some even teach classes (hint: that YOU can sign up for). No matter what your skill level is or what your bank account looks like, it’s possible and likely that you can find a class that interests you and is within your budget. Taking classes keeps your skills fresh, puts you in an environment that’s strictly focused on learning and creating, and provides opportunities to receive feedback. I’ve found that when I take classes my senses are completely reinvigorated. Being in a class environment post art school, in a way, keeps me accountable and pushes me to create. It takes the attention away from feeling uninspired and zeros in on just completing a project. The subject matter is already outlined for you, all you have to do is show up and make art. This has helped me get over many a creative slump, like a reset button. And hey, if you still feel frazzled and uninspired right after, at least you came away with a new piece or two of work to learn from (or sell if you would like, haha).

These are just some easy, accessible tips that I thought of and have put into practice – this in no way is an all-inclusive list of ways to connect with your artistic voice and get inspired. But please let me know any of my tips end up working for you. If you have any methods that you practice, I would love to hear them and learn from you!

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