When Inspiration Is Lost

Every artist faces it. That elusive idea disappears, even for the most disciplined, practiced creative. Then what?

It’s impossible to think that a human being can sit everyday and create, pushing beyond the day before, every single day.

I have seasons – we all do. Seasons of writing, seasons of exploring and experimenting, seasons of making and refining, and seasons of letting ideas fester and pester.

If you were too look through conversations with my critique partner, you’d see surges of messages with process photos and questions and “Can you focus on XYZ while critiquing? I am really thinking that my (fill in the skill) is improving/needs work/help because I don’t know what the heck is going on and I think I might be the worst artist ever!” Followed by, “AM I EVEN AN ARTIST?” (You’ve thought it too – I know you have!) And then, you’d see stretches of time where nothing seems to be happening. Maybe we share some photos of art we like from other people, or that we are feeling a bit jealous of. Maybe we are just talking about our day or our kids, or work, or whatever – but it’s guaranteed that these conversations flip into something to do with art, and then we’re back on the hamster wheel again, chasing our dreams of working full time as artists. Of course, we work our butts off, but there are always going to be seasons of rest, reflection, and idea gathering.

I don’t like to get very comfortable in that. 

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Isn’t this true, for Creatives especially?

In fact, if it’s been a week and I haven’t drawn, painted or written, I start to panic. Lately, if I don’t do one of those things every day (sometimes twice a day), I start to panic. This is the addiction of creativity. Can you relate?

So when I feel I’m out of ideas, lately I’ve been heading to Pinterest. 

I do a search for something simple. It’s usually: “Faces.” Or, “Kid’s Faces.” If there’s something I want to be working on, but I can’t seem to figure out, I’ll search for something about that. For example, “Gypsy Kids.”

And then I am blasted with gorgeous photographs, so filled up with character that I set right to work sketching. I aim to fill a page with faces, not spending too long on any of them. I do my best to work directly from the screen into my sketchbook, filtering it into my preferred illustration style.

There are times I look through photos from my Facebook friends, too. Some of their kids are too hilarious and the perfect jumping off point for my sketch practice.

My end game here is to just be drawing. To be in the art. To not sit and stare and feel like an unproductive failure. Of course, there are times when sitting and staring is perfectly acceptable. But lately, I need a product to push me forward.

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This is the digital sketch, after the sketchbook playing based on some Pinterest searches. After this, I painted it. I love this character. But this is just the start for her. This process – this work – has led me to a place of inspiration, and I will be able to work away on who she is and what her story is, now that I have a fully realized portrait of her. Inspiration doesn’t have to come at the start.

In progress …

The final render of Library Girl (as I am currently calling her).

The best part of this quick sketching is that there are the odd sketches which make their way into my subconscious, and I find myself thinking about them throughout the day. This turns into wonders, which turns into more sketching, and often times writing.

Really, this turns into inspiration.

I can’t remember when or where I heard it, but the essence of what somebody said stuck with me. Not so much in these words, although these words may be close: Inspiration is fleeting. You have to work even when the muse isn’t showing up.

Library Girl

You can find me in the studio most mornings, from 5-6am, with a coffee and a candle and a hand toiling away on something that is just for me – my passion projects. And then, you can usually find me here at night, working on something for a client or for a big project or for my passion projects, when they just won’t let one hour a day be enough. (Side note: If you don’t know me, or anything about me, then you should know that I am a full time elementary school teacher and dad of 2! Read about my work habits here.)

This is discipline. This is practice, habit and routine.

What do you do when inspiration is lost? You keep going. (But … what do YOU do?)


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5 Ways To Create With Less Stress

Being a creative person is often a challenge. We face the world with the ownership of this label that we’ve self-inflicted: I AM CREATIVE! And we go out with an expectation on ourselves (usually by us, and no one else) that we be creative, and we create awesome things, and those things are innovative, and we keep making amazing things. The self-doubt and worry can really bring us down.

Some ways to break out of the normal ways of working, explore and enjoy our own creativity all involve removing expectations and simply creating:


  1. Chalk. Work in chalk. Doodle and draw and write and wonder. It’s not permanent, it will get wiped away, so take the chance now.img_0044
  2. Bath Crayons. Warning: these are sometimes hard to wash off. BUT, you can explore similarly to with chalk – it is less intimidating to doodle in the shower or tub, especially if you’re doodling for your kid (if you have one).
    In my rush to make “anotha’ Kingsy!” I stumbled on some new techniques to make these energetic lines that I’ve been after in my illustrations.
  3. Buy a cheap sketchbook. I used to think buying an expensive sketchbook with high quality paper was crucial. I still kind of do, but I have a hard to EXPLORING in that book. Instead, I use the book I got for a few dollars at the dollar store.
    Exploration is so much easier in a cheap sketch book. It doesn’t matter if your self doubt monsters are mocking you, because you can toss them if they suck.
  4. Play “Yes, and …”. I learned this while taking part in a high school drama class last year and it has pushed my writing into new directions. Basically, in the drama activity, you and the other actor improvise and HAVE to yes (a basic rule of improv):
    1. “I wonder if it will rain tomorrow?” might be responded to with
    2. “Yes, and I wonder if it will rain cats and dogs?” to which the first person might say,
    3. “Yes, and those cats and dogs will wearing Scottish battle gear as they take on the Irish in a game of pool golf.”
    4. The exploding will continue and by the end, hilarity will ensue. The same can happen with your writing (or even your art).I make lists of “Yes, and” but I call it “AND THEN” and I listen to my voice  saying it dramatically and with a ton of expression. I am then called to improve the dramatics of my writing!
  5. Sketch in the wrong colour. Yes, draw that apple in blue. Why? It removes what you know about the apple and forces you to focus on its form and essence. A red circle is either an apple or a tomato, and so by drawing it as blue, we have to find creative solutions. Sometimes, you need to back yourself into a corner rather than run from it.

Do you have other suggestions? If you try some of mine, let me know how they go! Have a happy, creative day!


“Be Happy” by Patrick Guindon – now on Instagram! Follow patrickguindonart