It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, both in life and in art. Even worse, sometimes it takes a while to realize that you’re just going through the motions.
Take painting, for example.
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If you’ve been painting for a while, there’s probably a certain motif, or genre, that you paint in: landscapes, portraits, animals, houses, etc, etc. From a business perspective, that’s often a good thing—it helps establish your identity, build your reputation as a “niche” artist, and usually brings in more business down the road.
From a purely artistic standpoint, however, you may find yourself painting on autopilot, or by rote. . . which almost always leads to sub-par work.
There’s one thing that I like to do before I start painting (sometimes before I even plan a series of paintings) which helps to jump-start my creativity and produce a flow of what I like to call “artistic adrenaline.”
It may sound simple, but here it is:
I ask questions.
“What if” questions are a great place to begin—like, “What if I couldn’t see color? How would I make an interesting painting then?”
“What if I were ten feet tall? What would this still-life look like from up there?”
“What if I broke this vase before painting it?”
“What if I painted with a flashlight, in the dark?”
“What if this bowl of fruit was floating, ever-so-slightly off the table? What if the fruit was floating too?”
“What if I let other people start the painting—and I just finish it?”
As you can see, “what if” questions can lead anywhere.
By asking odd or unusual questions I’ve come up with new compositions for old subjects, new subjects for an old medium, and quite frankly, I get to the point of being interested again in what I’m trying to convey—I’m often just as curious about the outcome of my project as anyone else would be.
And here’s the kicker—people will often be more attracted to your art because it’s just a little bit different. I don’t know why exactly, but folks are usually drawn to things that tease their brain with familiarity, but are still unique.
Like, oh, a series of lavender ducks, for example.
(Lavender? Really?? Well sure. . . why not?)
So if you’re in need of a creative boost today, or you feel like you’re in a rut, take a moment before you do another portrait, another landscape, or another still-life.
Ask the odd questions.
Come up with a unique answer, a unique plan, for your next work of art.