How to Break Free of an Artistic Rut

By Judy Palermo in Art Business Advice > Motivation

Boy, struggling for proficiency in art is one uphill climb!

I’ve studied plenty of articles that stress the “miles and miles” of painting needed for technical skills to develop, and to gain an eye for color and value—crucial things for a painter, obviously.

So I’ve been putting in my brush time, one painting after another. . . on and on. It’s a greatly creative process, yet it still, sometimes, feels like I’m in a rut.

And while I’m toiling onward, I can’t help but think about that other invaluable concept which is so often stressed: that a painter should convey the “emotional connection” to the subject matter they are painting.

Now what the heck does that mean?

I’ve always thought, “Sure, if I set up a still life with some attractive objects, and it looks nice enough for me to want to paint it, that must be enough.”

But it wasn’t until I deliberately planned a themed series of paintings that I felt an inkling of that emotional “connection.”

A series of paintings, some say, is boring. Boring, yet like preventative medicine, still good for you.

I’ve found that it’s quite the opposite!

By presenting a unified series of paintings, my goal is to bring a similar energy to every piece in the series. Each work is intended to strengthen the others in order to compound the emotional message. . . that all-important connection.

Here is the painting that started it all for me:


At first I simply enjoyed setting up these little, slightly chewed up toys, because they reminded me of when my kids played with them. Then it became important to angle them just so, to connect them to each other, to give them depth and soul.

I began to look at all the other toys, stored away. I saw they all had a little story to tell.


Right away I set up numerous little still lifes, all in a row upon my carpet. Here is another, completely different toy, yet again I wanted to bring out that same fun and poignancy of childhood remembered:


For this series I was even inspired to write my first artist statement.

I’d never attempted one before, and frankly, many I have read seem like they are over-worded and contrived. For the first time, I genuinely felt the need to convey my ideas through my art.

So in a nutshell, here’s what I learned from painting a series:

Narrowing your scope creates focus. It helps you to think about your subject’s subtleties, and frees you to broaden your creative vision within that theme.

I’m not done exhausting this series, and know I will be returning to it often. This new creative rut I’m in is a good thing. . . allowing freedom, not restriction.

Best wishes in finding your own!

To read more, please visit Judy’s art blog.


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