Hi my name is Carrie Brummer and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you build your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today I have a Q from some in the community. 



Have you ever felt lost or bored with your art? Dawn shared a bit about this experience with us inside the FB Group,

“…Feeling like I’m finally arriving at a place I want to be, why am I still feeling lost- and a bit bored with where I am? I have to think it has to do with subject. I am very much attracted to people (figures and portraits), but I am feeling a lack of meaning or attachment to what I do.

(I do work a lot from photo references. I do not have the space or setup for a live model- nor the money!). I need my work to have personal significance and meaning to me. That has always eluded me. While I am proud of my work and usually like the end result, it often feels like artifice.”

I’m so grateful for Dawn for starting this conversation because I know I have felt this way too. And if Dawn and I have had this experience, perhaps you have too {{ subscriber.first_name }}?

I want to break this topic down into a few points for discussion.

(1) “I do work a lot from photo references.” –> I hear self-judgment in this sentence. Is a work less valuable or “good” if it comes from photo reference? Artists across history since the Renaissance have used tools to help them make it easier to make their art. And yet, many of us hold internal definitions of art that tell us our art has less value when we work from photo reference. 

Instead, maybe we should be asking ourselves why we feel like that’s cheating and what our expectation is of our skill?

(2) There is benefit from working from life. And we don’t have to spend money to have models to work from, especially if our focus is on the clothed figure or face. Go to coffee shops, sit in the park, try to capture people quickly and see where it takes you and your art. We can look in the mirror as well!

IF your personal definition of art calls you to work in a certain way (without photos, for example), then find ways to honor it instead of working in ways that continue to make you feel inadequate as an artist. We can build strategies and steps in our skill development and media exploration that truly honor our definition of being a successful creative.

I say this because I want you to honor whatever direction you feel called in your art. Don’t let fears about lack of skill or resources stop you.

(3) While sometimes you have a subject matter you enjoy and even see a style in your work, you can still get bored or lose direction in your art.  This is one reason I encourage artists to work in a series. It creates a challenge and there is a beginning, middle and end point so we also feel reward for following through and finishing the project.

(4) But, how do we find that series idea or project? By showing up and making art even when we are bored. By being curious and listening to podcasts, looking at artists from past and present, by asking ourselves lots of questions about our art and WHY we want to do it to begin with.

I have always enjoyed portrait work but it’s taken 30 years to figure out what I want to say with my work and have a common “project” or “goal” that helps drive the artistic decisions I make (and give me the sense of purpose I hear you wanting).

What are you curious about right now? What are things outside of art that matter to you?

(5) Starting this conversation is the beginning of taking action and steps to help you figure this out. Bravo! Don’t stop. Keep asking questions, keep sharing your art and asking for people to give their personal reading of the work.

Ask yourself why why why and see what rabbit hole you fall down. You’ll find it as long as you keep looking (and what you’ll also find, is you’ll be making the art you longed to make as you keep looking. The act of looking and making art in response to that looking is what leads us to that special sauce.)

Too many artists think there is a secret path to voice and style AND purpose. But it’s right in front of our eyes. And one reason we can avoid it, is it means showing up and doing the work.

This post from Artist Strong is brought to you by The Artist Strong Studio, our community of patrons who believe and wish to support this community. You can become part of the Artist Strong Studio for a small monthly commitment as low as 1 dollar a month. To learn more visit https://www.patreon.com/ArtistStrong.

A special thank you to current patrons, I couldn’t do this work without your support.

Now, let’s start that conversation: How have you found your purpose in your art? Or, if you are still looking, which takeaway today has you thinking differently about your art? Comment below and tell me more.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time here on Artist Strong.


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