If you’re looking for motivation for art, this is the perfect article for you.
Motivation for drawing comes from discipline and a good set of habits. Knowing how to break down your practice into small chunks, sticking through commitments, and developing a good mindset are critical. Things like comparing yourself to others and practicing too much can lower your motivation.
As an artist, I’ve personally faced burnout and a period of low motivation where I did not draw for months. It can be tough to even pick up a pencil when you have no motivation to draw.
When I stumbled upon some of these concepts in this article, I learned exactly how to get motivated to draw again.
Here are the lessons I have learned over the years:
1. Rely on discipline, not motivation
One of the reasons why you might not be making art consistently is that you rely too much on motivation. Motivation can fluctuate wildly depending on a lot of factors like emotions, mood, personal issues, and even the weather!
Instead, I found it very helpful to rely on discipline. Rather than waiting to become motivated to draw, start taking action even if you don’t feel like drawing.
When you do that, you’ll often find that the process becomes enjoyable, and you’ll naturally become motivated to continue. This mindset shift allowed me to make art consistently and become much happier as a result.
Do expect some resistance when you start to draw. When you lack motivation, your mind will come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons as to why you shouldn’t draw. Don’t listen to that voice. Shut out your thinking and just start drawing. Again, don’t expect to be motivated, be disciplined instead.
2. Just draw for 3 minutes
Here’s a simple trick to get your drawing motivation back if you have no motivation to draw. Instead of planning out an hour or more of time to draw, start with just 3 minutes.
Almost everyone can draw for 3 minutes, even brushing your teeth takes longer than that. This breaks down the huge task of creating art into just a tiny step that seems very easy to do. Your brain recognizes that this is a simple task, and the resistance disappears.
You’ll often find that when you start drawing for a few minutes, you would want to continue with it. I often use this trick when I feel very unmotivated, and I end up drawing for more than 3 minutes every time. If you still don’t feel like drawing after that, it’s fine to stop and try again tomorrow.
3. Make art fun again
A lot of artists lose motivation and stop making art because they lost the feeling of fun. You can feel this very quickly if you are spending too much time on commissions or practicing. This is because what we need to draw for work is often not what we want to draw. Studying can also be demotivating because it can be challenging and repetitive.
Instead of studying art or working all the time, carve out a time to simply draw what you love. Drawing what you love can reignite your passion for art. I find that a good balance between studying art and making art you love is by spending 50% of the time on each of them.
Another good way to make art fun is to listen to music you love or podcasts in the background. I personally love to have YouTube playing in the background which helps stimulate my mind as I draw.
4. Have your art already set up
I find it so much easier to start doing art when I have all of my materials already set up. Keep your sketchbook open along with the pencil/pen on the table. If you’re painting, have the canvas ready and supplies right beside it. I like to keep my Photoshop open at all times even when I’m working or writing.
Doing this reduces the resistance it takes for you to get started. The less resistance you have, the easier it is to feel motivated to do the art.
Imagine for a moment: you have your sketchbook tucked away in a box in your basement that is underneath a huge pile of books. Are you likely to draw then? Probably not. So do yourself a favor and make it as easy as possible to get started. This can be a very powerful trick if you combine it with the 3-minute method.
5. Start with warmup exercises
A great way to start a drawing session is to start with warmup exercises. The purpose is to just get something onto your sketchbook without having to think too much about it. Again, this reduces friction and can take the dreaded empty sketchbook feeling away. This also serves as a form of practice that will help improve your art.
Here are three exercises that I do at the beginning of almost every session:
- Connect the lines – make dots all around your paper, then connect them with a single smooth stroke. You can rotate your paper to make it easier. This helps you control your lines better.
- Connected circles – draw a circle on the paper, then draw another circle that touches the original circle. Keep going and fill in the gaps. Try to draw two laps per circle so you get used to the motion. This helps you make better circles (which is a very common shape when drawing).
- Ellipses – simply draw a bunch of ellipses. I like to stack them on top of one another. You can vary the sizes or try practicing one size. An ellipse is probably one of the hardest shapes to draw so it’s important to practice this one.
Check out my drawing practice article if you’d like to get the most out of your practice.
6. Spend less time on entertainment
You may or may not have heard of dopamine detox, a lifestyle change that eliminates or reduces dopamine spikes. Dopamine is a pleasure chemical and is often released when we do things like watching Netflix, playing video games, or browsing social media. The problem is when we do too much of those, we begin to lose motivation for doing harder tasks or tasks that we previously find enjoyable.
In my experience, my motivation for drawing drops sharply if I play video games for too long. A good solution is to cut down the high dopamine activities to one hour a day. This forces you to fill your other time with things that will benefit you like making art or exercising.
I found that as I draw more, my motivation for playing video games actually drops! So try to condition your body so that the dopamine you get from making art is motivating you rather than dopamine from “junk” sources.
7. Don’t compare yourself to artists on social media
Many beginner artists make the mistake of comparing themselves to the art they see on Instagram or other platforms. Realize that we are all at different stages in our art journeys. When you see great artwork, most of the time the artist has been doing art for several years. We also don’t know how much work they put in to get to that point.
The artwork we see on social media is often the best work that those artists put out. We often don’t see experimental pieces or their failures. So, don’t beat yourself up and judge yourself based on the quality of art you currently can make. If you keep comparing yourself to other artists, you might find that your motivation to make art slowly drops.
If you do decide to browse the artwork on social media, try to shift the mindset of becoming inspired instead of comparing your artwork with theirs. Ask yourself what you can learn from their art and appreciate their art without comparison.
8. Allow yourself to suck
In my experience, low motivation can come from low self-esteem and fear of making bad art. Don’t judge yourself too harshly and allow yourself to suck. It’s ok to suck, especially if you just started or you’re not a professional. When you set the bar too high, you will find a lot of resistance to getting started because you want everything to be perfect.
A mindset I like to use is to assume that I am going to suck at whatever new thing I am learning for the next 3 months. I would then proceed to draw and practice that subject for a few months. This will allow you to tackle intimidating subjects without thinking too much about them. Failure is necessary for success, and the faster you fail, the closer you get to success.
9. Look back and see how far you’ve come
Seeing improvements from art I made months or years ago almost never fails to motivate me. If you look back at your previous artwork, you can often see that you have come a long way since then. Knowing that you are making progress is a great way to keep yourself motivated.
However, if you haven’t improved much, you most likely simply haven’t been consistent with art or practicing art correctly. Sticking to the tips outlined in this guide will put you on the right track. You can also check out my article on beginner drawing techniques to make immediate improvements to your art.
10. Set aside the same time every day to draw
A good way to build a drawing habit and increase your discipline is to set the same schedule for drawing every day. I like to set my drawing time at 8 pm after dinner. You can also set it in the morning right after you wake up if you’re a morning person. Try to keep it at the same time each day (for example, 7 am every morning rather than 7 am on one day and 8 pm on the next). This will train your brain to associate that time with drawing which makes it much easier to start.
Actually block out the time and set it in the calendar scheduling app you use. Commit to that time regardless of any resistance you might feel. It can be a short 5-minute session or an hour-long session, but the important part is that you are doing it every day. This builds up discipline and the habit of drawing. Before you know it, you will be drawing every day and making massive improvements.
11. Actively find inspiration
Rather than waiting for inspiration to hit you, I find it much more helpful to seek out inspiration for my drawing. While you definitely don’t need inspiration to draw, it can definitely help motivate you if you feel inspired.
Here are a few tactics you can use to find inspiration:
- Look at other artists’ work – one simple way to find inspiration is to browse artworks online. I often feel inspired after seeing a beautiful painting or an interesting character design. Avoid the trap of comparing yourself to the artist as mentioned earlier.
- Go outside into nature – nature is one of the best sources of inspiration. You can go on hikes, to the zoo, or to any place in nature like a waterfall. Staying indoors all the time can stifle your imagination and creativity. In nature, you will often find interesting objects and animals to sketch.
- Take a walk – if you’re out of inspiration, take a break and go outside for a walk. Walking is a great way to refresh your mind and help you generate ideas.
- Go to a coffee shop – I like to bring my sketchbook to the coffee shop, and I find that a change in environment can help you generate new ideas. It is also fun to do some urban sketching in and around the coffee shop.
- Search online for ideas – if you’re looking for ideas for things to draw, searching online is probably one of the easiest ways. Here’s my own article on drawing ideas for beginners.
12. Get an art buddy
Getting an accountability partner can definitely help your art motivation. This allows you to motivate and push each other when you or your art buddy lack motivation. An easy way to make art friends is to join Discord groups or Facebook groups for artists. Here’s a good discord server you can join: Koteriink’s Starving Artist Discord.
Participating in an art community will also help with motivation. You will be able to see the progress of other artists which can motivate you to make more art. I also find that I feel more motivated to do art when I help other members of the community. Being around artists in general, whether online or offline, will help you stay motivated in art.
13. Try different mediums and subjects
If you’ve been doing one thing for a long time, it can demotivate you as the tasks and processes become repetitive. I find it helpful to change up the mediums I use to make art. I tend to lean towards digital art most of the time, but I also spend time drawing with pens, pencils, and watercolor. A change in the medium will force you to do different things and learn new things which can be fun and exciting.
Other than that, you can also change the subject you are studying. Instead of studying the same topic for weeks or months, study two or three topics at a time. You can also study multiple topics within the same session. For example, I recently have been practicing hands and figure drawing in most of my sessions. The variety keeps things interesting and helps you stay motivated.
What to do next
I hope this article gave you some new ideas about how to stay motivated to draw or paint. Let us know your thoughts! Check out our article on character design tips.