How I Gather Motivation to Do Art

Lately with our travel to Europe, jet lag and a major disruption of my routine I have been struggling to gather motivation and do art every day. It has been even harder to put in a good amount of time each day also. But I have persevered and I continue to do art every day and I’m slowing getting back to a routine of several hours of art a day. So for this post I figured I would share a few things I do to help motivate myself to do art. 

Years ago the struggle to do art was so bad that I just didn’t do anything. It got so bad that 5 years had passed and I had not done any art at all. Unfortunately art is not like riding a bike, you lose it, so in 2013 I started over. Even though I had been doing art my whole life, after 5 years of doing nothing I felt like I was a novice artists again.

No Matter How Small, Just Do Something

The catalyst that I used to motivate myself to do artwork again was a major change in the way I thought about doing artwork. I felt like if I started anything that it should ultimately culminate into a masterpiece, or something close to all the amazing work that I would see in galleries and online. But this has gotten me nowhere in 5 years, I barely had the motivation to pick up a brush let alone jump into the huge undertaking of a master work.

I was devastated that I could barely paint after 5 years. I had lost all my drawing skills and I didn’t even know how to work the paint on a surface, let alone put it in the right place. If I was going to be an artist I couldn’t let this happen again. I knew that if I wanted to retain the hand, brain and eye coordination necessary to be an artist then I would have to do something daily. But in today’s world who can create a masterwork daily? Not many people can.

motivation thru rembrandt sketches
Rembrandt did hundreds of tiny short sketches and all are now considered master works

Here is where I created my minimum. I only have to do 30 minutes a day of some artwork. For 30 minutes a day I must observe a subject and transfer its likeness to a surface.

The Rolling Snowball of Motivation

There have been lots of days where I have done no more than a 30 minute quick sketch of something, more days than I would like. But, this brings me to my next major piece of motivation.

At the writing of this post I am now working on my 974th consecutive session. On the days when I’m so tired I can barely think and I know I need to do some artwork, I just look at that number and think that there is no way I’m going to stop now. The motivation snowball of short and long sessions over the years have grown so large that it’s hurtling down the mountain at high speed and it can’t be stopped.

Of course I wouldn’t know I was on the 974th session unless I kept track of it. That is the purpose of this blog. Do I have to write a massive post each day, no. I don’t even have to write it the same day. I back date my posts all the time. The paramount idea is that I write it down, at least the basics, and keep track of where I am. It’s kind of like a huge TODO list with 974 items checked off, and most of us know that a completed TODO list is infinitely more motivating then an un-completed one.

What I Know

At this point I’m motivated to do some work but then I hit the question of “what” should I paint or draw. Depending on how I’m feeling I either do something I know or I challenge myself in other areas.

On a day when I’m super tired and can only think of sleep, then I do the basic of what I know, a still life or an interior. To most these mundane subject matters seem very simple, but take any random object from around your home and try and draw it correctly in space with perfect perspective and you will have a new found respect for that simple shoebox in your closet.

On the other hand if I have a ton of energy, lots of time and the motivation meeter is high. Then I go for a full rendered figure. Or a long term still life. Or I try a new medium like Gouache.

What I Enjoy

If I hated drawing or painting cars then there is no way that I’m going to start a drawing of a car on a day when my motivation is lacking. I usually paint what I enjoy on days when it’s hard to get started. It’s just as simple as that, I paint what I like to paint, I draw what I like to draw. I can look around me at any time during the day and find something about my surrounding that is interesting or challenging.

Other Artists

Find an artist you love and collect his or her work, either in digital form or buy their work if you can, or buy their book. There has been so many times when I lack motivation to do something then I pick up Richard Schmid’s book, or a book on Sargent, or I look at my collection of digital images of master works and inevitably I will gain some motivation. Or just reading a post from one of my favorite artists can motivate me to do anything.

motivation thru other artists like Richard schmid
Richard Schmid, could do a 30 minute sketch and anyone would love to have it


Never let other people dictate the value of your work. It is currently part of our culture to think that mundane subject matter, small paintings, small sketches or quick renderings are worthless and unimportant. Sadly, I think it’s hard for people to see the endless complexity in one small dried leaf. Or the majesty of subtle value changes in a single ball of white paper.

Today’s Painting Setup

getting motivated and painting a still life setup

The Subject for Today’s Paintingmy subject for a motivated painting

Session Details