The Truth About Inspiration for Artists & Illustrators

The Truth About Inspiration for Artists & Illustrators

As a full time artist and illustrator, one of the most common questions I get in my inbox is some version of: How do I stay inspired or how I can create artwork when I don’t feel inspired? Here’s the secret about inspiration: It’s important, and it’s wonderful, but you don’t need to feel it 100% of the time you’re making artwork

For example, sometimes with a significant other or close friend or family member, you may not necessarily feel all the warm fuzzies. But if you really love them, you will still want to show up for them. You’ll still speak kindly to them, you’ll still pick up the food they wanted from the grocery store, you’ll still ask their opinion when choosing what to watch on Netflix; if they get in a scrape, you’ll still help them; if they ask you a question, you’ll still respond. In all the normal, sometimes boring aspects of life, even if you’re not feeling an amazing, other-worldly sense of love you will still be there for that person because love is more than just the feeling.

Art and making art is like being in a relationship or deep friendship; Feeling inspired is like feeling in-love. So the key to inspiration in art work, just like the key to real love, is committing to showing up and being there, over and over again, day in-day out for the long haul.

This is not to say that inspiration isn’t important. Just like the feeling of love is not unimportant when you’re building a relationship. In fact, it’s crucial, especially in the beginning for helping you to discern where to invest your time. But again, just like love, inspiration has to grow and deepen and turn into something else over time if it’s going to be something you can sustain as an artist and if you’re going to be able to keep showing up for the long haul.

So if you’re in the early part of your career, and you often find yourself struggling to feel inspired or struggling to make work because you don’t feel inspired, I’d invite you to sharpen the focus of your question.
Rather than asking: How do I stay inspired?
Ask yourself: What inspires me? What do I enjoy doing? What makes me forget myself and focus totally on the work? When am I having fun? What could I spend hours and hours doing?

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“Old Verses” by Alto Key (used with permission)
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Edited by the amazing Meg Potter — THANK YOU, MEG!!
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