11 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Make Art and Draw

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Kevin Hayler: Professional Wildlife artist, author, and traveler.

How do you motivate yourself to make art when you feel like crap, have no energy and you’ve run out of coffee? We’ve all been there but there are strategies that can help. Such as:

The motivation to draw requires self-discipline and a routine. Give your day a work structure, get up at the same time, start work at the same time, give yourself small goals, and follow through. Take mini-breaks, finish at the same, and give yourself a treat. Repeat, and make it a habit.

Self-motivation is essential for professional artists. If you are serious about making a success of your art career, you must stay motivated to push yourself forward. It’s not easy. Life gets in the way, What follows are 11 ways to motivate yourself even when you are not in the mood.

What follows are 11 ways to motivate yourself even if you are not in the mood.

Ok, let’s go… 11 Ways to Motivate Yourself as an Artist.

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1. Build a Solid Work Routine

There is only one way to force yourself to get up in the morning and that’s by having a purpose. For most people that’s easy, you get to work on time every day or get fired. The purpose is clear.

Without that immediate threat and the obvious consequences, you, as a self-employed artist, have to take a different approach.

Self-discipline requires a self-imposed routine and it must become so ingrained that you feel guilty when you break the ‘rules’. But what rules? after all, you’ve made them up, you’re your own boss.

Exactly, that’s the point, you still have a boss, it just happens to be you, and you’re not free to do as you please. Any self-employed person will tell you that.

There has to be a nagging voice in your ear that speaks out when you break your routine. In my case, the alarm goes off at 8 am in the morning and I get up. I start the day properly at 9 am.

This is my typical work routine during the summer when I sell art on my market stall:

  • 8 am – Alarm, breakfast,
  • 9 am – Leave for town,
  • 9.30 am – Favorite cafe,
  • 10 am – Set up my display,
  • 11 am – Start trading. Draw/Sell/Coffee all day,
  • 5 pm – Pack up
  • 6 pm – Home and restock for the next day.
  • 7 pm – Eat, Rest.

That’s my framework, and of course, life isn’t so simple, there are other concerns like repairs, chores, health issues…blah, blah, blah, but that’s my routine, and if I veer away from it too far the nagging voice of doom returns!

This is how I make a living: How Do Wildlife Artists Make a Living? Copy This and Get Started

Successful artists stay motivated by constructing a solid work habit. It’s a state of mind.

Get to Grips with your Art business with Katy on Domestika

business strategy for creatives. How to sell your art online
More classes on my art marketing page

2. Set Mini Art-Goals

Drawing is central to my day and I get things done by drawing in small steps in between sales. It sounds more difficult than it is. Set goals for yourself that are achievable. I have modest aims, look for small wins, and I draw little and often.

I might be content to draw just the eyes in an entire day. Not exactly enthralling for the observer, but each day I add more to the picture. Gradually, over the course of the week, a drawing emerges.

It sounds frustrating but when you accept that it’s fine to get only a few centimeters drawn each day, reaching that mini goal is surprisingly satisfying.

The key to drawing this way is to concentrate in short bursts. I will focus for 5 to 10 mins at a time, and certainly not longer than about 20 minutes. I’m in a public place so passers-by will stop to see what I’m doing and ask questions.

I know I’m having a slow trading day when I get a lot of drawing done!

I can afford to take so much time because I have ulterior motives. For one thing, drawing in public is a sales hook, it gets people to stop and look, and secondly, I’m not so interested in selling the original, my main purpose is to make and sell art prints.

Hobbyists can use the same approach to set aside a fixed drawing time every day. Set aside 30 mins and make it a new habit.

3. Reward Yourself For a Job Well Done

If I do get world-weary and become introspective I think of the end game.

I can push myself because each year I have one objective, and that’s to go abroad in the winter. It’s one hell of an incentive to knuckle down and get on with things.

If I get the blues, I start dreaming about far-off places, how I’d get there, what I’d see, and what I’d do.

I realize that my lifestyle (which requires a lot of sacrifices) is not for everyone, but the principle remains the same. Making art is a lot easier when you have a reward in sight. It’s all the motivation you need.

Writing is much the same as drawing, it involves sitting down alone and creating something out of nothing.

I started to write when I was abroad. At first, I thought I could write anywhere, but I was wrong. I had to stop in one place and go back to a work routine.

I’ve been hanging out in Indonesia a great deal in the last few years (pre-pandemic) so I made myself comfy in a rustic hut overlooking the sea in Northern Sumatra.

l figured out how to live the dream: How to Sell Your Art and Travel the World (Psst…Do What I Did)

I got up at 8 am as usual and by 9 am I’d be in my local restaurant ordering breakfast. I’d write for 3 hours, have a snack for lunch and in the afternoon I’d go snorkeling or diving. That was my little treat.

A separate working space for drawing and writing. A great motivator example
My winter ‘hang out’ in Sumatra.

Now, at the time of writing, I am living on my boat (in the pandemic) and in a less glamorous situation. Instead of swimming in a tropical coral sea, I’ll go off for a bracing winter walk in the afternoons and stretch my legs. A small pleasure, but an important one for my mental health.

The most important thing is to have something to work towards. Treat yourself.

Do what I did for 20 years. Sell art all summer and travel all winter

Selling art made simple banner

4. Separate Your Workspace From Your Living Space

An important aspect of motivating yourself to make art, that’s often overlooked, is separating your workspace from your living space. I feel this acutely as I write this post, stuck at home, as I am, during the lockdown.

Beforehand, I could sit in a cafe and write, now I must sit on my boat deck and that’s much harder. I’m getting cabin fever.

It’s so much easier to work away from where you live. I need to go ‘out’ to work, preferably with people to chat to, if not, then some activity at least.

Solitude is one of the worst motivation killers.

You really should read this: Is Being an Artist Lonely? Read The Truth

Even an outhouse or shed converted into a studio is better than a spare room or dining table. You may not have company but at least you can get away from home to a dedicated space.. It’s easier to organize yourself if you can separate your workspace from your home life.

5. Connect With People

It’s almost impossible to stay motivated and make art if you isolate yourself. We need others, not just for our emotional well-being, but for feedback, interaction, and inspiration.

The easiest way to motivate yourself is to bounce off others for new creative ideas. Friends and colleagues keep your creative juices flowing and act as your springboard to exciting projects. Without stimulation, your art ideas can seem empty and quickly whither on the vine.

We all need fresh input and constructive criticism. It’s just as important to know where you’re going wrong, as it is to know what you’re doing right.

I love interacting with my customers. That’s why I’ve been market trading for so many years. I soon pick up what resonates with my buyers and their enthusiasm makes me want to please them more. It’s a drug and I need the dopamine hit.

How to Motivate Yourself to Make Art by having happy customers
Another happy customer

Let’s be honest, art can be a selfish pursuit and many artists are self-absorbed, which is a very unattractive trait. Too many artists fall into the trap of blaming their audience for not valuing their talents.

Some artists would do well to change their perspective away from taking what they need from their art to giving people what they desire.

Why not? It’s a great feeling – within limits

I get a kick out of pleasing people. It makes me feel valued.

I know there are some who think I’m just interested in sales, but that’s not true.

Earning money is both a relief and a means for me to do other things, like travel, but nothing more. Sales are also a validation that I’m doing something worthwhile and meaningful.

Some people actually want to spend their hard-earned money on my artwork. That’s pretty special – and motivating.

6. Share Your Art Ideas

Talk about your exciting new ideas. Spread your enthusiasm and let everyone know about your next project. Talk about it so much that you can’t afford to backtrack and look like an idiot.

The fear of public humiliation is a powerful motivator.

Follow through and report on your progress. Show everyone what you’re doing and encourage their input. Team up with a fellow artist for mutual support. Find an accountability partner. Step out of your comfort zone and put your neck on the line occasionally.

Real people and real relationships, in the real world, will help you far more than a Facebook group ever can. Be careful about online forums, they have their place, but they’re also an excuse to procrastinate. It’s easy to waste hours and get nothing accomplished.

7. Daydream and Take Notes

If a fantasist who talks endlessly about the projects they’ll never do, is an irritating bore, it’s still vital to take time to dream. Daydreams are part and parcel of the creative process.

My mind frees up in the shower, cycling to work, or sitting on a train. Anywhere I happen to be where there’s nothing else to do. I know life is good when my mind wanders away from the everyday concerns and worries of life and drifts into a dream world of possibilities.

I’m sometimes caught in limbo at my market stall when a thread of dreams takes over and I don’t want to lose them. I know others around me think I’m doing nothing, but that’s not true.

Dreaming is creating. There have to be those moments if you are to progress and be a better artist.

Keep a notebook and jot down your best ideas because if you let them go, you’ll lose them. Dreams are ephemeral, vivid, and real only in the moment, and when they pass, they’re irretrievable. Take notes and go back to them later.

Most ideas will not pass the test of time, but some will, and they are treasures.

I get so excited when I dream up new ideas and I’ll scribble down notes with urgency. My jottings are indecipherable to anyone else but to me, they contain the seeds of an idea that might lead to a completely new project.

As far as I’m concerned, dreaming is part of the process of drawing itself. They’re inseparable.

It could be that all you need is a plan to move forward. Watch this.

8. Finish Your Art Projects

There’s nothing quite like finishing a piece of artwork to keep you motivated. There’s momentum in signing off one piece and starting on the next.

People assume that I take great pleasure in what I do, they think the whole thing must be calming and meditative, but that’s not the case. Not for me.

It goes something like this:

  • The beginning can be great, I have an idea and there is an urgency to get something on the page. It’s a mixture of excitement and fear of failure.
  • Then there’s the realization that things are not going quite to plan. Most of the middle section is an attempt to rescue what remains of my initial idea. This is when I struggle.
  • After that, there’s the run to the finishing line where I salvage the picture and it comes together as a whole, if not necessarily, as I originally intended.
  • And finally, the triumph of signing the work and declaring it done. That’s my high.

So what’s the best part of a drawing? – FINISHING!

By the time I’ve finished one drawing, I’m usually pleased to be starting another. I’m never 100% happy with my results. My best work is always the next one.

I don’t like leaving a drawing unfinished before starting on another. I find that unfinished pieces tend to stay that way. I will put a drawing to one side if I get a creative block but unless I get back to it quite quickly, it can stay on one side for years.

There are times when a drawing goes completely wrong and there is nothing to be done that will save it. It’s at these moments, thankfully rare that I struggle the most. I can fall into a fit of despair and self-doubt.

The only thing to do is start again or do something new. I can only snap out of my gloom and overcome my lack of motivation, by losing myself in new work. as soon as I can.

Do you have problems getting things done?
Maybe you need a helping hand.

Chris offers 32 courses on with over 500,000 students!

9. Actively Seek Out Inspiration

Amateurs and drama queens wait for inspiration, the rest just get on with it. If you wait for the magic moment, you’ll wait a lifetime.

You must find inspiration and that comes about by doing creative work. If you have ‘art block’, and we all do, you work through it. It may well be crap artwork, but you are doing something at least.

It’s only by applying yourself that a good idea or new direction will occur to you.

This is what to do about Art Block: What is it? Its Causes, and How to Overcome it

It doesn’t matter how you feel, emotions don’t come into it. I don’t feel like doing most things until I start them and then they have a life of their own. It’s the only way you can progress and more importantly, it’s the only way to gain a sense of achievement.

I have a backlog of images that I can use if I run out of enthusiasm. They are my insurance projects in case I hit a brick wall. I may not feel like doing them but so what? I have something to get on with until I snap out of my apathy.

If all else fails, grab a camera and go for a walk, you never know what you’ll come across.

Sometimes I will flip through some of my favorite art books and remind myself why I love certain artists.

Why not get on your bike and get the endorphins going and go looking for ideas?

This list will help: 120 Drawing Ideas for Beginners to Enjoy Without Giving Up

Be proactive and seek out inspiration, to stay motivated.

Set yourself some targets and one way is to set yourself a challenge. Not a free one because there’s no commitment. Make yourself do something.

Sorie has well over 100,000 students, and her daily sketching course is worth checking out on Domestika

Daily sketching for creative inspiration
More classes on my drawing courses page

10. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Artists

Now I just suggested that you should seek inspiration from your favorite artists. That doesn’t always work and it’s all because of social media.

You find some fantastic artists out there and it’s all too easy to convince yourself that there are thousands upon thousands of artists whose work is on another level. How can you possibly compete, let alone aspire to match it?

In truth, social media allows us free and easy access to the best of the best. Only a few years ago, we seldom came across such jaw-dropping work and that’s because great art is rare.

We have developed a false perspective and the comparisons are false.

Use social media to reach out and network: The Best Social Media For Artists

We have no idea what has gone into the work of others, how many hours they practiced to get that good, what tricks they used, or how they learned it all.

And don’t forget, we only see their best stuff, we don’t see the rubbish they ditched.

If you have a healthy outlook, you will admire great talent for what it is and be uplifted. I envy better artists, but it doesn’t put me off. I’m good enough at what I do and there are enough people who like my stuff to keep me in business.

That’s OK with me. It’s all the motivation I need

11. Think Like a Business Person

If you are in business you cannot afford the luxury of putting things off. You have commitments, appointments, calls to return, emails to answer, prints to post, and so it goes on, AND you have to make your art as well.

Your social life is secondary.

You’re self-employed and you have to think that way. You can’t assume that there’ll be work tomorrow. That’s not confined to the arts, it’s a fact of life for half the planet.

You are a tradesman, or woman, who happens to make art, not the other way around. You get out what you put in, and that involves hard work and long hours.

The only people I’ve ever met who could afford to play at being an artist didn’t rely on the income.

It’s very easy to express yourself through your art if it doesn’t matter if you sell it or not. It must be nice to splash some paint around, give it a pretentious title, and sit on a fat price.

In the world I inhabit, I have to make some money. I can’t afford to be ‘arty’.

How to Get Motivated to Draw: Final Thoughts

We are all motivated to work in different ways and that’s because our circumstances are all different. When it comes to offering advice about how to get motivated to draw, we have to remember that one size doesn’t fit all.

What works for me, might not work for you. We prioritize those things in life that are most important to us. Our needs are often emotional, not based on logic or common sense.

Some people are so passionate to draw that any excuse will do, while others who, on the face of it, have more natural talent, can’t motivate themselves to sharpen a pencil. Work ethic and character also play a role in motivation.

You will have to find your own way and set your own art goals. Do you want to improve your drawing skills or make more money? If it is the latter you will need self-discipline and find a way to motivate yourself.

There’s no mystery about staying motivated enough to make your art. You take action first and motivation follows as a consequence.

It’s important to surround yourself with positive people, get into a normal pattern of work, and be reliable when you deal with people. Little things in themselves, but they mean a great deal if you wish to succeed and stay motivated.

If you try to do too much in a short time the burden is overwhelming. You’ll get more done at a steady pace.

Build on your successes and reward yourself well.

White tiger pencil drawing by wildlife artist Kevin Hayler
‘Cool Waters’ by Kevin Hayler

If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit

If you are motivated to sell your drawings,
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How to Motivate Yourself to Make Art: 11 Kickass Ways to Get Going
The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, I’m Kevin Hayler
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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