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Stuck for Painting Ideas?
Let's Inspire You Into Action

Suffering from Painter's Block?
Through observing your everyday world, fire up your imagination.
Turn your inspiring observations into new painting ideas.

Some of you out there will be struggling for inspiring painting ideas. I know I have at times. There is so much out there to inspire us to paint! Here are some of my favourite exercises for you, should you need to re-fire those creative juices.

You may feel stuck in a rut with a particular subject or style. Or you may feel like experimenting, but you're not sure which direction to go in. You may be stuck for subject matter; or unsure of which medium to use. Or, other fears (or excuses!) may be holding you back. 

Hopefully the three exercises below will fire up your enthusiasm, not only for painting ideas; but for life in general. I find when I'm lit up to paint; I'm lit up about life.

Depending on the type of person you are, you may feel more inspired by practical or theoretical exercises. I tend to go more for the practical; but I know some of you may like to take more notes; make lists etc. As with everything, take what is useful to you, and discard the rest!

Try to let go of your fears and excuses to get over your painting blocks.

#1: What Lights You Up About Painting?

  • The Light?
  • The Colours?
  • The Composition?
  • The Process?

When something catches your attention, take a moment and try to analyse what that "thing" is. Is it the translucency of a curtain in the breeze? The pattern of a tight weave? The shapes within the shadows of a tree? If you can isolate what it is about the scene (and it may be more than one thing); you are well on your way to re-creating an amazing moment in time. This is where your new painting ideas can come from. These can also be the most powerful images to paint; as the emotion you feel is translated in the painting of the image.

Take five minutes for yourself, today. Walk around outside (with a notebook, if you want to take notes or sketch your thoughts). Cast your eye slowly around as you move through your world. Moving slowly allows you to observe thoroughly.

You should find at least one inspiring idea (usually many, many more) that will urge you into action. This action may be, for now, recording a note about a vibrant flash of colour; or about the smell in the air, how you are feeling about the surrounding environment; or the texture of the path. These notes can then be developed, if you wish, into an image you can connect with and be proud of.

Slow down your life - connect to your environment; and people. This will allow you to fill your head with new painting ideas. When you find that thing that speaks to you or catches your attention; you can emphasise it in your paintings.

Take some time to slow down for painting inspiration!

#2: What is Your Style?

  • Photorealistic?
  • Abstract?
  • Expressionist?

This third exercise is also about taking you out of your comfort zone. Someone once said "To grow, you must experience discomfort". So true! So in this exercise, experiment with a different style and/or medium. If you tend to work to a realistic rendition of an image; try instead a looser approach; a more expressionist or abstract version. Or begin with more texture on your canvas; build up some 3D layers. 

Experiment with a new style - or no style - you never know what doors will open up for you; or what new painting ideas will come. Never tried pastels? Give them a go. Always wanted to draw? Work some graphite into your paintings. Frightened of watercolour? Give it a whirl anyway.

Or don't even bother painting, get all pre-school again and just squish your fingers round in a gooey mass of colour! Poke it with a palette knife, scratch it with a biro. Feel the colour move.

Who says you have to do a painting? Maybe that wonderful self indulgent experience of just pushing colour around; is your painting. You could even go so far as to enrol in a class you never thought you would. 

If you keep an open mind, the possibilities for stumbling upon inspiring painting ideas are literally endless.

Get all preschool about it and push some paint around.  Literally!

#3: What Are You Afraid Of?

  • Making a Mistake?
  • Other People Judging?
  • Not Being "good" Enough?

Let's get one thing straight here. Creating art is for you, and you alone. If other people appreciate it, that's wonderful. Your fears are perfectly reasonable. You are only human! I still have all of those fears. A couple of things help me get through. Firstly, alcohol. (just kidding!!!) Firstly, "happy accidents". Liberate yourself. Embrace your mistakes. You never know when a "mistake" is going to turn into gold.

Have a go! This is not brain surgery, no one will die. Mistakes are fixable; or not. At the end of the day, we are pushing coloured goo around on fabric with a hairy stick. If in doubt, paint over it. The more mistakes you make, the better you will be. Learn from them. Then do it again. Having a solid skill base broadens your range of painting ideas. No longer will your skill level limit you.

The second thing that gets me through the fear factor is my compulsion to paint. I can't help it. If this is the case for you too, then embrace the insanity, celebrate your difference. It doesn't matter if you paint like Pollock or Rembrandt, there will always be people commenting on your work. Art is very subjective. The most important thing here is how YOU feel about it. 

Challenge yourself today. Take an image you have created that you weren't crazy about, and show someone for feedback. (Not family or friends). This is scary, I know! Face your fear, and do it anyway. It can be very inspiring to acknowledge your fears and face them - and may even take your paintings in a whole new direction. Take a photo and put it on the internet. Enter an art competition (especially if you have never done this). Hold an exhibition in your garage. How liberating! The ideas will flow!

Try something you are afraid of to inspire new painting ideas!

There are also a few little tricks that I do to reinspire myself. These may work for you too. I decide to clean up my studio. Nine times out of ten I will find a hidden project that got buried. Having a nice clean blank workspace somehow calls me to create. 

Another little trick, if you have the space, is to set up two or three easels; each with a different painting. One of them will eventually speak to you (it may be saying, "shut up and go away!", however....if all them say that, leaving 15 blank canvases in the corner will call you to action). 

There are very few things more exciting to me than a big stack of blank canvases, and some room to chuck some paint around.

Hope that helps!

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