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How Do You Get Started Creating Again After a Setback?

by Jan Stommes on 9/12/2014 6:08:16 AM

This post is by guest author, Jan Stommes.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 25,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.


“I haven’t been able to paint for so long, I’m not sure how to get started again and I don’t feel inspired.” I have heard this sentiment expressed to me by artists over the years, and I have also been subjected to feeling this way. Work, sickness or family matters can cut into studio time. As with any endeavor, lack of work makes one “rusty” and inspiration may be hard to find.


This summer, I was unable to paint in my studio for about two months. Taking care of my two granddaughters, ages five and two, while their mother was in her last trimester of a pregnancy with twin boys, left me with no time to paint. A big part of my new studio was turned into a daycare. After the twins were born early, we continued to take care of the girls until our oldest son’s marriage, where the girls were flower girls. Recently, driving the girls back to Texas completed our care for them. Having grandchildren that live so far away is very hard for us, so we rejoiced in the opportunity to have them in our care for so long. However, my long days of studio painting and writing and illustrating children’s books had to be put on hold.


In the once again quiet studio, I wondered what would be the best way for me to return to my previous schedule. For a long time I have created paintings whether or not I have felt inspired, so I can usually create paintings base only on discipline. While the girls were here, I thought of many paintings that I wanted to produce. After they were gone, the thought of starting on a blank white canvas was doing its best to intimidate me and I felt my discipline slipping. Realizing that this feeling was due mostly to missing the girls, I knew that I couldn’t give in to it. To counteract the reluctance that I felt, I chose to tackle a pile of partially finished paintings with the goal of just playing with them, not seeking to make them finished pieces.


Have you ever had the feeling while you have been creating a piece that you have lost direction? When I feel that way, I have learned to set the painting aside, sometimes for years, until I can see the way that I want to go. “Unexpected Visitor”, a painting of a snowy owl that I posted on my website shortly before the girls arrived, was one such piece. What better way for me to refresh on mixing colors and to reacquaint myself with the feel of various brushes than to see if something from my set-aside stack motivated me to play with it?


“Calm before the storm” was inspired by a photo that I had taken years ago at a prairie on the way to the Grand Tetons National Park. Enlivened with the feeling to create when I got back from the trip was soon replaced with the feeling that the painting just wasn’t going the way that I wanted. Since I had lost my direction, I decided to set the painting aside. I found out years ago that I tend to flounder aimlessly when I don’t have a clear direction, which taught me to not fight the feeling of indecision. “Lose my way, put it away” became a rule that I followed.


When I saw this piece in the pile, my interest was sparked. As I started to paint, the feeling of returning to “the zone” was most welcome. Changing colors created a new look that felt right and resulted in a finished piece. I have since tweaked a couple of other paintings and I anticipate starting a new one soon.


When faced with a return to creating artwork, try not to let intimidation get in your way. Play with a new technique, rehab a painting that has been set aside or try a new medium or support. Most of all, focus on the fun of creating and don’t give up, for if you explore new ideas or revisit old ones, you will find your inspiration returning.




Editor's Note:  You can view Jan's original post here.



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Topics: advice for artists | creativity | FineArtViews | Guest Posts | inspiration 

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Sandy Askey-Adams
Good morning Jan...

This is a great post. Thank you.
I have certainly been there too. . . trying to create again after a serious setback.

When it is illness that strikes or day to day 'outside your studio' problems that are out of your control, one wonders if they will ever get back to creating again.

One thing for sure, we cannot sit and wait around for inspiration to strike again. Get into that studio even if you don't feel inspired and the inspiration will come again.

Sometimes if we just go into the studio, sit there and 'feel' the creative energy that is there, it helps.
Even if we don't begin creating anything right away, I think just being in the studio is a beginning. It can be a psychological help.

Your post gives very helpful ways to begin again. This post is a keeper.

We also must not feel guilty and have patience. Perhaps also, we can treat it as a temporary break that just might be needed.

It is not easy to get back again, but we can and do become creative again.

Kerry Dexter
Encouraging and practical ideas, Jan. Well done.

Sandy Askey-Adams
Oh Jan,

I think trying something new or a different technique is a good idea as you mentioned.

I just got my October issue of the "Pastel Journal" magazine in the mail and it is one of the best issues yet.
It features articles about "creative beginnings, unique starts for your next painting, inventive ideas for underpaintings, creating shimmering effects with new metallic pastels and tells how working in a series keeps creativity buzzing."

Reading those articles should stir up the creative juices for any artist...pastelist or not.

John Patrick Weiss

Thanks for your post. My favorite line is "focus on the fun of creating." That, after all, is what it's all about.

I think that artists carry many opposing challenges to their work every day. Who we are and what is happening in our daily life are part of every painting-even when we try to deny what we are feeling it arrives later in our work. When life has taken us away from the routine of painting we forget how to be engaged in art while we are dealing with life. It is hard to get going again-focus and effortful concentration are elusive when we are still distracted by changes in our life that demand accommodation and adaptation. Finding the balance again is possible but time and self forgiveness are required when life's demands overtake our needs as artists.

Cathy de Lorimier
Hi Jan,
Like others, I have also experienced this hesitancy to face a blank piece of paper again. I find that if I give myself a manageable goal that I know I can accomplish, it is much easier! The goal can be to simply sketch some thumbnails, create something for fun using only 3 hues, or pull out something unsatisfactory from the past, as you did, and just study it to see where I can improve it. Once I begin, the momentum usually takes over and I get involved in my artwork again. Thanks for your post!

Jan Stommes
Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my blog... I am once again away from my studio, so I am sorry that I am not able to address each of you individually. I do appreciate your taking the time to read my blog and sharing your thoughts!

Best regards,


Donald Fox
You've touched on something that many artists experience from time to time. Setbacks can happen in most any endeavor but perseverance (a cultivated mindset) helps keep things in perspective.

Marian Fortunati
Congratulations on your new grandchildren. I know it's difficult to be away from your passion for a while, but you know you were doing what was most important... -- Have you thought about painting your grandchildren?? I'll bet you've got lots of great feelings, memories and photos!

Brian Sherwin
I think this is the bane of creative people in general. We also face some form of 'block'... be it spurred by fear or life events -- and most of us will face it on more than one occasion. It kinda goes with the territory.

I've found, at last for me, that working on quick gestural sketches can help me to get the creative juices flowing. The same goes for writing -- a little bit of unguided prose, just for the fun of it, can sometimes snap me out of a slump.

Jan Stommes
Thanks go out for the new comments... I appreciate all of you for taking the time to respond to my blog. Best regards,


Thank you Jan and all the artists who said something about this matter.
I was feeling so bad because I had to stop creating art for a long time.
Life sometimes, takes us by surprise with such radical changes what makes us lose the direction and, return to our old routine takes us a long time. I am back to my work, and this is happening to me right now.
It's nice to know I'm not the only on that boat
Thanks to you all.

Jan Stommes
Oh Lili.... you are so NOT alone! That is the wonderful thing about FASO... we artists can connect with each other from the silence of our studios. We can reach out for information or comfort. We can share ideas and not feel alone in our struggles. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog. I wish all the best for you!

Best regards,


Jan,your are so welcome. You know the feeling and is nice having you taking your time to say something to me.
Thanks and have a great day.

Sandy Askey-Adams
Lili...and Jan,

I don't know your struggles you have had to cope with...but, I agree with Jan. At one time or another, we are all in the same boat and we can help one another stay afloat by taking our turn to row that boat.
I am trying to get myself back again this year after going through a serious set back with (should I admit it) with depression and anxiety. It came out of nowhere, so I thought.

Life does take us by surprise with those unexpected happenings. Things change and we can make a fresh start every day. We do become strong again.
What happened, happened and we cannot go back again. We have to go forward with more compassion and understanding for ourselves. We are always quick to offer that to others, but, we need to give ourselves that compassion and understanding too.
We need to tell ourselves it's o.k.

Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don't worry; God never blinks. And nothing is going to happen that He and you cannot handle together. Despite how bad it can get at times.

Yes Sandy, you're right, and I think this is the way, get up, shake it off and get back on top. It is a Brazilian way of saying what Jan said.
We all go through it at least once and know the feeling it brings and even learned how God helps us to row back.
Good having you in our boat.

Coincidentally, I just got back to painting for the first time in over a month.

I surprised myself in that I had grown once again! I could see better, what my paintings needed.

My paintings will be better because of my break.

Brian Sherwin
The passion that you have for your art is always boiling under the surface. No one can take that from you.

Skills can be learned with practice. They can also be redeveloped if needed after a length of time has passed. Don't view it as 'catching up'... creativity isn't a race. :)

De Faria
Maureen, it happened to me the same happened to you, when I came back painting again. I think my work got much better.
Brian Sherwin said something that defined in a very appropriate way exactly how I feel. I'm in no hurry, I want to create and learn everything I can about how to improve my art.
Thank you both for the encouragement that was exactly what I need at this time.

Sandy Askey-Adams
Hello again...

Thank you for this wonderful post and a thank you to those who have shared their feelings. It has been very helpful. The encouragement has been great, as Lili has stated.
And, thank you Brian for that last comment you made...It is not about 'catching up, not a race.'
Some how that clicked with me as did the rest of what you said.

I want to thank you all, again, for sharing your husband and I were visiting our grandchildren in Texas when this blog was published. I always feel so honored when I see on my FASO data page, all of the people who read my blogs when they are published. More importantly to me, however, is when people will share with me their thoughts about what I write. I appreciate it very much!

Best regards,


De Faria
Hi Jan, you are very welcome.
Your words give to everyone who reads your articles good incentive.
I love the opportunity of keeping in contact with the artist in blogs, and I learned a lot from you and the others.
Thanks again.

Brian Sherwin
Lili, Sandy -- Thank you both. I firmly believe that... creativity isn't (or shouldn't be) a race. Someone once said, "A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings."... I think that is something to remember with regard to art making AND art business.

Jan Stommes
Thank you, all, for your continued comments! I will be writing a blog in the near future about being 'pumped to paint', the opposite of this blog. As artists, we go through ups and downs, in our lives and in producing our art. Knowing that we can share our frustrations and triumphs through FASO give me a great feeling. As I said in an earlier blog, it helps to fight the silence of the studio to know that I am in contact with others.

Best regards,



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