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6 Steps to ReNEW your Art in the New Year

ARTicle Kelly Foss at drawing America

Image: drawing and painting of hands by Kelly Foss

You’ve changed a lot in the past century, but has your art? You might need to blow the cobwebs off your style or refresh yourself so you’re excited about your art again. Check out the following 6 Steps to ReNEW your Art.

1.       Be Inspired! Are you inspired by other people’s artwork? Watch an art movie (like the biographical film about Vincent van Gogh “Lust for Life”). Go to an art gallery or museum. Pick up an art book (like John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal). Scroll through social media to see artists’ latest creations. Warning: Some get discouraged by this, unhealthfully comparing their art to others’.  Be inspired by something that encourages your creative mind and allows you to dream. It could be listening to Miles Davis, hiking up a mountain, coffee with your BFF, etc. Wherever you find beauty and feel alive, go there- do that. And bring that spark of life back with you to the easel. 

2.       Go back to the start. Remember what you wanted to make before life and lessons told you what was right or more exceptional? I’ve seen it over and over again- people losing their vision to go with the flow of what’s popular now. A whimsy-loving artist after being laughed at in the “fine art” community traded their colorful, fantasy art for a darker, serious-looking style. Don’t let anyone extinguish your spark. To use art as a way of self-expression one must first have a sense of self.  To do that, look back and remember what you use to want to draw or paint before you knew how; your original vision. It might take a while but oh so worth it.

“A thirst to spend our fire and restless force, in tracking out our true, original course.”  -Matthew Arnold (The Buried Life)

3. Become a “closet creator”. Whether we post our art online or simply don’t like a fellow classmate looking over our shoulder at something we’re working on, there’s a fear of judgment. I love painting outdoors in Central Park in NYC. Many people stop and chat about how they think I’m doing. Whether in English or not, they don’t seem to realize I can hear their unfiltered conversations…and I use to hate this! Cringing anytime I’d get an audience. Thankfully I’m over it now. But even when creating in solitude there’s an expectation, knowing people will eventually see and judge my work. This judicial apparition can be too much pressure. What a cure? Create in secret! Tell yourself before starting a piece “This is practice- not a performance” and that your creation will be for your eyes only. You’ll be surprised at the ease of creating in that atmosphere! The same as how your best ideas come in the shower, once you take the pressure off your artistic results they might just become your best works.

4.       Filter. This tip is for the tech-savvy.  Take a photo on your phone of drawings or paintings of yours and try out the filter options on them. You might just stumble upon a look that you like better than what you’ve previously created! I once had a shaft of light hit a watercolor that I was working on. I liked the effect so much that I painted it in. Artist Quang Ho recently shared a low-tech version of this tip. Quang has taped cellophane over his paintings and painted on it as a brilliant, noncommittal way to try out ideas. 

5.       Give yourself boundaries. Rules, deadlines, discipline, structure… sounds like the opposite of creativity, right? Boundaries actually boost creativity! Self-imposed rules can be challenging. An easy way to get these boundaries is to look ahead to an art show you’d like to enter. A lot of art shows have show titles/exhibit themes. Titles pulled from some current open calls “Fractured”, “What Lies Beneath” and “From Grit to Gold”. Did any ideas start percolating at the sound of those shows? Here’s a website to search for open calls:

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” -Edgar Degas

6.       Be a Student. The more you know the more you grow. Even if you’ve done art your whole life and have an established way of doing things, open yourself to learn new ways by taking a class or workshop. It’s a challenge to let go of the old for the new, even for just a few hours of instruction. But it is miracle-grow for your skills! Learning new methods puts another tool in your artistic tool belt. If you’re in the New York City area, check out Drawing New York’s many drawing classes or I would love to have you in one of my drawing or painting workshops. 

Our art develops and grows along with us. Though our styles mature or change there will remain a certain indescribable mark left imprinted on our artwork.  There’s no need to fear losing something on this artistic journey. We’ll feel refreshed as we renew our artwork and selves. Happy New Year! 

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  1. I am loving reading through your articles Kelly.
    Thank you for sharing.