Every once in awhile we have to take a break from art, be it because of job interference, burn out, health issues, or any other number of reasons. Once we return to doing art, things are a bit difficult. Our skills are a bit rusty, we’ve forgotten some techniques, and things can be daunting.
Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to help you get back on track after taking a long break from art:
Do: Create art goals.
Returning to art after a long break can feel discouraging, especially if you have no idea where to go with your work. Staring at a blank canvas or blank piece of paper can lead your mind to spiraling thoughts of anxiety, or can leave your feeling plain lost.
Which is where art goals come in to play.
Art goals don’t have to be super specific, instead you treat them as a bit of a road-map, leading you to different destinations on your art journey.
Maybe one of your art goals is to make a comic. When you’re feeling lost about your art, look towards your goals, and start working on them.
Do: Work on studies.
When you start working on art again, you may find that your skills have slipped away a bit. The best way to get those skills back is to work on some art studies.
I like to start off with some photo studies, especially for portraiture, in order to understand the realism underlying my work.
Do: Start with small sketches and thumbnails.
Thumbnails are small sketches that help you iterate on composition, value, or color ideas for pieces before you make them, and working on thumbnails can help improve your art skills.
To start, thumbnails and other small sketches help you get ideas down quickly, so that you can sift through and find both the good ideas and bad ideas.
Plus working on some sketchier work will help you stay loose while you work.
Don’t: Compare your work to other artists.
Comparing your work to that of other artists is just going to leave you feeling bad inside.
A lot of the times the artists we compare ourselves to have lots more experience or they more consistently practice, so comparing your skills to that of someone else after a long art break just isn’t fair.
Instead of comparing your artwork to someone else’s, try to compare their old work to their newer work, to see what they’ve learned over the years. If you can see what mistakes they used to have, but don’t anymore, you might be able to remove those mistakes from your work.
Don’t: Focus on the extremes.
Sometimes you will have extremely good days and the art will just flow out of you looking great. Sometimes you will have extremely bad days where you’re stiff and feeling rusty.
Ignore both of those extremes. Because that’s what they are, extremes.
Instead, focus on your average art, and work on improving the mistakes you have on those pieces, and strengthen the cool things about those pieces.
My dad always used to tell me that the two worst times to evaluate your life are when everything is going badly, and when everything is going perfectly. I think that the same thing applies to art as well.
Don’t: Expect to be at your previous level of skill.
Expecting to be at the same skill level in art as you were before your break is unreasonable. Doing art is like training a muscle, you need to work consistently in order to maintain it, and so you’ve probably lost a bit of your skill level from taking a break.
Don’t stress over it though. Just take things one day at a time, and focus on improving yourself slowly and steadily.
It can feel pretty rough to return to art after a long break, but getting stressed out won’t help. Instead, just take a deep breath and focus on going slow but steady.
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I publish posts about art every Friday, so check back next week for some new content.