Category: Creativity

7 tips I use to get going when feeling unmotivated

Brunette girl with head in hand feeling unmotivated

Are you feeling unmotivated and don’t know how to get going? So was I. My days had settled into a routine. I got up, did the crossword, ate breakfast, then head to my studio, prepared dinner, watched some television, and finally off to bed. With the COVID restrictions on traveling, visiting with friends, or going out for entertainment, I saw a “sameness” with my days. I needed a way on how to get out of my rut. (See my ‘7 tips to getting unstuck’ below.)

I decided to shake things up by changing my art medium. Dusting off the oil paints (which I had rarely touched in over a decade), I considered what I could do. A friend wanted me to paint a yellow rose as a gift from his recently engaged daughter. For me, trying to paint a realistic rose with oils was totally out of my comfort zone!

It was an exciting challenge, and it took a while to get comfortable painting with oils again, but I pushed through. Enjoying the unique qualities of the paint, I reveled in its creamy texture and longer working time. Experimenting with this different medium gave me new ideas for my current mixed media work and reinvigorated my studio practice.

Yellow rose oil painting motivates artist to paint again

“That’s good and well for you, but I’m not an artist. So how does this help me?” you say. The key is to make some changes to your routine. Try one or all seven of my tips to revive and energize you to get going again.

Seven pieces of advice to get you unstuck and motivated

Change your routine by talking to someone new

If you’re only speaking with your family and a few friends, you’re not getting enough stimulation. Try calling up an old friend or connecting via Facebook to cross-country pal. Even striking up a conversion with your grocery store cashier will prompt a change in your routine.

Kindle your curiosity by trying something new

How about that new chocolate cake recipe you’ve wanted to try (and eat)? Or that 500 piece jigsaw puzzle that’s still in the box? Intense focus on a single activity such as cooking or doing puzzles in proven to reduce stress.

Being spontaneous can activate your motivation

Instead of eating lunch while working on your computer, count the birds you see outside your window. If you always take a morning walk, try roller-skating around the neighborhood instead. Make a point to make one small change to your routine each day. Say yes to new experiences!

Exercise outside to enhance creativity

Surrounding yourself with nature has a positive impact on the body and enhances creativity. Psychologists found that backpackers scored 50 percent higher on creativity tests after spending a few days outside without their electronics. Additionally, exercise improves blood flow and memory; it changes the brain to enhance thinking skills.

three roller skaters with old fashion skates

Start a new habit to motivate change

Good habits are the key to staying motivated. Newton’s First Law is ‘objects in motion tend to stay in motion.’ Or more clearly said, once you start, the easier it is to continue moving forward. Habits don’t have to be significant. Consistently completing a small task has the best chance for tremendous results over time. Maybe yoga first thing in the morning. Or reading before bed instead of scrolling on your phone.

Rewarding yourself for positive behavior can motivate you

Reward yourself for your good behavior (like passing on that third glass of wine) and treat yourself that new nail polish you’ve been eyeing instead. Tie your reward to your new consistent habit. Have you been regular in your morning journaling this month? Buy yourself to a fancy fountain pen. Brought your lunch to work every day this week? Put it toward an upcoming vacation you’ve dreamed of going on.

Just making a plan can get you unstuck

Simply having a plan, whether you end up following it, will help you feel confident and inspired. Our brains are scared of the unknown and tend to freeze up without a plan. Imagining the first step will make it easier to move forward. Plus, making a plan will give you something to look forward to and help keep you motivated.

Too stressed to come up with a plan, I’ve got some tips to help you. Read more at How to be creative when stressed or under pressure.

In summary, if you need help getting motivated, try a new recipe, run on a different path, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Or even pull out the oil paints and give it a go. I’m rooting for you!

You can see more great creativity tips by signing up for my monthly newsletter.  Sure, I could use some tips!

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5 foolproof tips for a less stressful holiday

How to foster creativity when stressed or under pressure

blond woman looking stressed and under pressure

Do stress and deadline pressures have your creativity freezing up? Let me share six tips that fostered my creativity and got me back to my studio to start painting and having fun again. I hope that will work for you too.

The dilemma of the creative process (for me) is that I impose pressure on myself to make impressive, or at least good, artwork. I worry my paintings must be meaningful and pleasing, and if they aren’t, then self-doubt, fear and discouragement paralyze me from working. This self-reposed pressure was putting a lot of stress on my creativity and keeping me from painting. I needed to adjust my thinking and art practice to break this negative cycle and get me back to the joy of making art.

botanical collage paintings by Kathy Ferguson Art

In many ways, the COVID quarantine has been a positive experience for me. When the virus rates escalated in New York City almost overnight, there was speculation that Manhattan would close its borders and travel outside the borough would be restricted. The thought of getting trapped in a city had me fleeing that very day to Florida with nary an art supply in my suitcase. With no upcoming shows or commissions to finish, and few supplies to work with, I decided to let my self-imposed pressure go and just play around with the limited materials I had available (acrylics and junk mail).

I started small, making simple 6″ x 6″ painted collages. Working on up to 12 paintings at a time, I skipped around between them when I got stuck. I let myself step back and make work that didn’t need to be good. And you know what happened? My creativity came back. I was excited to go to my studio every day and see what would happen next. After finishing forty-two of these “Tidbits” paintings, I was ready to move on to something more substantial.

 

Mounting blue and white collage works on cradled wood panels

Are you feeling stressed or just unmotivated?

First, take a minute to decide how you are really feeling? Are you stressed because your kids are constantly interrupting your workflow, and you have a gallery exhibit coming up that you’re not close to ready for it? Or is it that you are feeling uninspired and lacking in motivation? For these who just need some inspiration, read my advice 7 tips I use to foster creativity when feeling unmotivated to get you up and running again.  The rest of you, keep reading.

6 tips to spark creativity when pressure is weighing you down

So the next time you’re stressed or under pressure, try these other ideas to spark your inspiration and creativity.

Stop forcing creativity

First, stop trying to “make yourself” come up with something creative. Instead of telling yourself, “I must make something great now,” instead let yourself “play around with some ideas.” You need to feel in a safe space of non-judgment and expectation to be open creatively.

Take a break from the problem

Step away for the problem and let your sub-conscience work while you go for a walk, bake a cake, or fold the laundry. The less these activities use your mind, the more available it will be to create new solutions.

illustration of blond girl making a smoothie

Focus on a single idea

While doing one of these activities, do a little brainstorming on a single idea. Go deep and think of every good, bad, and weird idea that you can. Don’t critique these ideas; you are going for quantity. Give your thoughts some space to roam and let creativity work its magic. Breaking it down into small steps will help you chip away at the problem.

Go get inspiration on Pinterest

Are you still stuck? Try looking at other people’s work. I’m not suggesting copying them, but sometimes seeing what others have done will trigger new ideas or approaches to your problem.  

Reach out to another artistic business owner

You don’t have to go it alone. Why not collaborate with another? You can pick their brain or work together. The process of talking through ideas can stimulate new thoughts and take you in a new direction.

Creativity takes time

If all else fails, perhaps you just need time. Give yourself time to mull on it. Studies show that the brain continues working while you’re asleep. A good night’s sleep will do you good. I often wake up the morning after with the answer just waiting for me.

Get more great creativity tips by signing up for my monthly newsletter HERE.

 

 

How to make homemade wrapping paper

How to make handmade wrapping paper

Do you need to send a gift, but you don’t have any wrapping paper? I ran into just this problem while sheltering at home during the quarantine.  What to do?  I looked around to see what supplies I had on hand at home.  I managed to rustle up some copy paper, watercolor paints with a brush, and some colored pens. If you don’t have paint, you could substitute food coloring instead.

I simply made little puddles of water on the paper with my brush and dropped in a couple of different paint colors into these puddles.  The paint mixed itself as the colors flowed into each other.  After letting the paper dry (I used a hairdryer to speed things up), I used the pens to draw some wonky circles around the paint blobs. Voila! I had some colorful wrapping paper just in time for my daughter’s birthday.

Are you still confused? Here’s a 30-second video to see how easy this is to make.

 

Don’t have enough time to make this wrapping paper?  Instead, just splatter the paint all over the paper, spritz with water, tip paper to get colors to bleed together, blow-dry, and your set to start wrapping.

Just a pigment of my imagination

Botanical hide and seek, cold wax CWM mixed media painting, 10" x 10", white checkboard pattern over colorful background
It’s weird how some paintings come into being.  The artwork below is one such painting. It came about through three unrelated experiments into a single, colorful work of art.

One:  I offload my leftover paints onto sheets of paper instead of throwing them out. Sometimes, I can use these paints in my collage work. This particular paper was a total mess, and I couldn’t think of any way to use it.

Two:  I needed to do a transfer test to judge paper translucency. I used this messy paper for the background paper. Now it was doubly a mess.

Three: I’ve wanted to experiment with cold-wax medium. It’s different from encaustic wax, which must be used in a melted form, as it stays usable at room temperature. I needed an acrylic background to experiment on, so I grabbed this paper again.

After using masking tape to create a grid pattern, I filled in every other square with white tinted CWM. Next, I practiced removing and drawing into it. Suddenly, from all the chaos I saw order and interest. I’m as surprised as you are!

Moral of the story: Don’t throw away your failed paintings and experiments.  You might find the perfect use for them one day!

Checking in on you. Are you safe and healthy?

I am writing to check-in and see how everyone is faring in their remote corners of the globe, and hoping that you are safe and well.

I’m currently sheltering in Florida with my hubby, where I’m fortunate to be able to walk and bike outside. I fill my days with art-making, cooking, reading, and enjoying game nights with friends and family (via Zoom).

As the situation has me unable to truly focus, I’m making a little bit of everything. In my studio, I have half-finished oil paintings, acrylic doodles, watercolor sketches, and cold-wax experiments. While they patiently wait for me to get back to them, I am happy to share at least one completed effort here.

There is a lot of disparity of quarantine experiences across the world, and I am genuinely grateful that we are one of the lucky families in these uncertain times. Those of you are doing essential services, you are the true heroes. You have not gone unnoticed, and we cannot thank you enough for your courage and commitment to others. Thank you.

5 foolproof tips for a less stressful holiday

tips for a less stressful holiday, relaxing around the fire in socks with hot chocolate

Starbuck Christmas cups are out, storefront windows are decorated, and holiday sales are cluttering your inbox. Though still weeks away, the pressure is starting to build. Life will soon be filled with cards to send, presents to buy, entertaining, and decorating. Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. Follow my 5 foolproof tips for a less stressful holiday season and get back to the spiritual heart of the holidays instead.

Here are 5 tips to combat that stressed-out feeling that comes from trying to do too much in too little time. Here’s how to lighten your holiday load and focus on what really counts.

Resist the urge to be Martha Stewart

If you feel that holiday decor is a must, make an impact simply. A pile of pumpkins and gourds make a festive Thanksgiving centerpiece. Choose wreaths made of pinecones to last you through to January. Buy a fake tree with prestrung lights for yearly reuse. Place a trio of nutcrackers on the mantel and you’re done.

Take the stress out of sending your holiday cards by going online

Use an online card company to print, address, and mail your holiday cards for you. Or make a reusable address list to print address labels from (no more hand addressing for you!)

It’s a family affair at our house where we put on a Christmas movie and set up an assembly line. One person to stuff, one to seal, one to stamp, and one to attach the address label.

Stress free holiday cards, Santa addressing his Christmas cards
Who has time to address all their holiday cards? Use an online service instead.

Get the family to help out during the holidays

Get the kids to decorate the tree. The ornaments may end up two feet from the floor and huddled together for warmth, but who cares? Reward them with cookie decorating using plain store-bought cookies and icing tubes from the cake aisle.

Don’t make life more stressful by overscheduling

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your holiday agenda, don’t over-schedule your time and take on more than you can manage. Decide in advance just how many parties or other events you can handle, then whittle down the list to your set limit. Politely but firmed decline the rest. You can make plans to hang out with them in January instead.

Feeling stressed during the holidays, woman screaming in a santa hat
Overscheduling during the holidays can cause undue stress

Shop online, in your stress-free home

Packed parking lots, long lines, crowded malls, and higher blood pressure – is all this stress what you want? This year, opt for a calmer, gentler shopping experience. Grab your slippers, a warm cup of apple cider, and turn on the computer.

Shopping early is a huge stress saver too. I have lots of small framed and matted paintings (all $85) that would make perfect gifts for a holiday housewarming, or to put under the tress for family and friends.  All ready to hang paintings for your gift-giving needs can be seen on my website.

Related blog posts

How to be creative when stressed or under pressure

7 tips to get you going when you’re feeling unmotivated

Do you want more great tips and advice? Sign up for my monthly newsletter to be automatically delivered to your email inbox.

 

How to have a relaxing holiday

Want to relax this holiday season? Then consider getting your holiday shopping finished early. The Plaxall Gallery in Long Island City, NY is hosting an “Off the Wall Holiday Art Fair” from Nov. 7 – Jan. 12. Hundreds of affordable artworks available from both emerging and established artists. Pick something up for your family and friends, or perhaps as a treat for yourself.

Visit www.licarts.org, for more info on fair hours and location. Pictured here are four new 5″ x 7″ paintings that I have on view at the show.

Developing final art from a digital sketch

landscape water iPad procreateThis spring, I used my iPad, and the app Procreate to develop some painting ideas for a commissioned beach-themed artwork. Painting digitally is helpful because you can work with the client to try out different ideas without actually applying paint to canvas.  You can easily go back and remove the changes with just a click of a button.  In this sketch, using the client’s comments, I lightened and softened the large areas on the right.  Then I add more tan and reduced the darker areas. I thought you might like to see how the final painting turned out. To the left is the revised digital sketch.

The final painting “Nantucket Summer” is now happily hanging in my client’s home on Nantucket Island.

 

Have you ever wanted to see your art published in a magazine?

Colorful Kathy Ferguson artwork published art on magazine of Wild Apple Wall Decor

Of course!  I dreamed of getting my artwork published in a magazine but always thought of it as a long shot.  And making the cover?  Impossible.

So, I was surprised and thrilled to have my artworks, Jeweled Forest One and Two, featured on the cover of Wild Apple‘s Art Decor February 2019 Issue.  Wild Apple Graphics is my B2B art publisher and licensor.  These two original paintings are still available if you’re interested. See them in detail on my website.

A spread of art magazine publications
A spread of art magazines that might be a good fit for publishing your artwork

How to get your work published in magazines

“Congratulations,” you say.  “But how can I make this dream happen for me?”  There are lots of ways to get your artwork published, both online and print magazines. The key is to start with a MEDIA KIT.

The first step to getting your artwork published in magazines is to assemble a compelling media kit. This kit is a digital portfolio that will allow magazines to take a quick look at your artwork and profile. It’s a glance at your best and most relevant pieces. The media kit should contain two things, artwork images and a text introduction.

Collect your Artwork Images for magazine publication

10-15 images of your work. Make sure the pictures are high-quality, with no background or frames—just images of the artwork themselves. Lighting must be professional and uniform, so there is no skewing of the colors. It’s a bonus to include photos of artworks hanging in-situ, in beautifully decorated rooms to help show the size and proportions of your work.

Ideal file dimensions for web viewing (and quick load time) are JPEGs at 72 dpi – 2000px max – less than 1.5MB. 

write a Text Introduction to that will interest writers

Though you are a visual artist, images are not enough. Magazines and bloggers want to know more about your background and the inspiration behind your artwork. 

A simple, compelling story is what you should be providing. Don’t use art-talk or excessive detail. The language should be approachable and straightforward. Include information about previous, current, and future work, as well as your important achievements and exhibitions. Avoid long lists; this is not your resume. Keep the text short and captivating (300-500 words), covering the key aspects of your artist persona: Who, what, why, when, how.

Submit your text in an unformatted, editable form like plain text (not a pdf or standard word document), and include your contact information and social media links.

 

Published Kathy Ferguson article in Art Haben magazine
The first page in an article about my artwork in Art Haben’s Magazine’s biennial issue
Correctly format your Magazine Submission documents

Magazines and bloggers have a tremendous need for quality content but don’t have the time to write it all. If you can provide writers with quality content, you have a good chance of getting published. However, even quality content isn’t enough to get you published if not delivered in the correct format. If they have to contact you to get a photo file or editable text document, they will likely discard your work in favor of someone else. Time is money, and editors have none to spare.

The simpler your work is to publish, the more likely you’ll see it in print. Send your images as individual JPG’s and your text in an editable document without formatting (like plain text).

Once you have the artwork images and artist press text:

  1. Place these files into an online folder on GOOGLE DRIVE or DROPBOX.
  2. Set the privacy setting of your media kit folder to PUBLIC. 
  3. Copy the share link for this folder. That is the link that you will send to the magazines/bloggers. It allows them to browse the images and text without needing to download anything.

With your materials prepared, it’s time to analyze the right magazines for your work and how to approach them. Don’t have a list, check out this list of art magazines to get you started.

A feature about Kathy Ferguson Artwork published in the magazine Not Random Art
A page from an article about my artwork in the magazine “Not Random Art.’
Step 1: Research Art Magazines and Writers who will be interested in publishing your artwork

Doing research will help target your efforts towards magazines/blogs where you are a good fit and could be published.

  1. Narrow down those magazines where you can see a good fit with your style of artwork.
  2. Make a list of the writers that are actively publishing content. Magazines can have a large team of contributors, and it’s useful if you contact one of them personally rather than going through the magazine’s direct contact email.
  3. Search these writers’ latest articles and evaluate which one would be the best fit to contact about your work.
  4. Look for their email or social media link and start a conversation. Comment on a recent article that they shared. (Generally, only personal contact with writers will get you published. Bulk emails rarely gain results.)
Step 2: Delivery your Media Kit to the Magazine Writer for Publication
  1. Now it’s time to send your material for publication. Write a short and direct email telling a little bit about the project that you want to get published and why you think it’s a good fit for the publication. Don’t forget to include the link to the download folder with the images and text.
  2. Once published, be sure to share on your newsletter, social media sites, and blog. I like to personally mail copies of any articles with a note to my VIP collectors.

Magazines and blogs can be powerful channels to gain new followers and get valuable visibility. Just remember the formula: Quality content delivered correctly to the right magazine, equals new followers.

Are you interested in learning more about my work and my life as a professional artist?  Sign up to receive my Studio Insider newsletter in your email box which features lots of great art, fun stories, and creativity tips to enjoy.

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Hyper-Lapse sketch of leafy twig (1 minute long)

Time-lapse sketch using traveling sketch kit

In a previous blog post, I wrote about putting together a travel sketching kit.  Here, you can see me putting my travel kit into action.  So as not to make the video too long, I sketched the twig before the video started and compressed it into a hyper-lapse format.  Watch me use colored pencils as paint with the use of a water brush.  Click on photo to start the video.