Four Ways to Get Out of an Artistic Rut

It happens to us all. We're cruising along doing the art thing and then something isn't quite right. You get a Twilight Zone feeling as you look back on all your past artwork. It's all the same.  The details are different but the effect is the same. You're in a rut.


The only thing to do is dig yourself out. So here are some ways to shake things up:


1. Develop some discipline.


Look, I know it's not sexy. No one wants to be a disciplined artist. They want to be a spontaneous artist or an inspired artist. But if you only work when you're feeling inspired, chances are you're being inspired by the same things. If you're constantly inspired by the same things, you will get the same results. Discipline means working regularly, whether you are feeling inspired or not. Working when you just aren't in the mood will definitely produce new results. In my personal opinion, inspiration is highly overrated.


2. Go visit a different medium.


All art is art, but every medium has its nuances. Painting, writing, music, pottery, and sculpture all require not only different technical skills but also different methods of communication. Trying out a new medium helps you break up old patterns of thought. I suggest going to a medium you know very little about for the best results (e.g. if you listen to music all the time, try out pottery).


3. Foreign Art.


Artists from other cultures have distinct values, aesthetics, cultural metaphors and often a unique structure in how they approach your medium. Take K-drama vs. Western television. K-drama (Korean television) runs one season of 14 to 16 episodes.  There usually isn't a second season and the story runs its full course in that time. The format alone creates different story structure compared to television in the United States. K-Drama also has its own core values putting a premium on characters sincerity instead of characters coolness. Looking at what a different culture does can open up new ways of thinking about your artwork and provide new perspective on the tropes of your own culture.


4. Get out of Art-land.


Your work is artistic, your hobbies are artistic, your friends are artistic... Maybe it's time to go play frisbee golf or talk to an accountant. (I'll talk to the accountant. You can play frisbee golf. No matter what I do they always fly backwards over my shoulder.)


Follow these steps and you'll find yourself on a fresh new artistic path. Don't be discouraged if your first attempts on the new track come out a little half-baked.  You are not your art.  You are a human and have value independent of what you produce. It can take a while to get a handle on a new idea and find the best way to express it. Don't give up. 

This post was edited by Hannah Lee Donor.