How to Feed Off Your Own Creativity

Creativity doesn’t come from nothing. The creative mind requires input to create output. I’ve written about how to find inspiration to create, as well as how to find your style as an artist, and in both posts I encourage artists to look to the outside world for inspiration. It’s an easy place to get the input you need to kick start your creativity, but today I want to talk about how to find inspiration through your own creative world.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating through the inspiration you get from the outside world, but when you are dedicated to finding your true voice as an artist and want to push yourself as far as you can, then learning how to feed off your own creativity is a great practice.

Once you take in enough input from the world around you to get a sense of who you are as a creator, it’s time to let that energy build inside of you and see how you can grow in isolation. Like a closed terrarium; you have everything you need to creatively flourish within. If you have studied the masters, learned basic art techniques and the principles of art and design, and have gotten a sense of your art style, then you may be ready to practice your creativity in isolation.

Here’s how you can do it:

1.Disconnect from other creator’s work.

I did this when I needed an art cleanse for my mental health, but this is beneficial even when you are in a healthy mental state. Mute/unfollow other creators on social media. The reason I want you to do this is because we can’t help be influenced by the work we consume. If you want to see how you can feed off your own creativity, you have to stop “eating” other content.

Stop consuming the work of other creators in your field. It doesn’t have to be forever. Maybe it will be for a few weeks or a couple of months. It all depends on how you’re feeling. The point is to make your artistic voice easier to hear.

2.Use what you have available.

If you feel you have taken in enough input from the outside world, then you likely have a crap ton of art supplies at your disposal by now. I want you to use what you currently have before even thinking about stepping into a store or researching new products. Again, like a terrarium, you have all you need around you.

Use the watercolors you have stashed in a drawer. Flip through half used sketch books and repurpose the paper. Try that acrylic set you got for Christmas that you still haven’t opened. There is a lot of creative potential hidden in what we already have. If you feel uninspired, go through the motions anyway. Or-

3.Create using prompts/step out of your comfort zone.

I don’t want you to spend too much time online when trying to feed off your own creativity, but prompts can be a really helpful catalyst. If you have supplies that don’t inspire you, do a quick Google search for creative prompts. Or make your own. The goal is to do something you don’t usually do. Paint a landscape, sit in your living room and draw your surroundings. Use one color and experiment with shadows and highlights. Take what you have around you and look at it with a new perspective. Explore how you can manipulate your current style using different mediums or colors.

Don’t look at how other artists do it. All you need when working from a prompt is text. An idea. Paint a red banana. Can you picture it? That image in your mind is yours to feed off of.

4.Create often and complete the creative cycle.

The creative process is a cycle. The more you can work through that cycle, the more work you can create. Input–>incubation–>creation–>rest. Do this weekly. Do this every day. Do this multiple times a day with small 15 minute prompts. Do this as much as you can. The hard part in the beginning will be finding input in isolation–but it might not be as hard as you think.

Have you ever tried to remake a piece of your art? Can you replicate it exactly? Probably not, unless you are a perfectionist. Even if we make the same exact piece of art every day, there will be changes from piece to piece. Change is inevitable and this works in your favor when feeding off your own creativity. Start with your current art style, make art inspired by that, do it often, and you will inevitably see evolution.

5.Capture even the roughest of ideas.

This can be as simple as capturing ideas in a journal, doing light sketching, collecting sources of inspiration like color swatches or testing new techniques and saving the practice work. You can’t predict when inspiration will strike. When you capture ideas and put them away for a later date, they can act as a starting point for your next work. You can stash them in a drawer for a dull day, or you can start pinning your ideas to a wall and look at them frequently. Or try both and see what works best for you.

Capture all of your ideas. It doesn’t matter how incomplete or rough they are. They can help you later.

6.Lastly, look back at your older work.

To feed off your own creativity, you need to look back at your older creations. When you create often and capture all of your ideas, you are going to have a butt-ton of stuff you can look through to spark new inspiration. Don’t let judgmental thoughts invade this exercise. I don’t care if the work sucked. Look at the techniques you used, the color palette, the subject matter, and more. Pull ideas from the past. Recreate the work with your current skills. Interpret the work and figure out what you were trying to say. Can you refine the message? Do you have a different perspective to approach the work now?

When you look back at older work, you go through a creative recycling process. Old ideas get transformed into something new. If you keep working through the creative process (input–>incubation–>creation–>rest) by only using your own work and ideas from the past as input, you will start to see your voice and style develop even more.

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If you try working through this practice of creativity in isolation and you can’t seem to produce anything–then you may simply need more input from the outside world. There is no wrong way to create. Right now, I try to find about 75% of my creative input within isolation, but I can never completely cut myself off from the outside world. That would be no fun.

So what do you think? Are you ready to try and feed off your own creative energy?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Tips for Framing and Hanging Your Art for Shows

This blog post has been brought to you by an awesome artist asking me questions on Instagram. If you have questions, send them my way. I’m always looking for new blog topics.

The question was about when and how to frame your art in ways that are budget friendly. I’m sure you know, framing costs can get pretty ridiculous. Frames themselves can be overpriced, but paying someone else to cut mat board and professionally frame your work can give you a special kind of sticker shock. If you’re an artist trying to make a living or even just sell your work as a side hustle, it’s hard to stomach the cost of framing all your work.

I’m here to tell you there are cheaper options, and you can break some rules.

(*Recommended product links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thanks!)

Is there a “right” way to display your work?

When it comes to displaying your work, people can get pretty opinionated. I had a man tell me that every work of art needs to be framed. Even a gallery profile canvas. Art looks better in a frame (He was a framer so clearly he had a bias, and no I didn’t take his advice.)

When I’m preparing for an art show, I no longer think about the “right” way of doing things. I’m pragmatic and I just want to get my work on the wall without wasting money.

There are four things that I pay attention to when it comes to hanging my work at events and galleries:

  1. Is the art protected from people and the elements? (Varnish, resin, plastic packaging, glass, UV protection, etc.)
  2. Does the art look good while displayed?
  3. Does the display method fit into the surrounding environment? (Frames for galleries, plastic packaging for fairs, etc.)
  4. Is the art safe and secure? (Is it going to fall off a wall?)

If the way you choose to display your work answers yes to all four, then I wouldn’t stress too much about doing things the “right” way. So let’s get into the basics for displaying art on canvas and art on paper.

Displaying Canvases

I love working with canvases, because I can cut out the need for frames altogether. I choose 3/4″ profile or larger, paint the sides of the canvas, and hang the work on wall. (I use these canvases from Blick.)

When you are preparing your canvases to display, there are a variety of ways you can do it:

  • You can frame thin profile canvases with float frames. (Simply pop the canvas into the frame and hang the frame.)
  • You can hang a canvas without a frame. (My preference.)
  • If your canvas is light enough, 3M Command Strips can make hanging super easy.
    • I hung 3/4″ profile 11″x14″ canvases at my last month long show using two of these strips on each canvas. I’ve also hung 16″x20″ canvases the same way for a three month show. Just check the weight limit for the strips.
  • You can also display canvases on an easel. I use tabletop and floor easels depending on the canvas size.
Preparing Work on Paper

It’s hard to get away from frames when working with paper and displaying at long term shows, but when you are setting up popup events or selling at a craft fair, you can cut some corners.

Here’s how I handle displaying my art on paper.

  • When hanging on walls, frame your work with or without mat board. Mat board can help make your art more attractive and even give it a larger presence.
  • Mount your work on wood or other sturdy surfaces. I’ve seen artists mount their paper work on wood cradle boards and apply varnish or resin as a finish.
  • When displaying at pop up events, you can package your work in plastic sleeves with backing board. This is the cheapest option and makes a piece ready to sell immediately.

Now, here are a bunch of tips to help you avoid spending all your money on framing:

Tip #1: Watch for sales on frames.

Frames aren’t cheap, and paying a professional framer for every piece you create will make your bank account dry heave. When I have paper pieces to frame I watch Michael’s like a hawk to catch their frame sales. They always have sales. Sign up for the email list and just wait. If you’re okay collecting a frame at a time, you can use their 40% and 50% coupons as they become available.

You don’t have to get too fancy with frames. When I had events coming up fast and not a lot of money to prepare, I shopped for photo frames at Walmart and Home Depot. Just choose a cohesive color scheme and save money where you can. It’s also good to keep in mind that your customer might replace the frame if they buy the piece so that it matches their home decor. Just make sure the frame looks good (but if your work is priced really high, choose a higher quality frame to match the higher price).

Tip #2: Go thriftshopping and/or garage saling.

People donate art they don’t like anymore. You can find nice frames for dirt cheap if you have a little patience to hunt for them. You will probably have a lot of mismatched frames when you do this, but you could work that into your aesthetic. (You can also hit the jackpot with large canvases that you can paint over.)

Tip #3: Reuse frames.

If you are displaying at a fair or similar event, indicate that a frame costs extra (or they aren’t for sale) and remove the art (and place in a plastic sleeve) before handing it off to your buyer. You can insert a new piece of art and hang it back on your display wall.

Tip #4: Work with standard paper sizes.

If you are creating art on paper, make life easier and work with standard sizes. When you work with standard sizes (5″x7″, 8″x10″, 11″x14″ etc.) you can easily find frames in stores that come with mat board inserts already cut to these standard sizes. Custom sized work will drive costs up.

You can also get precut matboard if you don’t want to use the cheap mat board that comes with a frame.

Tip #5: Cut your own mat board.

When I first started doing art fairs in 2010, I bought a mat cutter and bulk mat board and matted all my prints and originals myself. Only do this if you are pumping out a lot of work and are good with measurements and sharp blades.

Tip #6: Remember you don’t need to frame everything.

When you plan a display for a fair or popup event, you really just need to display enough work to grab people’s attention. If you have a bunch of work on paper and not enough wall space to display everything, you can protect your work by packaging pieces in clear bags with backing board. When I do events, I will often have a basket of prints and originals next to my display wall that are all packaged nicely so customers can flip through them.

Products I use:

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If you are displaying at a long term gallery, it’s good to make sure your display method matches the professionalism of the space you’re in. If you are setting up a popup event at a local business or casual craft fair, you don’t have to spend a ton to get a display put together. You can choose to forgo frames altogether and just clip your packaged art to a grid wall in these settings.

My personal rule is to spend as little money as I possibly can to put together an attractive display for events. I hope these tips will help you do the same!

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How to Photograph Your Art to Make Prints

A little over a year ago, I bought myself a pigment printer to make prints of my artwork at home. I shared all of the supplies I use in this post, but I only glossed over how to actually photograph and edit your photos for printing. And after getting a request for a more detailed blog post on the topic, I figured it was about time I share more details of my process. (I love when you guys ask me questions and give me ideas for future posts. Keep ’em coming!)

Now, I am not a photographer. I do not know everything about camera settings and perfect color correction in editing, but I’ve done a fair amount of trial and error and have a system that works for me.

If you are considering making your own prints, there are quite a few things to think about. Like–

How Big Will Your Prints Be?

I stressed out about this a lot before I started making prints. I wanted to know how big I could make my prints without losing quality. There are a lot of resources online to do pixel math, but this link has a pretty clear way of explaining the print sizes you can get depending on your camera’s megapixels.

My camera takes 24mp photos, and I want to print at 300 dpi (dots per inch) for the best quality. I only make prints as large as 11″x14″, but I could go as big as 13″x19″. I could go even bigger if I was okay losing quality, but I like to put my face about 3 inches from the print and still be able to see crisp details, because I’m a fricken weirdo.

The site I linked above has an easy formula to see how big you can print. Simply take the width and length in pixels of your photo and divide each by 300 dpi. My latest print file is 5318×4044 pixels. So 5318/300 is 17.72″ and 4044/300 is 13.48″. That’s as big as I should go with that particular print to maintain a 300 dpi quality.

I’ve been very happy with my print quality so far. (Also, I stick to 11″x14″ or smaller to make shipping cheaper and more convenient.)

The Equipment I Use:

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thanks for clicking and buying stuff! You don’t even have to buy the items I recommend in order for me to earn a commission. Just click a link and buy things you need. (Sweet!)

DSLR Camera:

I used to use a Canon Rebel T3i, but I upgraded to this Canon Rebel SL2 in December 2018 because I can take bigger photos with more detail. Any high quality camera will work for you depending on the size of print you want to make. Just look at the megapixels and compare to the Designs215 link to determine what’s right for you. I use the standard 18-55mm Canon lens.

Tripod:

You can hold your camera if you have a super super steady hand, but to eliminate any camera shake, I use this tripod.

Diffused Light Soft Boxes:

You do not want harsh light on your work when you are taking photos. Especially if you work with glossy materials. Last year, I bought these Geekoto soft boxes, but they appear to be unavailable at the moment. I haven’t tried this Mountdog soft box, but it could be a good alternative.

Basically, get two soft boxes that use daylight bulbs (5500k).

Flatbed Scanner:

When my work is 9″x12″ or smaller and not glossy, I simply scan at 600 dpi using the scanner on my Brother 3-in-1 printer. If you are going to buy a scanner, do some research. Mine isn’t by any means the best, but since I already had it at home, I figured why not use it.

How I set up my equipment:

This piece of art is 36″x48″ inches and I need to make 8″x10″ and 11″x14″ prints for my November Patreon rewards. (Have you looked at my Patreon page yet? There are open spots for prints!)

For any photo shoot for prints, here is how I set up my area:

Position your lights- Place your lights on either side of your work at 45 degree angles. You do not want to put the lights directly in front of the work. When you angle the lights, you reduce/eliminate glare from light bouncing off of textures on the surface.

Place your camera- Put your camera directly in front of the art and position the lens so that the piece fills as much of the viewfinder as possible without cropping your work.

My Camera Settings-

  • I do not use flash. (Glare is the enemy!)
  • I set the camera to auto (because I don’t know cameras at a photographer’s level).
  • I set the camera to take the largest jpeg photos. (I do not shoot in RAW–again, because I’m not a photographer and suck at editing RAW photos.)
  • I set the 2 second timer. (Holding and shooting increases the chance of a blurry photo.)
  • I press the button (or touch the screen on this camera), step back, and then wait 2 seconds for the camera to shoot.

I usually take 5-10 photos just to be safe and them pop the SD card into my laptop for editing.

How I edit my photos:

I use Adobe Photoshop. I don’t use most of the features Photoshop offers, so I bet you can get away with using different photo editing programs. Even when you have great lighting and equipment, you’re still going to have to tweak your photos for printing. You can see my unedited photo on the left and my final print file on the right below to see how I had to adjust the image.

Before (Left) and After (Right)

When I open a photo in Photoshop, I start by cropping using the Perspective Crop Tool. If my camera wasn’t in the perfect position, this tool makes sure I retain every bit of the art as I can in the photo.

Next, I make a few edits by adding new Adjustment Layers. First, I tweak the exposure. Then I amp up the brightness and contrast. Since images don’t look the same on paper as they do on screens, I find I have to brighten things up more than I’m comfortable with in order to get an accurate print. (This is especially true if you print using the Canon Pixma Pro 10 like I do.) Then, I tweak hue and saturation to make sure my colors are as vibrant as the original piece when viewed in daylight.

Next, I export the file as a jpeg. When you are exporting, you can resize the image and make it bigger where Photoshop’s software will add more pixels according to what it thinks new pixels should look like. It’s not perfect–but it could be a solution to going big without access high megapixel camera.

Next, I run a 5″x7″ proof on my printer to see how I did. If you don’t have a printer and plan on sending files to a print shop, I really encourage you to get proofs made. After over a year of making prints, I usually tweak my proofs at least once before printing my full run. When I was still figuring out my printer, I easily went through 5-8 proofs before being happy with the final file.

Every computer screen will look different and every printer handles ink differently, so don’t expect perfection immediately. Once I’m happy with my image file, I print, sign, package, and put the prints in my shop.

Easy peasy 😉

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I hope this post was helpful. If you are considering making prints, definitely read my full printer post for more advice and things to think about.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: