Art & Craft Musings

When creativity is absent

Art friend, we often see the results of inspiration & creativity online, the darker flip-side seems to not be talked about so often. I’m hoping that sharing the following vulnerable musings will help you not feel so alone when sometimes the inspiration doesn’t come.

The way I approach making art comes from within, and at times it simply doesn’t come. Does that ever happen to you?

When I notice this happening, I feel several things:

  • Pressure. Why can’t I create? Why can’t I be consistent?
  • Guilt. Will people who expect to see my art be disappointed? What if I can’t deliver what I promised?
  • Fear. Will it ever come back? Am I just kidding myself thinking I’m an artist?

I start thinking that maybe I should approach art in the results focussed way. I’m a fairly competent painter; I could paint cute animals or watercolour landscapes or just do crafty things like bookbinding. I could just produce and focus on creating a massive output. But when I sit down to try I can’t. The heaviness comes tenfold, because on some level I know that I am avoiding something.

Recently I noticed something that I do, or maybe something I experience is a better way of putting it. When I’m in a creative period, I feel like I’ve cracked the code, I’ve unlocked something in myself, I’ll never have to worry again about not feeling creative! Then, sometimes gradually, sometimes suddenly, the feeling disappears and I’m in a creative dry spell. During the dry spell I feel like it will never change. I have run out of ideas, run out of motivation and this is it, the inspiration will never come back.

It’s curious to experience these extremes, especially when my memory tells me that I’ve been through both phases many times, so I can always trust that the current phase doesn’t last forever. It’s as if what I’m experiencing is the immutable Truth and no reasoning or logical thinking changes how I feel. As someone who has used logic to override feelings for the best part of my life, this is simultaneously frustrating and a marker of progress. I’m hoping it will change over time, where I might be able to experience both at the same time.

I wish for a future where I might be able to experience the feelings that I’m currently protecting myself from by not making art (because I do think this avoidance is borne out of self-protection). It also makes me wonder about when to let things rest and be soft to myself or when to push through and force myself to create. I don’t have a definitive answer for what is ‘the right thing’, but I do think ruminating on these questions is useful in and of itself.

Right now I’m trying to listen to little sparks of creativity. They don’t yet translate to actually making art again yet, but it’s little things like seeing someone’s painting and feeling inspired, or feeling excited to try something I’ve seen (a technique or colour combination) or a general feeling of “maybe I’d like to…”. Yesterday I all of a sudden felt that I might want to try an expressive self-portrait.

We’ll see. For now I am going to try to keep listening.

Dear art friend, if this sounds familiar to you, I hope you will be able to find within you a gentleness towards yourself. We’re in this together, figuring out this thing called life & creativity.

Art & Craft Tutorials, Guides & Advice

5 Tips To Develop Your Unique Art Style

Ask any starting artist and this is pretty much the holy grail, the thing they’re looking for, the elusive concept, the thing that excites them and the thing that makes them despair….:

Developing your own style

I’ve been doing this art thing fairly seriously now for 2 years, and I still struggle with this on a daily basis. I can see glimpses sometimes and other times I’m like an impatient child stomping their feet: WHEN is it FINALLY going to HAPPEN?

So, while I’m having my own little personal struggle here, let me share with you these five tips to developing your own art style. Follow these top tips and I promise you, IT WILL HAPPEN. Bit by bit, your style will start to emerge. You won’t even notice it, but when you look back it will be there. All of a sudden people will say things like ‘I love your style!’ or ‘I knew that painting was yours!’ or you will recognise yourself the elements that make up your personal style.

Tip 1: Create A Series

Creating a series of paintings is a great way to hone your skill and practice doing the same thing but differently. Ways of approaching this could be to pick a certain colour scheme to work in and with a certain theme or subject. For example creating four paintings of doves and/or using the same 3-4 colours in each painting. You could also do something more abstract with a similar colour scheme and similar shapes across the pieces.

When creating a series it can be helpful to work on all paintings at the same time. This will help make things easier with achieving consistency across the paintings.

Tip 2: Do A Challenge

The thing that kickstarted my creativity big time was joining the Art 101 challenge . I joined a group of people who were all going to complete a certain number of paintings within 101 days. Having an achievable goal in mind and a timeframe within which to do it can be great motivation. Practice and simply DOING IT is such a big part of developing your style, and doing a challenge really helps you get down and do it. Get together with other people to support each other and hold each other accountable.

Formats you can consider for challenges are things like: create x number of paintings in y days / 10 minutes of sketching every day / draw one face a day for 100 days

Tip 3: Notice Your Likes & Dislikes

What is it you enjoy drawing or painting? Are you really drawn to certain subject matter, shapes or colours? You can analyse your own work and then build on it. If you see yourself doing and enjoying certain things, start amplifying those things and do them consciously.

For me I LOVE creating faces. Then within the faces I notice more things that I like doing, like where I enjoy placement of the features (e.g. mouth low in the face, nearly no chin) or what shape eyes I like to paint.

This can also relate to certain types of art supplies or techniques. Anything that you love working with and would like to do again and again.

Conversely if you notice yourself not enjoying things, then don’t feel like you need to do them. Don’t create the expectation that your work needs to include elements or techniques that you don’t actually enjoy. For me that might be lots of doodles or trying to make things very realistic.

Tip 4: Develop Your Personal Imagery

We all have our own personal story. Certain subjects or symbols might deeply resonate with us and it is helpful to sit down and have a think about that. These could be shapes, symbols, animals, plants, flowers etc. Anything that has a personal symbolic meaning to you could become part of the imagery that you draw from to create your paintings.

If you look at famous painters they usually have a very strong visual language. This is partly the thing that makes their paintings recognisably theirs.

It can be helpful to compile a list of 5-10 things that are meaningful to you and that you want to have show up in your art. You can then even practice sketching them. For me a few recurring symbols are: teardrops, cypress trees/cat tails, spirals, crowns, rectangular buildings, blushing faces, sun bursts.

Tip 5: Study The Masters

Copy, copy, copy! Copying an existing work of art (this is called a study, and remember to ALWAYS give credit, whether the artist is super famous or whether it’s your next door neighbour (who may or may not be famous)) is an excellent way to practice technique.

Take a step back and analyse the different parts of the painting. Ask yourself how you would recreate something and how you would deviate from it if you were doing things ‘your way’. Set yourself a challenge to recreate someone else’s painting, but giving it your own spin (take your knowledge from the tips above).

Your style is within you. It’s waiting to emerge, but it needs practice and encouragement. It will develop, it will come out. Keep making art, keep showing up, keep sharing, keep on being you!

If you’re looking for more guidance to develop your own style, you’ll love Radiant: Art Journals. 15 teachers have prepared wonderfully in-depth lessons for you so you can spread your own creative wings in the safe space of your own art journal. I hope you will join us!

Are you looking to find your own art style? What is it you struggle with? Or are you a more established artist who has gone through this? What is your top tip? Share your thoughts with us below!

Art & Craft Tutorials, Guides & Advice

5 Reasons You’re Not Happy With Your Art Journal Pages

photo credit: Broken Flowers via photopin (license)

I know very well what it’s like to want to do art, but every time you sit down and do it, you’re feeling crappy about the result. It’s really inhibiting and it might even stop you from creating next time. I don’t want that for you (or for myself)! So here are some insights that might help you understand why this happens and what you can do to change it.

1. You need practice

There is no way around it: practice makes progress. There are no shortcuts and you have to put in the time. Imagine you’re going to learn a language, it will take some weeks to grasp the basics, quite a few more to be semi-proficient and several years to be fluent. The more you practice making art, the more fluent you become and the easier it will be for you to create things you like, simply because of your skill level.

I love this quote:

Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle
-Jon Acuff

Another awesome resource is this video with words from Ira Glass. It’s called ‘The Gap’ and is about that ‘gap’ that exists between knowing what art you find beautiful and actually being able to achieve it yourself.

2. You are attached to the outcome

Leading on from the concept of ‘the gap’ explained above, it’s very frustrating if you have something specific in mind and aren’t quite able to execute it as nicely as you see it in your imagination. This partly comes back to practice, but another thing that you can try which to me absolutely transforms the process of art making is: to let go of the outcome.

Art is weird and wonderful, it’s a process, not just paint by numbers. Try and place yourself firmly in the current moment, rather than in the future where this finished (perfect) artwork exists. What can you do now that you enjoy, that is an expression of yourself? Let the art emerge from moment to moment, rather than working towards a fixed outcome.

An example of this might be that you are going to paint a portrait. But instead of trying to make it picture perfect or photo realistic, let it come alive through your personal filter of your mind, hands & body. This is actually where the most original art comes from in my opinion!

3. You need to add more detail

One of the things I notice a lot in the art of beginners is that it somehow looks unfinished or unrefined. It’s not necessarily a lack of technical skill (I think beginner’s art can have a great sense of freedom! As well as art made by kids) but a lack of going back in and making things look complete. It’s probably also to do with confidence. I see this in how people shade faces, they know where to put the shadows and the highlights but they’re not confident enough to make it BOLD. Make the darks really dark and let the highlights pop out!

You’ll be surprised at how a painting can transform by just paying a bit more attention to the details and finishing touches. Pay attention to shadows/highlights, use outlines and shading, create halos around people/objects, add little doodles or dots.

4. You’re working against your supplies

There are no rules about how you must use your art supplies (or which specific supplies to use), but there are definitely ways in which to use them effectively and ways in which to use them that make you want to scream and tear your hair out!

You’ll have to experiment yourself with specific things that feel frustrating that might be solved by a different technique (try Googling or a search on YouTube!), but here are some things that I’ve found frustrating and ideas on how to make them better.

Paper pilling (rubbing off / forming little balls):

-Use gesso first or a layer of acrylics. Make sure this layer is thoroughly dry before continuing

Paint not applying smoothly:
-Dilute slightly with water or matte medium/PVA glue
-Work BIGGER! Tiny fiddly work is especially hard when you’re a beginner. Scale up and then when you’ve gained experience, scale down again
-Use different or better quality brushes

Backgrounds look muddy or brown instead of vibrant (also especially applicable while Gelli printing):
-Try not to mix complementary colours (blue/orange, purple/yellow, red/green)
-Only apply either cool colours (blues/greens/cool purple) or warm colours (red, yellow, orange) together.
-Dry thoroughly in between layers.

5. You’re doing the wrong thing

Why are you doing this? Whose art are you making? I often fall into the trap of seeing other people’s art and admiring it so much that I want to recreate it or I want my art to look like that. So off I go on a very results orientated journey, which I often find very frustrating and unfulfilling. So ask yourself what your goal is. How do you want to feel? What do you really want to make? How do you like using your supplies? Why do you want to create art in the first place?

There are no right answers to these questions, just your answers that will give you an insight into your personal whys and hows.

If you’ve got any tips to share, please post them below in the comments! Can’t wait to hear what your favourite methods are for enjoying making art.

Art & Craft Tutorials, Guides & Advice

Art Supply Shops in London


I love going into art shops and nosing around for new supplies (or stocking up on basics). I can’t imagine how they must struggle against competitive online suppliers. Nothing beats actually going into an art shop though, I’m addicted! So I thought I would compile a list of shops I frequent that sell art supplies in London. Most of these ones are in Central London. I hope you find this helpful!

AtlantisAldgate, E1
A huge shop (biggest in the UK according to their website) with pretty much any art supplies you can think of. Lots of supplies for fine art, but also things for kids, plenty of materials for mixed media artists (they do both natural and bleached beeswax). Huge range of Golden & Liquitex products. Best thing about Atlantis is that their prices are very very good.

Blade RubberBloomsbury, WC1
This shop is a must for art journalers. They don’t just do rubber stamps but a ton of papercrafting accessories and more. They do a lot of mixed media & art journaling essentials. It’s the only shop I’ve found that actually stocks things like Stewart Gill paints, mica flakes and specialist magazines. They are unfortunately quite expensive but you do have the advantage of seeing the supplies in the flesh rather than guessing what something is like when you buy online. They also do classes.

Cass ArtCharing Cross, WC2 – Soho, W1 – Hampstead, NW3 – Kensington, W8
They have a few branches and do great deals on quite a lot of their stock. Paper, sketchbooks, Promarkers (sets) and Caran d’Ache watersolubles (sets) are really competitively priced. I haven’t been to their flagship store, but their smaller store on Charing Cross road is great for picking up a few essentials.

CornelissenBloomsbury, WC1
Quite fine art focussed, but I would recommend going in here even if you’re not interested in what they sell: the inside of the shop is amazing! It’s what you’d imagine stepping into a 19th century art shop would be like. Apart from the obvious they sell some interesting stuff (I found some type of gold coloured powder in there, never seen that anywhere else) and tucked away at the back you can find discounted supplies.

Cowling & Wilcox LtdSoho, W1 – Shoreditch, E1 – Camberwell, SE5
It’s been a few years since I went into this shop but I think they’re quite similar in terms of stock to Cass Art.

HobbycraftCroydon, CR0 – Greenford, UB6 – Romford, RM1 – Watford, WD17
You have to travel a bit further out of town, but the size of the store makes up for it. Prices aren’t as low as you might expect, but the shop is great for browsing because they have so much. They cover almost every area of art and craft. I especially like going into the aisle with art supplies for kids, you can pick up some nice things for mixed media projects for a lot less money than the stuff that’s specifically targetted at art journaling.

John LewisOxford Street, W1
The haberdashery department in John Lewis has some nice bits & bobs. I’ve only been there for my knitting/crocheting needs, but they also do lots of little accessories (embellishments, ribbons etc) and I think they’re picking up on crafters’ needs a bit more over the past couple of years.

London Graphic CentreCovent Garden, WC2
I love this shop because it’s got a lot and is so central. They are a bit pricey though. In the ranges of drawing/watercolour pencils, (watersoluble) oil pastels, conte crayons etc they sell single colours of almost everything which can be very handy. They sell an adequate range of paints & mediums although if you really want to go to town on those I’d still recommend Atlantis.