Arty Exercises to Motivate and Invigorate your Artwork

Even if your usual style of painting and drawing is detailed, precise and meticulous, occasionally shaking things up with these well-known exercises can add new vigour and enthusiasm to your creativity and will, perhaps, inspire new pieces or a new direction.

1. Before you start, make sure yourself and your work place are suitably covered – this could get messy! Old clothes and dust sheets, where necessary, are recommended so you are not restricted by worrying about the cleaning bill.

Dedicated Painting Clothes!

2. Have a rough plan of what you want to do and ensure everything you need is at hand. These exercises are all about diving in and being spontaneous so you don’t want to be breaking off to clean a brush or look for a colour every couple of minutes.

Have all you need ready and waiting

3. Work BIG! Working on a large scale forces you to stand up and move around which automatically gives your mark-making some energy. You are also have to think about form and use of space rather than getting bogged down in detail.

4. Use media that does not need a lot of work. Charcoal is the perfect drawing medium for this kind of thing because of its immediacy and the versatility of marks that can be achieved. If painting, use thinned paint so that the large surface can be covered quickly, expressively and without having to re-load the brush too often.

Charcoal is great for big, bold drawing

5. Work at arms length, use oversized brushes or extend the length of the brush by taping it to a stick. These measures will have similar effects – standing back will encourage bigger movement and more dynamic mark-making, oversized brushes will keep the marks loose and by using an extended brush, you will not have so much control so you won’t be tempted to get too detailed.

Splash those large area washes

6. Keep your eyes on your reference, still life set up or model, your charcoal or paintbrush on the surface and DO NOT look at the canvas. This technique, known as Blind Contour Drawing, gets your brain thinking about spactial awareness and forces you to abandon memorized marks that you make habitually.

7. Squint at or use computer or phone image editing to distort your subject. Making the subject a little less defined will, again, allow you to be looser and spontaneous resulting in a piece that may be more abstract with the emphasis on colour and form.

8. Splash, spatter, spray. Use ways of applying paint that you do not usually use to cover the surface quickly. Covering the surface with paint, before you start attacking the subject, gets rid of that fear of messing up the pristine whiteness of a blank canvas or piece of paper and being too precious about it to really let yourself go.

Do away with the pristine white surface

9. Mix it up a bit! If you really want to build the energy levels, work on a number of canvases at the same time, swapping between them and working on each for a short time only. You will find different perspectives, colourways and marks on each piece and each time you come back to a canvas, you will see it afresh prompting fresh ideas each time.

10. Turn up the volume! Put on your favourite, up-tempo tracks and dance while you paint. Your energy will naturally transfer to the surface and have some truly creative results!