I need help. I don’t feel like creating, I am burned out on acrylic paintings I feel aren’t good enough. What can I do to reignite a desire to create? I feel like I have wasted time and money on art supplies that I don’t use. I used to be excited about creating. I feel like life gets in the way of creating and that there are so many other things that take priority. What will people think if my house is a mess and I am painting? That’s my mindset right now.


The first thing that jumped out to me with Stephanie’s statement was “I am burned out on acrylic paintings I feel aren’t good enough”. That tells me you’re ready for a level-up. Looking at your work, I can tell you’re good but you could also be more than good. You can become phenomenal which is going to be a HUGE jump in your motivation to create more. Looking back at several years worth of pet portraits, they’ve not changed much. They’re close to accurate but not QUITE there yet. Two HUGE tips: First, draw the subject to take up more of the canvas. Right now there is way too much space around floating heads. Second, I would like to see you trace the subject instead of freehanding.

AAAAH but tracing is cheating!! I’m not saying you need to forever trace things, but what has happened is that you’ve drawn stuff just SLIGHTLY inaccurately for so long that your brain now sees those imperfections as “correct” or “normal”. By tracing for a while, you’re forcing your brain to shift back to seeing things more accurately so that when something is off, you can recognize and correct it right away.

My next tip on the art itself is on your values and details. Your work reminds me SO much of what I was doing when I first started with pet portraits. I would spend about 45 min and call it done. I wasn’t happy with the results but I wasn’t sure how to make it better. So I decided to spend 8 hours on my next graphite pet portrait.

This is what happened! My skill level looks like it shot through the roof simply by spending more time on what I was working on.

“But Lisa, how does that help a lack of motivation to create?”

When you first start working out or eating healthy, you REALLY don’t want to do it. You’ve not seen results yet, or you plateaued and that can really stall your desire to keep going. When you start pushing harder and seeing results it motivates the heck out of you to keep going and try even harder. You want to see more results! It’s the same thing with art. When you’ve not improved in years you feel bored. Why bother, nothing changes right? THAT’S the time to push harder! You hit a point where you are comfortable so now it’s time to get uncomfortable again so you can see results again!

The next thing Stephanie said was ” I feel like life gets in the way of creating and that there are so many other things that take priority. What will people think if my house is a mess and I am painting?”

This is where I can share what works for me. I clean throughout the day constantly as I make a mess. If I’m moving from one room to another, I grab a cup I was using so I can drop it off in the kitchen. I’m neurotic like that. If someone were to drop by I would have everything spotless in 5 minutes. I don’t enjoy my home when it’s a mess so that’s just a me thing. Ok, my studio still often is but that’s different haha. Dishes are not left in the sink. they’re cleaned as we use them. If something is on the floor that does not belong there, it’s picked up immediately.

The reality is, I don’t think your house needs to be spotless for you to make time for yourself to paint. I also don’t think anyone else cares as much as we do if our houses are perfectly clean. Actually, I know for a fact I’ve made friends uncomfortable because of how neurotic I am about cleaning constantly. Trust me, you care more than anyone else does. Take a break and go paint!

Besides my usual cleaning, as I go throughout the day, I also schedule everything. I have scheduled my main deep house cleaning day. I have scheduled when I will paint, I have EVERYTHING organized, so when I’m doing one activity I don’t feel bad that I need to get something else done. Those other things are scheduled. It sounds like that would be more time-consuming, but it’s crazy how much extra time you will find when you schedule things. I use my Google calendar for scheduling. The bonus is that it’s free.

Even if you’re not in the mood to paint during your scheduled time, do it anyway. Most of the time, if you can get yourself to sit still and work for 10 or 15 minutes, you will get sucked into the project and want to keep going. I like to put on an audiobook, shut the door, and lose myself in my own little painting or drawing world. The key for me is to shut the door. If I get distracted by Matt doing something in the kitchen, I can’t focus or work. I need to be able to tune everything around me out, so that may be something you can try too. The door closed, music or book on, tea in hand… TIME TO PAINT!

The next thing that helps me really get in the mood to create is to find a reference photo I’m excited about. When I used to paint a lot of pet portraits, I was grateful for the work but I really hit a point where that did not at all spark a desire to paint. Try a different subject or even a different medium. Personally, I HAVE to mix it up to keep my interest. That’s a huge reason I work in so many mediums. It keeps me from getting burned out from any single one. It doesn’t even need to be something expensive. Pick up a pack of water-soluble graphite pencils. I think the Faber Castel Graphite Aquarelle are under $15 or so. Those are SO satisfying to work in and a LOT of fun. Grab some watercolor paper to go with them if you don’t have any.

You work in color a lot, what about trying some black-and-white pieces where you’re focused more on your values? Not only are you improving your values here but you’re also creating something that will be quite striking.

Another thing I like to do that REALLY motivates me is to paint something as a gift for someone. Something I know they will LOVE, that I am so excited to surprise them with that I want to hurry and finish it. It’s SO much fun to paint something for someone you know will near pee themselves when they see it. Lovely visual, you’re welcome.

One last tip is to paint something for YOU! When I paint an accent wall or decide to swap out quilts on my bed it makes me want to paint something for that newly rejuvenated space. You get to pick the colors that work for you, the subject YOU like. It’s all for YOU. Pet portrait artists are very prone to only painting for others and never stuff for their own walls. Spoil yourself! Redoing a single wall in your home can be just what you need to get that creativity going!