LISA MALTBY Illustration & Lettering


Welcome to my blog where I post about all things creative, from my latest food illustrations, design work and hand lettering doodles, to articles about freelancing and creativity. I hope you like my posts.

Having a bad art day? Here's how to feel good about your work.

We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all had those days where you can’t even seem to draw a stick man right, let alone approach people with a portfolio of work. I had one of those days last week – frustrated that my brain couldn’t quite connect with my pencil and create something half decent. It’s in those moments where you start to believe you’ve lost all ability to draw, as though all your creative juices have been sapped out of you by some envious left brained monster. You start getting angry at your wonky attempt of a drawing of a hand, rubbing out pencil markings and drowning in piles of rubber crumbs. You look at your work and want to throw it out the window – not just today’s, but a whole bloody decade of work: It’s all shit and it’s going out of the window. 

Or is that just me?

If you’re a creative person you will probably find that your opinion if your work will go up and down like a yoyo. In fact, I would bet any money that Michael Angelo and Leonardo Da Vinci had those days too (and I in no way compare my work to their genius!). The fact it, that as an artist you probably have ideas going through your mind all day, you’re essentially a continual problem solver, trying to visualise the things that are important in the best way possible. Because of this, you will go from one idea to the next, trying to perfect your work or trying new concepts or techniques. And the inevitable happens: you find yourself out of your comfort zone trying to push new boundaries. It’s because of this that having bad art days is perfectly normal: good, even. You need the, in order to progress and try new things or push ideas to their limits, if there is ever such a thing. So if, like me, you feel crap about your work at the moment it is probably a good indication that you’re on the right path. 

However, that still doesn’t take away the fact that you don’t feel great about it. How are you meant to pick yourself up and carry on? How are you meant to do so with gusto? Well, here are my thoughts on how to feel encouraged when you’re having a bad art day.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Okay, so this is a big one. I saw an amazing artist’s work the other day and felt like I could never achieve what she has, until I figured that she probably has plenty of bad art days herself. And hey, you never know, people might look at my work and think the same. If I tried to do my work like anyone else then I wouldn’t be being true to myself and I’d probably create bad work anyway. Get inspiration from others where you can but learn to think of your work as an entirely different entity, as though it would be on a par with getting inspiration from a piece of music or a scene from nature.

2. Think about what makes you unique.

Part of not comparing yourself to others is acknowledging that you are an original and you need to embrace what makes you unique. What is it about your work that stands out from other people’s? Is it the materials you use? The characters you create? The unique perspective? The way you see things will be different to everyone else, even those similar to you. Explore how your work is different and develop that side of it.

3. Make sure your subjects inspire you.

You need to be true to yourself and your work needs to reflect your passions and interests, no matter how quirky they are (in fact, the quirkier the better!). There’s no use creating work where you feel the subject is uninspiring, just because it’s in fashion or because someone else has had success with it. People can detect authenticity a mile off so make sure you are genuine in your pursuit of creating inspiring artwork. 

4. Look back at what you’ve achieved. 

If you care enough to pursue your passion then you WILL have improved in some way, no matter how small you think that is. Look back at your achievements - the people have have encouraged your work along the way. Note any particular milestones: whether that’s a degree or simply the first time you managed to use a pencil more than your rubber.

5. Take a break.

Spend some time away from your work. You may just need some space to let your mind rest. Looking at other things can also spur a bit of creativity and in fact most great ideas come when you least expect it. Take a mental break and go for a walk or take a bath and come back to your work with fresh eyes.

Once you come back to it you will probably feel a whole lot better and you’ll probably have new ideas to explore. So don’t dwell on the down days and focus on the positive, before you know it you’ll be back in the game and somebody else will be looking at your work and thinking, I wish I had created that.