Sometimes it feels like you live in two worlds: in one you’re an artist riding waves of creativity, in the other, you’re beholden to daily life’s distractions and demands.

It’s all too easy to drop down from “artist mode” into “regular real person” (RRP) mode. The hard part is getting back up – it’s no simple matter to pull your often overworked self out of the endless stream of ordinary daily emergencies otherwise known as Life, let alone raise enough energy to tackle a new creative exercise.

So, here are three creativity “hacks” – not exercises, just simple things you can do. In fact, they all come down to just looking at pictures.

Look at Pictures on Your Phone

Scroll through the pictures on your phone. You may be different, but I have thousands of photos on my phone (stored in the “cloud” online, actually), and a good deal of them have something to do with art. Either these are images of places and scenes I thought would make a good painting, or they’re photos of my work or of other peoples’ paintings. I’m constantly taking photos of things that interest me visually. Even if you’re not a rabid collector of raw material for paintings, you’ll probably find a photo of something you’d forgotten you did with someone, or on your own, and it’ll spark an idea for a painting.

Every time I scroll through a bunch of my older images, some from years ago now, I think, “Wow – why haven’t I made paintings from these?” Often they’ll suggest a whole new series I can’t wait to get started on. The trick here though is actually following through and making the paintings this inspires. Otherwise, you’ll just find yourself on some other day not far in the future scrolling through your photos thinking, “Wow – why haven’t I made paintings from these?”

Look at Pictures Online

Algorithms at work:

Overload your brain with images from galleries. Pick a favorite contemporary artist and visit their Website. Look up what galleries they’re in and visit the websites of those galleries. Check out all the other work by other artists, pick one, and visit that artist’s website and gallery, and keep going. Stock your visual memory.

Other great rabbit holes to fall into can be found on Instagram and the image-collecting website Pinterest. I save tons of images on my phone and computer that make me want to make art, and the ones that really make me want to make art end up becoming visual prompts and points of departure for entirely new paintings, for which the only rule is that it can’t look like the originals that inspired them.

Again, there’s no point in doing this and then not getting to work. You’re inviting the muse to your house – but when the muse knocks, you’d better open the door or she’ll think you’re not interested and accept a standing invitation to someone else’s house one block over.

Look at Pictures in Person

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons

Actually visit a local gallery or museum. Seriously, do this. Going out of your way to see other peoples’ work, famous and not so famous, in person, has so many benefits for an artist – there’s no substitute for how paintings affect you when you’re there and deducing how the work was made. It’s also a great place to meet other artists and art lovers.

There’s no easier way to get motivated, to envision the art you think should exist in the world and to find yourself working at your peak to make it.

Fall Color Week Wraps Up in Reds and Fiery Yellows

Today, the plein air painters attending Eric Rhoads’ 2022 annual Fall Color Week artists’ retreat folded their easels away at this year’s location, Acadia, Maine. Acadia is famous for its National Park, which protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coast. At 4 million visits a year, it’s one of the country’s top ten most-visited national parks. Painters, of course, have been flocking to Maine’s unspoiled wild places and dramatic coastlines since the 19th century, and no doubt they will continue to do so for years to come.