Burnout: The Artist’s Greatest Enemy?

There’s nothing worse than that creeping feeling of doubt. We’ve all felt it before at one point or another. Is my art good enough? Will I ever land that art job I’ve been dreaming about? Will I ever really be able to make money at this? Am I going to do well at this next convention?

Things have been winding down and gearing up for me all at the same time. With the end of one big project, I’m finding myself in search of another and completely overwhelmed by trying to rope more means of income AND keep my portfolio up to date at the same time. I’m also in overdrive at the thought of doing more conventions this year, which I’ve only ever done a couple in the past. Just seems like there isn’t enough time to prep inventory and create new works!

This burnout phase follows another realization that a creative professional cannot merely hope to make a living from a single royalty check from a single book. I knew the statistics before, but nothing brings statistics to life more than when you get to that point in your life and realize your paycheck will not be enough to pay rent.

An artist (or a writer) must have many prospects going to call it ‘a living’. When last I checked, that average was 20 books to an author’s name before they could live off of royalty checks alone. For an artist, this also means pursuing various streams of income, from licensing, to commissions, to selling prints, and the ever daunting task of putting forth one’s portfolio to various companies of interest for that one job that adds a bit more cash to your money pot.

Argh it is a wicked game, this art industry! I’ve had to step back from it all and try to regain my focus. I’ve tried a few things that seem to be keeping the edge off:

* Video Games – Yes I know, ‘time suck’ you say! But nothing keeps your brain from overthinking more when you have a repetitive and completely reality unrelated task to focus on. Not to mention games like Folklore always get my art muse going again with its artful designs and surreal worlds. Yes, I confess I’ve even tried WarCrack (Warcraft) for the first time recently! (Shhh!) We are only human and cannot work every single moment of the day and night without losing some sanity!

* Making Lists – Being the visual person that I am, it helps to list out all of my ideas for projects, my goals for my career and also prospects I’m hoping to work for. It’s amazing how many you might have forgotten just from worrying so much! You may have more going for you than you realize when you list things out.

* Scheduling – It’s easy to get overwhelmed and then lose track of just where you’re going when you work at home. I’ve been leaning heavily on Google Calendar these days to keep me on track. There’s nothing like looking at the agenda and realizing that yes I do have physical goals that will pay off in the form of conventions and events.

* Return to NatureA lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

I always think of Thoreau when I’m feeling burned out. I like to sit by the pond and watch the dragonflies buz about in dizzy colors and think of just what paint hues make up the sky. Nothing refills my muse and sense of peace better than quieting the mind and meditating in a tranquil place. The internet, computers, and constant worrying about promotion can really distract from what’s most important.

* Switching Gears – Instead of sketching at night, I’ve taken to working on other skillsets, from leatherworking to my old bad habit for creative writing. Writing, especially, is something I’d like to do as a conjoined part of an illustration career, but it’s somehow fallen to the wayside next to art these days. It feels good to get back to it again and get to know these characters who used to be such a big part of what inspired my art in the past.

So here I am…hitting the ‘Reset’ button on my current lack of motivation for art. I’m certain I’ll rise up from this slump with a little spit and shine. Thankfully, for me it is a lack of motivation and not a lack of ideas!

Till then, won’t you share your strategies for easing burnout? I’d love to hear them!


  1. Coty says:

    Hum… I am not much into videogames, especially since I do digital art and when I am dying to get away of the screen I really do not want to stare at the screen some more! XD
    I read, and I exercise. I have found that running helps me bring the stress levels down like crazy. I might be in the most stressful situation and after a good run I feel awesome! and I am ready to go back to work. Also baking brings my stress down.

  2. Angela Sasser says:

    Boy do I wish baking was stress relief for me! That would be so much fun XD

    Exercise is good help too. I like to take long walks to clear my head when the weather’s nice, I just find myself avoiding it so much! I really do need to get back into it…better for my own health too!

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