How To Turn Demotivation Into Productivity

The situation I´m writing about in this post will be familiar to many artists out there:

This post is about how to overcome struggling with demotivation to inspire new energies.

Regardless if technical skill, ability or creativity, it is difficult for any emerging artist to keep up with the sheer volume and talent that is out there. And I´m not talking about finding your niche or style, I´m just putting the greatness to the table and how it is perceived vs. how it should be perceived.

If you are good or think you are good, its even though a hard game to stay on par with the industry´s top talent. Reinventing yourself from time to time helps, but many are to strictly into their routine that there is the slightest chance to deliver their "Best work", which is a pity btw.

Many of these great artists work in entertainment studios, 10 hours a day for 20 years, no wonder that lunchtime sketches look like masterpieces, but that isn´t the result of having a muse kiss their arse, it is the result of hard work over a long period of time. I´m also not talking about any hyped prodigies that sell shit for 100k on Christies, I prefer to talk about the skillful arts and the living artists as well.

Demotivation is just part of the problem, first there was admiration, that is the right word and way of treating other artists work. However if you are an artist yourself, this works only until a certain point. The point where your objectivity becomes subjectivity and forces you to either give up or get better and since it is easier to ignore what others do or say, people keep on celebrating their work or give up on it and ignore others to push it further and then wonder why only 1% of artschool graduates can make a living from their art.

First words of relief here: It will never stop, even the big known artists admire others for their style or body of work.

They just figured out a way to overcome this and turn the depression into productivity. The byproduct of being an artist is that you can eat art for lunch and therefore see and know a lot what´s happening or trending. This means any successful working artist has besides the goal to master their techniques, also a huge visual vocabulary of moods, scenes, libraries of poses and strategies to overcome hurdles. No one can replace this by using a filter in Photoshop.

This post is about my technique/approach to turn demotivation into productivity. Trust me, I see a lot of other artists work and as artist myself I know how hard it is to keep up. It is a lifelong battle to get statistics on where you are located, to estimate how far it is to go yet, only to find that you still have to get better... and to overcome this there is only persistence.

The image below pretty much sums the struggle up (source: imgur)

When looking through different communities, portfolio pages or art sites in general or be it just my fb-friends posts on facebook, (Lunch sketches from Anthony Jones for example) then it is usually no way out and either I´m depressed or I´ve stay motivated to keep in gear.

I chose the latter.

It is vital to describe the things that lead to an eventual depression,. In most cases it boils down to the following sentence:"Why didn´t I came up with this?"

The answer to this, from a psychological point of view, is very simple; because we focus too much on our problems as a result we are not open minded enough for any objective, different and non-linear solutions.

When browsing through my "Inspiration folder" there´s very much different kinds of art and techniques in the mix:

Also, have a look at my deviantArt favorites to get a more vivid impression of the art that I like and appreciate:

The thing that can be depressing has potential in serving you, thanks to the internet.
It just depends on the point of view and the mental attitude towards the world. If you are a person with less social skills, you´ll have a hard time to appreciate my advice here. If your sociable and also share what you learn, you´ll find this easy as pie.

The folder filled with inspirational artworks like the screencap above is very mixed. When I work on a specific type of project, let´s take a very recent work as an example, I narrow down the inspirational works to the essence of what I want to convey. This doesn´t necessarily mean that every aspect of any given iamge has to be included in my work, but it is a visual reminder of what I liked about the reference piece in the first place.

This can essentially look like the following screenshot which resembles a good way to organize references around your workspace:

The digital workflow allows for that, so why not utilizing this? On the sketching table usually magazines would frame the workplace, this is so much less chaotic! You can delete the references later when you are done with your work to fill up the canvas. I use these references as a visual reminder for a style or element, composition or expression that I want to achieve. In a commission it can help to stick to a certain art direction, fashion, palette, you name it.

That gives me the ultimate direction-filter that I apply to the folder in which I collect images for a specific project.

The image above started with a portrait and the outcome is surely inspired by all these artists, but absolutely my own, if you know where the inspiration does stem from you can see the relation without infringing any rights.

This is a topic many known artists are surprisingly silent about, but many do work in the same manner and working commercially requires that too. As commercially working artist you will be often asked  if you can convey a style without copying or infringing someones rights.
I do these works just for personal pleasure and to learn something new, but they also help me to nurture my abilities in the commercial works as well. And it is a nice tribute to all the great artists too.

Maybe this tip helps you as well, let me know in a comment if you have any questions or to cover a topic in the future.

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. I was really happy to come across this post this morning as I was struggling with that demotivation last night. I like your take on it, it's not something artists often speak of. One other piece of advice I came across on this subject was to stop looking at other people's artwork for a while and focus on your own. I do think both ways can work, however for me personally I'm more inclined to do as you and keep a big folder of inspirational images that I browse through before beginning a new illustration.

    Thank you for the great article, I will be sharing this one for sure, I know many who struggle with this issue.

    1. Hi Kiri, thanks for your comment, glad this post helped you, I find it hard to not look at art, butto change perception might be a working solution. I found another graph that shows pretty much how we see ourselves we really do (updated this post with the image as well, but you can find it here too: cheers!



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