Artistic Temperament – What to Do When it Strikes!

As artists, we often become frustrated with ourselves if we struggle with a painting or creative project.  When ‘artistic temperament’ kicks in, our friends and family look at us with worry and fear that we might be the next coming of Van Gogh!

The story of Van Gogh’s ear will most likely remain a mystery, but one theory states that he cut off his ear lobe after trying to drink a quart of turpentine in his studio.  Well, that proves it… he must have been having a bad painting day – haha!

Okay, all joking aside…I have days where I let my painting frustrations ruin a good and beautiful afternoon and I’m sure you have too.  In fact, just learning how to blog can really frustrate me and I can easily let myself have that old negative artistic temperament.  Notice the recurring word – let? Yes, we actually let or allow ourselves to get upset.  Now, that statement may have upset you – but, think about it.  We all have control over our thoughts.  It is simply the way we react to the current situation (i.e. bad painting day, etc.)  And I know ‘that’ is easier said than done!  And…I NEED TO PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH! So how does an artist guard against those feelings of irritability or discouragement?

Here are some easy anti-stress tips:

  • Take time to get some fresh air.  The sun and air do wonders for an artist who spends her/his time in a stuffy, fumy studio.
  • Meditate
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Take a coffee break (decaf if you are battling stress) A fifteen minute break can give you a fresh prospective.
  • Go to the gym.
  • Or…( and I like this one) go to your art supply store and treat yourself to some new brushes!  Happy brushes help to make happy painting time.
  • Check your work habits!
  • Catch up on the business side of your art.  Getting some of that out of the way always makes me feel better…clean your studio or catch up on laundry, dishes, paperwork.
  • Clean your studio…yes, here it is again.  A cluttered studio leads to a cluttered mind.
  • Take a day off!!!  Maybe you are working too hard.  It is ok to take a day for yourself.  Do something you enjoy.
  • Go to run some errands.
  • Call or visit with some fellow artists.  Misery loves company!
  • Put the trouble painting away for a few days.  Turn it to the wall and don’t look at it!
  • Watch an instructional video.
  • Look through inspiring art books of your favorite painters.
  • Browse the web.

I could keep going, but you get the general idea.  I like to exercise each day.  That way I can take my aggressions out in the gym.  I also listen to classical music and I generally have a small fountain flowing.  But, some days it is just better to know when to walk away!

Cheers- Lori

PS. Let’s meet on Facebook and Twitter! ~Lori

You may also enjoy reading:

Feeling Unproductive in the Studio or Office? How to Combat Spring Fever

Top Paint Brush Tips from the Art Pros on Facebook

Go ‘Green Clean’ – Purify the Air in Your Studio or Office with House Plants!

How to Choose the Right Paint Brush for the Art Technique

Water Soluble Oils: Facts, Tips & Why I Use Them

A Study in Complimentary Colors using Yin Yang

Turn an Altoid Box into a Mini Watercolor Set

Palette Tips: How to Organize Your Paints

2013-11-02T21:40:34+00:00 February 11th, 2009|General, Inspiration & Motivation, Misc. Articles|23 Comments


  1. Amy Crawley March 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Hi Lori,

    Great reminders that as artists we sometimes get so absorbed in our work that we forget to take a break…and that taking a break is healthy and may help us resolve any problems we’re encountering in the studio.


  2. Martine March 20, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    O, yes, I certainly know the feeling… but music helps me trough it. And don’t forget the food, especially chocolate can make a huge difference *wink*

    Your site is really nice, I found it through Twitter and added you to my favourites. Keep up the great work!

    All the best from the Netherlands, x Martine

  3. Ana March 21, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Very good article, Lori, totally in agreement. They are a few very guessed right councils

  4. Marisa and Creative Thursday March 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    thanks Lori!! this is such a great reminder ~ thank you for sharing your list. I have one similar written in my sketchbook…I call it my “in case of emergency” list 🙂

  5. Nancy April 9, 2009 at 8:04 am

    I enjoy your information so much, because I am a fairly new painter(4 yrs), it is all a big help. I have come to find that if I am not ‘FEELING’ the painting…to NOT paint at that moment. I have messed up two that I should have walked away from for the day. One I finished and the other still waiting patiently for me to fix/finish it. 🙂 I am going to definitely go over your list next time I attempt to work on my paintings. I’m glad I picked your site, which I found on Twitter…you’re a great teacher of techniques and of other info!!! You’re a faav! Nancy in North Carolina

  6. Helen April 24, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Great information Lori. Yes, been there, a few times. When I am having problems with a design concept or my writing, I take a few deep cleansing breaths and mediate. Then I take a walk, fresh air is great it clears the mind. Then when I come back, I sit in my favorite chair, usually the cat will sit with me and I find his deep purrs relaxing. I will take my sketch book, or my idea book as I call it, and just start sketching, or, if ideas come for my writing I write them down to come back to later. Usually, I then can go back to my drawing table and continue to work.

  7. Jared May October 24, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Good tips. 🙂

  8. Brad Sears April 4, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Glad the link to this post was repeated. The advice is spot-on.

    • Lori McNee April 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks Brad! I am glad you enjoyed this article. Often times I write these ideas to help myself as well as others. This post was one of those…
      Hope to see you here again – Lori 🙂

  9. The Animated Woman April 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Such great advice. I was taking a break after a long day of frustration with my Wacom and then my Cintiq, doing the very last thing on your list – browsing the web – when I came across this post.


    • Lori McNee April 13, 2011 at 7:28 am

      Great seeing you here. I am so glad this post resinated with you. I have had days like that too, thus the reason why I wrote the article! It’s good to know you found this site by browsing.

      Happy creating-
      Lori 🙂

  10. Lucy Chen July 7, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Good tips, Lori. But I have to say that when I get frustrated with a painting and go to do something else and ended up not painting much that day, I am just as frustrated and upset with myself, too.

    • Lori McNee July 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      Yes we are all so hard on ourselves! But, I think that is what keeps us coming back for more. We don’t give up and we expect improvement – and finally, it comes. Thanks Lucy!

  11. Vivian McLean September 23, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Good Morning
    Love your art work
    Finally someone can teach color and how to apply
    I will apply Van Gogh colors to my portrait
    Thanks so much Painted Lady Vivian
    Painted Lady is a butterfly
    Have a good day Vivian

    • Lori McNee October 24, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      Thank you Vivian. I appreciate your comment and thoughts…

  12. Vivian McLean September 23, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Good Morning Love your art work finally someone can teach color and how to apply I will apply
    Van Gogh colors to my portraits Thanks so much Painted Lady (painted lady is a butterfly
    Have a good day Vivian Alberta Canada

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