Lost Your Mojo? Just DRAW!

February 12, 2021

One would think that with all the time we now have at our disposal – thanks to the pandemic – that we artists would be cranking out work, churning out piece after piece. Maybe you are, and if so – great. But, for most artists I’ve talked to – that is not the case. I can admit that my creativity and productivity has taken a bit of a blow this past year.

It’s hard to practice when there is no gig. With exhibits, art shows, and festivals at a near stand-still, it’s hard to get motivated for an uncertain future. By using nearly all of our physical and mental energy to just get through the day, it’s hard to remember WHY we make art in the first place – it makes us feel good. Creative people need to create. We are driven to create. It fills a void in us and lights up our pleasure centers in our brains. It’s rewarding on so many levels. So, what can we do if we don’t have any energy, no motivation, and no reason to make art? How do we get our mojo back?

Just draw anything. That’s right. Raid the kitchen, grab some silverware and some coffee cups. Wad up a sheet of paper. Make a still life. Grab some toys from the kids’ room. Make some popcorn and try to draw their weird forms. Draw your cat that’s been lying around. He’s not going anywhere. Empty your pockets and draw the contents. Watch Netflix and randomly pause the screen and draw quick thumbnail sketches of what you see.

Sometimes I get a bit of an option paralysis when it comes to making art – wondering what I should create, whether or not it will be good enough or if it will fit into my overall body of work. But, we’re not going to worry about that. This isn’t exhibition-level work. We’re getting in shape. This is exercise. We need to move some muscles, get the blood pumping, and activate some neurons. 

Drawing is a great art-making activity because it requires so little in the way of materials. In my basic drawing classes that I’ve been teaching (virtually via Zoom) for the Art Center of the Bluegrass, I purposely do not require a hefty supply list for the students. They can get by with a number two pencil and typing paper if they’d like. Of course, they can upgrade their materials and experiment with different media if they’d rather. I certainly don’t discourage good materials. I even had one student use an iPad. My basic principle is that drawing is the skill you can take with you. It’s totally portable. You can doodle on napkins in restaurants.   You can draw with a stick on sand at the beach. 

During the pandemic, I’ve been feeling a bit guilty – thinking to myself, “am I using this time wisely?” And of course, I haven’t technically been using it wisely. I’ve been binge watching Gilmore Girls and fighting hordes of zombies on the Xbox – the same way you’ve been (insert your own guilty pleasure here). Is that so wrong? And of course the answer is – it’s OK. It’s your time. You do with it what you want. BUT- I find that if I’m drawing, I can convince my conscience that I’m doing something valuable, because I am. There is no time wasted by drawing. Every moment that you spend putting lines on paper, you are getting better. I can’t think of any artist that ever got worse by drawing more. When drawing, you are building foundational skills that will help you no matter what your medium is or how abstract or non-representational your work is.
So, what are you waiting for – go draw something. Anything! I promise you’ll feel better if you do. 

You may not be creating a masterpiece for your next big exhibition, buy you are getting one step closer.