Do Artists Need to Be Creative All the Time?

Do Artists Need to Be Creative All the Time?

This question reveals the belief that was one of the main reasons I didn't go to an art school. On top of it, there were other beliefs from other people that deviated me from the art academy but that's not the point here and I want to reflect on my own belief at the time.

The belief that artists must be constantly creative can lead to unrealistic expectations and undue pressure. Contrary to popular belief, artists don't need to be in a perpetual state of creative output. In this article, I want to explore what happens in an artist's life. As I decided to change my professional path and become the artist I should be from the very beginning, now I understand how wrong I was. Artists' productivity must not be interpreted as employee productivity working for a company. Yes, I've been there too, I know what I'm talking about. Creativity is a special quality and cannot be forced. Asking an artist to create something new on a tight deadline is like forcing a child to focus on something he/she doesn't want to at the moment. You need a bit of wisdom to achieve that.

Creativity cannot be sustained indefinitely. Artists often benefit from taking intentional breaks to recharge and gain fresh perspectives. This doesn't mean that artists are never able to meet deadlines. Of course, they can. Let's take a look at what encompasses a creative process. It can be divided typically into 4 stages:

Preparation - This initial stage involves gathering inspiration, conducting research, and exploring various sources of ideas. Artists may immerse themselves in different art forms, study historical and contemporary works, or engage in activities that stimulate creativity. The goal is to lay the foundation for the subsequent stages by broadening knowledge and sparking initial ideas.

Exploration - In this stage, they may engage in activities that promote reflection, introspection, and subconscious processing. Experimentation, brainstorming, and exploring different possibilities and directions for their work happen here. Artists may sketch, make notes, create mood boards, or engage in free writing to further develop their ideas.

Development - Here the ideas are refined and developed. This stage involves shaping the concept, clarifying the vision, and making decisions regarding composition, style, and technique. Artists may create sketches, mock-ups, or storyboards to visualize their work more tangibly. They may also experiment with materials, colors, or digital tools to bring their ideas closer to fruition.

Execution - This final stage involves translating the refined idea into the actual artwork. Artists employ their chosen mediums and techniques to bring their vision to life. They work through the technical and practical aspects of their craft, using their skills and expertise to execute their artistic concept. This stage requires dedication, focus, and attention to detail as the artwork takes shape.

1 photo of bambu from below to serve as inspiration and 1 photo of Andreia Melo exploring and painting outside. These are sources of inspiration for artists in their creative breaks. Photo used in Andreia Melo blog article from her work as an illustrator and surface designer.

It may happen to go back and forth between stages, refining and adjusting some ideas as they progress. This process is highly individual, and artists may have their unique approaches and variations within these stages.

Imagine now that after finishing a project, another begins, and another after this one, and so forth. And in between, there are no pauses, time to reflect, or rest. This would be so stressful that a human being could not handle it. This is not real at all. Have you ever thought about why there are times that we unexpectedly have a new idea and times that it happens during our sleep? Creative jobs cannot be squeezed into a 9 to 5 schedule.

Between projects, it is necessary to have time to relax, enjoy the work done before, celebrate it, and recharge from it. This period of non-creation is very important because it's this quality time that will make an impact on the next creative loop. If you're an artist and you're reading this, don't forget to engage in activities that bring you joy and restore your energy. I can give you some examples: reading, taking walks, spending time with people you love and making you happy, paying attention to some personal project you left pending sometime ago, or dedicating yourself to a hobby.

If you feel like you'd be wasting your time doing that because you have a business to run and tons of things to do, you can still focus on non-creative tasks related to your business. Plan the next month or quarter, plan the editorial line for social media, and reflect on what is working and what's not. Finish bureaucratic pending tasks, etc.

Of course, it's not mandatory to make a break between every project if you don't feel the need for that. But the break will happen sooner or later and when it does, don't get frustrated or feel blocked because it's normal. As I said before, there are plenty of things to fill in the blanks. And the better you spend the break time, the better you'll be feeding your next creation.

When you feel ready for the next creation, there is a lot you can do to inspire yourself. Inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. By exploring other art forms, attending performances, visiting galleries or museums, watching movies, etc. Observing or doing something different will feed your mind with new ideas. My favorite source of inspiration is nature. I love observing landscapes, smelling the scents from outside, and watching the colors, shapes, and textures. I like to signup for courses to learn something new and also make experiments with different mediums with no special purpose in mind.

If you belong to an artistic community, connecting with fellow artists to share experiences is very beneficial. Participating in workshops or other activities with like-minded creatives may help in getting new perspectives.

Examples of activities that artists can do when they have creative breaks or blocks. Image used in blog article written by Andreia Melo, illustrator and surface designer.

The belief that artists must be in a constant state of creativity is a myth. I sadly believed in that many years ago but today, I'm sure it's a myth. Don't let this belief block any of your decisions. By embracing periods of non-creation, seeking inspiration from varied sources, and engaging in collaborative activities or projects, artists can cultivate a sustainable and fulfilling creative practice. Recognizing the importance of rest and drawing inspiration from diverse experiences ultimately leads to the creation of more authentic, meaningful, and enduring artwork. Being both creative and non-creative makes part of an artist's life.

Andreia Melo

Read more articles here.

Back to blog


I love this blog post Andreia but when do you know when your creative break has gone on too long? How do you know if your just being lazy or discouraged. I’ve been in a non-creative rut for 5 month! I started this year out with so many ideas and goals the thé rug got pulled out from under me and I can’t seem to get back on track.

Lisa Vanalen

this article is terrific!! and soooo true.. thank you for writing it .. hope it will help others to give them self permission to take those breaks that are imperative to succeed for the long road ..

nora kag

Leave a comment