Whether you started the year with a bang and are still pulling confetti out of your hair, or decided to lay low on New Year’s Eve, odds are the start of 2020 invited deeper introspection on past accomplishments, present life, and future goals. The new year is a great time to reinvest in our practices and find new ways to reignite diminishing passion. Doing so may be as simple as meeting up with fellow creatives to build upon each other’s energy or diving into an exciting daily challenge to hold yourself artistically accountable.

We asked a handful of creatives to share the ways in which they plan to nurture their creative energy in 2020 and jumped into Mari Andrew’s new class on creative transformation to bring you recommendations for exploring your passions this year. 

Attend a Local Art Fair

“Although some can be a bit overwhelming due to their immense size, attending this type of an event can be a great way to get inspired and see what styles and ideas are currently bouncing around the cultural zeitgeist,” says Ben Moon, a painter who’s exhibited his works around the world since obtaining his BFA from Tulane University. “It’s always fascinating to see the different ways artists address the various ideas which are flowing through the collective consciousness at any given time.”

Moon likens art fairs to farmers’ markets for creatives and adds that they’re a great way to also meet and interact with local artists, craftspeople, and others who share your appreciation of the “aesthetic life.” In addition to art fairs, seek out city art walks, and new exhibits or installations at local museums and galleries. 

Commit to an Easy Daily Art Challenge

A surefire way to rally your creative spirit is to commit to a daily artful challenge. The goal is to keep it simple and approachable versus overwhelming and time-consuming. For example, in 2018 Skillshare teacher Mari Andrew decided to create one drawing every day for an entire year and held herself accountable by posting her work to Instagram. Not only did she inspire herself, but along the way she inspired others to follow suit and is now embarking on her third year of the challenge.

If you’re a writer, maybe the challenge is to write one quick poem a day, or to add a certain number of words to your book. If you’re a large-scale oil painter, maybe the challenge is to dedicate 10 minutes every day to your craft. Whatever the case, keep it achievable and fun.

Find Inspiration in Your Surroundings

In this exercise, Andrew suggests looking outward for inspiration and firing up your observation powers. “So the way I use creativity in my life, especially to process what’s going on, is sort of half-appreciation, observation, looking around me,” says Andrew. “And then half of it is transforming experiences into something beautiful or meaningful and ultimately sharing with others.” For Andrew, a key piece of creativity is quieting down daily distractions and connecting to the present moment.

Watch the video above for steps on giving your environment your full attention and capturing the emotions and thoughts a place may contain in an easy illustration.

Enjoy Phone-Free Walks

“Getting out into the world is so important, especially when I’m feeling creatively blocked,” says Jamie Lee Sanders, a beauty and fashion writer. “I love taking a walk around my neighborhood without listening to music or a podcast and keeping my phone in my pocket or purse. That way, I really focus on what’s around me and it helps me connect to the world in a larger way. The fresh air always unblocks whatever has been happening in my brain, too.”

 If you’re looking for more purpose in your walk, you could also try forest bathing (mindfully taking in the atmosphere of nature around you), hiking in modest foothills for a little exercise, or simply taking a longer, perhaps more scenic walk to your favorite local coffee shop.

Collect Everything That Inspires You

Moon says that keeping an inspiration portfolio was one of his very first assignments in art school and that activity has formed a habit he’s maintained and recommended since. The idea is to create a list — maybe it’s a folder on your computer, a journal, or a list in your phone’s notes — that’s full of things that have inspired you.

Animated illustration from Skillshare student Karen C. for Libby VanderPloeg’s class    Animation for Illustration: Adding Movement with Procreate & Photoshop   .
Animated illustration from Skillshare student Karen C. for Libby VanderPloeg’s class Animation for Illustration: Adding Movement with Procreate & Photoshop.

“As you go about your daily activities, take note of anything you come across which strikes you as visually stimulating, inspiring, funny, or thought-provoking. If it’s possible to take that object and place it in your portfolio, do that. Otherwise, capture an image using your camera and place it in the folder on your computer,” he says. “It won’t seem like much at first, but after a little while, you will begin to build up a biographical cross-section of the things around you which impacted your life on an emotional level. These can be great to use as ‘found objects’ in a mixed media piece, or merely for daily inspiration.”

He adds that he also likes this exercise because it teaches us to be more present and aware of how different images can impact us.

Tune in to an Inspiring Podcast

One way to incorporate creativity into your routine is to tune into a podcast that engages and inspires you. “It’s so easy to get bogged down with what we are doing creatively, [wondering] if we’re doing enough or if what we’re doing is good enough. I like listening to podcasts with actors and musicians to hear from other creative people about their process and how they continue to stay creative in those situations,” says Sanders. “It also helps to keep me grounded as a creative person to know we’re all going through struggles, challenges, and wins — no matter how big or small our careers may be.”

Some excellent options include Longform Podcast, Talk Art, Creative Pep Talk, Hurry Slowly, Design Matters, Creative Rebels and Chasing Creative.

Indulge in a ‘Paint & Sip’ Night (or Host Your Own)

Watercolor from Skillshare Top Teacher Marie-Noëlle Wurm.
Watercolor from Skillshare Top Teacher Marie-Noëlle Wurm.

Many creatives can relate to that feeling of “not being good enough” or having to be absolutely perfect that Sanders alluded to. Having a silly, no-pressure “paint & sip” night can help you tap into the pure joy of the creative process versus an outcome.

 “Remember when you were a kid able to sit down with a blank sheet of paper, and just fill it with colors or any old thing you feel, free of any judgment based on quality or value? As adults, we are trained to place so much importance on the finished product, but as inherently creative beings it’s essential to just exercise this impulse to create,” says Moon. “These are like muscles that must be worked out, otherwise they will experience atrophy which ends up negatively affecting us in many other areas of our lives.”

Feel free to host your own paint and sip night, either with friends or solo. Try following along to a Bob Ross episode or ask guests to bring in a picture of their pet to trace. 

Collaborate with a Child

For the same reason Moon indulges in paint & sip nights, he also recommends collaborating with an adult or young person if you have the chance. “It can be a drawing or painting, but it could also be a cooking project, or designing a space or outfit. Once again, the nature of the activity itself is less important than just getting involved,” he urges. “The creative energy of the young person is often catching. It’s so inspiring and informative to see the way they relate to different topics and experience things from a fresh perspective.”

Whether you try all the above or pick and choose from the list, we hope that 2020 yields a creatively fulfilling year for you.  


Thumbnail/cover image by Skillshare student Ellie S. for Emiliano Ponzi’s Skillshare Original, The Art of Illustration: Find, Develop and Express Your Creative Voice.