Art Burnout vs Art Battles
and how to tell the difference
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and all discussions about mental health below are my own personal opinion and experience.
If you do not share my opinion or experience that is also valid and I support you.
We’ve all been there as artists. That place where you don’t want to do this anymore. You know the one. You’re tired, you’re frustrated- you want this feeling to pass but you aren’t sure how to get over it. At some point, you wonder if you will ever draw again…
No one’s art journey is linear. There are ebbs and flows, highs and lows, and many of us feel that flux in a very personal way. But there are different types of “downs” that we have as artists, and they are often addressed in very different ways. The hard part, for me at least, is knowing which “down” I am experiencing- and addressing it appropriately. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve googled/searched “art burn out”, looking for a remedy to my pain. Some people will tell you to take a break, while others tell you to push through it. Unfortunately, if you pick the wrong one it might make it worse.
I narrowed down my own lows in my art journey to situations I will call “art battles” and “art burnout”.
When you watch videos/ read articles about the plateaus in the art journey that can make you feel like you aren’t progressing- that, for me, is an art battle. You are probably already familiar with the fact that our eyes’ ability to discern details and errors in our art typically develops faster than our brains’ ability to realize what it is (and then, improve our technique to correct it). Staring at the screen/canvas/page/whatever for hours while not being able to put your finger on it… that’s so frustrating. That frustration can lead to wanting to stop or take a break.
But when your issue is development, stopping wont help. It’s times like these where I push through the pain and keep drawing. Practice makes better, and if you stop practicing you will stop getting better. Our creative brains are like a muscle. A little strain is good, breaking down the tissue to build it up stronger. No pain, no gain.
Continuing with the muscle analogy- there is a limit. You can push yourself through the pain to become better…until you hit your true limit. If you push too far past the limit as an athlete, you can wind up with serious injury. As an artist, that feeling of wanting to stop because you’re too tired is art burnout.
With the constant push for art to consume on social media, we find ourselves producing material faster and faster. As we push out more work and the creative well runs dry, we need to take breaks. It’s even more frustrating when you have a million ideas you want to draw/make, but you’ve hit a wall and your brain just cannot process it. It’s running on E and it’s just not going to happen (I call that creative constipation– yes you can laugh). At times like these, I choose to take a break.
A lot of times removing the pressure of “having to produce” something makes it easier for me to draw, so my breaks end up shorter than I intend…hah!
How do you know the difference?
For me, these are some indicators that let me know if I have come across an art battle, or art burnout:
- I start things but don’t finish them
- I like working on ONE part of my WIPS (e.g. sketching vs line-art vs coloring)
- Whatever I’m drawing just isn’t right
- I still want to draw, but I get mad/frustrated
- Looking at references gets me motivated
- Thinking about drawing makes me tired/sad
- I don’t want to work on WIPS or start new things
- Looking at references doesn’t give me motivation
- I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not drawing
Breaks are valid, and pushing through the slump is valid.
However you process the struggles of your art journey that helps you is always the best way to go. These are just some of my own musings that might help you process your own feelings.
Do you have art battles or art burnout? How often? What do you do about it? Let us know in the comments below!