Ever feel you can't paint any more?

Do you ever get the feeling that you can’t paint any more?

I’m very strict with myself and I know that I have to cross a certain line for me to be happy with my work. I’ve been falling short of that imaginary line for a while now so my confidence has suffered.

I sold my first painting not so long ago and I’m wondering if this is playing on my mind…was all my artistic endeavours aimed at selling a painting? Now that I have done so do I have to put my brushes away? I don’t think so, as I still want to capture things I see on canvas. And I have another imaginary line (higher than the other one) that I want to reach.

I guess anyone that paints has gone through this, and painting through the bad stuff is the way to go forward.
Maybe writing this here will help me too.

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Hi Ken,

Yes, sometimes I feel the muses have forsaken me. When I have a string of bad paintings in a row, I start to wonder, like you, if that was it. Is it all over? But don’t despair, keep plugging away and showing up at the easel and soon you will be back in the groove.
Think of painting like fishing. Sometimes you get a keeper and sometimes you have to throw it back in. Either way, it’s still fun.


A friend of mine said that she was not happy with a painting that she completed, and I said that was a good thing. What I meant was that is how we grow. Our eye is always ahead of our ability to produce what we intend. The good thing with oil paints is that when you figure out what it needs you can go back and work on it again.


I think many of us get these feelings. I once had a lay-off from painting lasting over two years and felt that I would probably never get back into it again…but I did, in this instance by discovering new subject material that I had never tried drawing or painting before. There are times of illness, too, or just an “unwell-ness” period during which folk row back a bit and aren’t plugging away at things on a regular basis. But eventually the day comes when you produce a batch of real good 'uns, and confidence soars.

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I’m pretty sure we all go through this. It’s like exercise. I’m scared to miss a day of it, because if I take a day off, then it’s easy to take another… and another. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a clue how to paint and I’ll never have another idea for a painting, I’m making zero progress, what’s the point. Wah, wah, wah… You just have to drag your ass to the easel. What else are you going to do?


Marjie, I completely get your analogy. I am a morning runner (slow :slight_smile: ) I don’t know which I’m more scared to miss a day on, painting or running, for the exact reason you mentioned. People I travel with don’t tolerate (!) painting days, so when I get back to normal schedule it’s like a cool drink of water on a hot summer desert day.
I also get the mindset of "don’t have a clue how to paint, and making zero progress. But “never have another idea for a painting”?? - my problem is lists and files of ideas. Unmanagably LARGE lists and files. Sigh.
And Ken, I love reading books about Morisot, and VanGogh, and folks like that. They harbored the same feelings you just penned. You are in a good club :slight_smile:


Thank you for all your replies.

@ Trisha Adams I like your fishing analysis…very true.

I’ve learnt something - the problem with painting it’s not like riding a bike. If you learn to ride a bike as a child, and many years go by, it’s like you’ve never been away from that bike. Painting isn’t like that at all. This is my real problem that I don’t paint often enough. At present I get Saturday morning to paint, so 3 failed paintings over 3 weekends is off putting to say the least.

My problem is that I find it hard to switch on and off when I paint, so doing a bit of painting for an hour then leaving it for a day or two would be a bit torturous. Compartmentalising my brain is something I have never done, enjoying my pursue to the very end, but maybe I need to learn this. I’m sure a lot of artists here are skilled at compartmentalising their brain, no doubt out of necessity.

Anyway, I 'm hoping to break my bad run of luck this Saturday as I will be finishing my second painting for this weeks fantastic challenge - copy an artist that you admire and paint another painting in the same style. So Trisha, I hope to get two keepers…making up for the miserable 3 weeks I had.

Thanks again everyone.

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@daily6565 just like riding the bike, it wasn’t the first time you went out there, or even the second, third… because you probably fell, and fell a lot. And after a ‘bad’ painting or one you didn’t get result of what you were after-can leave you so sad and a bit dejected. Then to make it a bit worse, add a span of time (like the week), can make that worse. But like a losing streak in sports I would imagine is similar-you gotta shake it off to move on and be successful in the next. try. Not easy. I feel the same way, after I can begin to paint again-I can’t just go in there one day and paint like a machine. I am like…now what was I going to do? What did I want to try? And just the knowing how little time you will have to paint, can ruin a painting due to the stress of that and hurrying. Or not being in the mood though ‘it’s time’ to paint cuz you only have today. My best comes when I do have the time to think and mull it over before I paint or taking advantage of that inspiring idea and get in there to get it down in paint before it’s gone. That’s me anyway. And a lot of people don’t have that opportunity I know.

I love the art forum! Everyone describing a bit of this and that and their experiences… At one time I didn’t know other artist’s went through the same emotions when painting but now I know it is quite natural and have now got lots of tips shared by others to get past it. I love what everyone else has shared here.


I stayed away from painting for 25 years as I was too busy earning a living which took all my energy.Then I got my elderly father staying with me, a friend said, “You need to do something just for you”. I got into watercolor, then acrylic and now I paint in oil too. I had forgotten how relaxing painting was for me.I am much better now than I was 25 years ago,I should have keep at it all that time instead of giving it up.

I am always afraid I will lose my mojo and not be able to paint, especially if I don’t do it for a week. But pushing through and trying to keep those voices out of your head is so important. I only have an hour a day to paint to it’s precious time. On one hand I would think that would add to the pressure, but in reality, I don’t have time to even think those negative thoughts, I just dive in and do it. So the best advice I have is don’t give yourself enough time to doubt. Paint, if you don’t love it, just start again…it may actually push you through to a new and better stage!

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Carol Marine has a good chapter on this topic in her book…so worth reading… " it is comforting to know that most people …artists included…experience ups and downs in their productivity…and self confidence etc. I paint every day…no matter what and if I am feeling low…I just cover my canvas with color to be painted over at a later date…so I stay in touch with the paint…and my brushes…if I am feeling uninspired I accept it as a low knowing that it is impossible to always be at my best no matter what I am doing…in life…some people suggest going to museums or taking a class…as well…

I’ve spent the last 4-5 months feeling just the same. I’ve had less time for my painting, but when I’m able, I’ve been working on some things that are new to me. Unfortunately, it’s all been rather unsuccessful. Thus, the frustration. Reminds me of the old Peggy Lee song, “Is that all there is?”

But I’m finally beginning to see some results from that intermittent work. Keep showing up at the easel, even if life only gives you a couple of hours a week. It will happen! And as others have pointed out, you’re in very good company!

So the bottom line (which I suppose deep down I knew already) is keep painting and don’t give up, even when you sometimes feel like throwing out your brushes. On a positive note if I ever felt like that I’m usually back on the saddle again the next day with a new plan.

I did last week’s copy challenge (like I said I would) and enjoyed doing it…the fun aspect to painting was restored.

I have now made some inroads with painting landscapes which I found hard in the past, preferring still life (posted here in the forum).


I feel that way in the middle of every painting. I have to stop and meditate for a few minutes to get back in a positive mental place. Sometimes you have to look at your schedule and see where you can carve out more time for your painting. Maybe going to bed a little earlier so you can get up an hour earlier to paint is the answer. I didn’t think I could paint in the morning but found it was great.

Hi there , for whatever reason I feel better about painting now. I think the secret is not to give up. And when I start to paint I don’t think I’m about to paint a masterpiece, I think of it as my first study - if I’m really lucky it maybe a keeper. I now know the a good painting takes patience and a solid game plan before I start. It took me six attempts to paint a landscape that I was commissioned to do, so I know if I keep going I’ll get there in the end. I feel like I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough.

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I don’t call it “block” anymore. I think of it as down time, similar to letting a field lie fallow so the soil can replenish itself. Calling it by a different name makes me feel better. If I’m “blocked” it’s too overwhelming. If it’s “down time” or “research & development time” it’s easier visualize myself getting back to painting.

During that time I collect ideas. I read interesting books, take a lot of photos, look at a lot of images (both art and photos), and do some sketching and doodling. If I want to get into paint, I might tone some canvases (good way to use up old paint off the palette).

When I get back to painting, it helps me to slow down. Not rush it. Paint in slow motion, as it were.


I find if I focus on sales it is like hitting a brick wall, the fun just goes away. After selling art for a while I noticed you can’t predict what people are going to like anyways, so paint what interests you and make it fun again.


Yes. This happens to me quite often.

I feel like this at the moment, I recently also sold my first paintings, and now I feel like if I paint with the intent to sell it’s just not working but now that imagination is slipping anyway, I’d produce pieces I had no idea how they’d turn out but have so much fun along the way, but now I’m giving up after a few strokes I can even sit and procrastinate for hours and put of painting, and it’s annoying me Soo much, maybe what we need to produce has a different artistic style and we, I I’m just trying to do the same thing maybe I need to change it up, I could probably try drawing or pastles, rather just paint and be amazed by my every stroke tho, was more fun to watch in fold… Abstract painting with no aim lol

Oh, I relate to this topic. I’m coming off a hiatus from painting after 7 months of just not having the “want to” to create. Life happens and as I’m in my later years of life, I have more challenges that come with it. But, not to deter from the “Artist Block” thread, it’s a real thing. I’ve read the comments and can see I’m not alone by any means. It’s a catch 22 when a commission will get me motivated, but not staying fluid with consistent efforts will sabotage my painting by making it harder or laborious. Where’s the joy in that? For me, I need to keep the self displinine engaged so I can be ready for a commission or even just to produce work that is fresh from my soul and not forced. DPW is onto something with the daily painting theme. I’ve never deliberately painted daily a small completed piece for practice or a challenge before. I can see how beneficial it can be to create a habit and routine by creating daily. Artist block isn’t the end of painting or creating in your chosen medium. I try to see it as a closed-door that needs to be opened and stepped through. There’s no lock on the door. It’s there ready when you are. You have the power to choose when and how you want to journey onward. I found when I broke the cycle of negative self-talk about how long it had been, as though it were a crime, it liberated me to take the opportunity and just get back on the saddle again. I was a bit stiff at first, but within a short time, found that my art is evolving and I’m not afraid of any future “time-offs” that life might throw at me. I’m grateful to have today and thank God for the ability to paint at all. I hope whoever reads this will be encouraged and know you have a great group of fellow artists who can relate.