The Problem With Indecision

Okay, I admit it. Sometimes I can be indecisive. Well, I mean if we are being totally honest, a lot of the time. Perhaps the most frustrating of which when it comes to making a decision on what I’m going to draw. I’ve always been the kind of person who does well with a clear concise assignment. It’s not that I can’t be creative, I just like to have a clear direction.

The problem for me, I find, is that sometimes I have too many ideas and I don’t know which one to do. I know, I know, am I really complaining about having too many ideas? Yes, I am, but hear me out. It’s not that they are all brilliant and career-making, but they are ideas. I sometimes get stuck on a loop with an idea and will obsess over it, until I realize it’s not going to work. At which point I need to abort the mission and find a backup plan or two…or three.

To complicate things even more, there are a plethora of royalty free artist reference photo sites now that offer a great selection of photos to work from. You no longer have to painstakingly try to find a photo to work from that not only works but that you have permission to use. Except that, there are SO MANY good ones, how do you choose? Here’s where my old pal Indecision comes trotting up to ruin what should otherwise be a quick and easy experience.

It goes something like this:
I think to myself, “I want to draw flowers,” I type in flowers and get hundreds of beautiful and shockingly royalty free photos of flowers. (Seriously who are you people? and thank you by the way!) Great, right?! No. Not great. Know why? Well, now I can’t decide which one I want to draw. So I start saving a few potentials and keep scrolling on into the rabbit hole of multiple choices I could possibly have. Of course, now all of sudden I enter into over thinking territory. Over Thinking is Indecision’s BFF and they often show up together, unannounced and ready to crash the party.

Now, I’m not only worried that I can’t make a choice but also what if I find one I like and someone else draws the EXACT SAME PHOTO?! I mean I like to think I have great taste, but I also know having a good eye isn’t unique. This happens with paid royalty free reference sites as well. Not long ago an artist I follow on Instagram drew the exact same photo I did last year. I like to think we both did a great job in our own way and her background ended up differently than mine. To someone who didn’t know though, it may have looked like we had copied one another’s work. Of course, neither of us did anything wrong, and that is a risk you run with stock photo sites. But, it also has a tendency to turn it into a “Who Wore it Best” type competition which I can assure most artists do NOT care for in the slightest. So what do you do?

  1. If you find yourself in a never-ending scroll-a-thon spiraling into the deep depths of indecisiveness, stop what you are doing and do something else. Getting stuck in a brain loop is stressful and unnecessary. You’re just picking a reference photo, not curing disease, so take a break and come back to it with a fresh perspective later.
  2. Make a plan before you sit down to either draw or look for a reference photo to draw and brainstorm a list of specific ideas. So for example, if you want to draw flowers narrow it down to the color and type of flower. Now you’re focusing on red roses, as opposed to every known genome of flowers created.
  3. Take your own reference photos. Sometimes part of being indecisive is that you can’t find the exact angle or lighting you see in your head. Taking your own reference not only ensures you will get the shot you want to work from, but also the possibility of someone having the same photo is next to zero. Create a shot list for yourself if you know you like working on a specific subject matter. This will keep you focused when you are out taking photos. Don’t stress about having a professional camera either. Great photos can be taken with some of the newer smart phones too if you happen have one.
  4. Tell Indecision and Over Thinking to take a hike. In other words, give yourself a break and try to stop obsessing over finding the right idea or photo. The quickest way to suck the fun out of something is to start overthinking it. Trust me. I’ve been there. Art should be fun, so don’t worry so much about picking something perfect and just do it. (Brilliant advice, courtesy of my awesome boyfriend, Stan…and also Nike).
  5. If you do find a photo you love from a royalty free artist reference photo site, find a way to make it your own. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a risk you run when using a photo others also have access to use, but finding a way to put your own spin on it ensures that if there is another version of it out there, that yours is clearly unique. You can do this by changing colors, adding other elements, changing the background or cropping the photo differently.

Being indecisive is still a struggle for me some days, but I try my best to remember these 5 tips when I find myself in a spiral. Don’t let it paralyze you into doing nothing at all. Finding a way to be specific and stay on task, will also help in your decision-making process. If all else fails, take your own photos to work from or find a way to make the royalty free ones your own. The next time Indecisiveness shows up you can casually look the other way and say “I’m not interested in your drama today,” and go on creating art.

Do you ever struggle with being indecisive with your artistic subject matter? How do you work through it? Share your experiences with me in the comments!

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

One Response

  1. Ah, unfortunately, I don’t have too much trouble with decisiveness. I usually know (and have photos for) exactly what I want to work on next…and next…and next. And there’s my problem – not enough time to get to all that inspiration. Sigh.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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