Ways to Improve Your Creativity

Creativity is something that most people assume comes naturally to artists. Many would be surprised to learn however that being an artist and therefore being inherently creative are not always synonymous. While it’s true that having a particular proclivity for the arts does tend to make someone see things different than most, many artists struggle with creativity in particular to the subject matter and style of their artwork. 

It can be argued that part of the success of many professional artists lays in this exact trait; the ability to see a work of art and be able to identify exactly who created it without reading the signature or credits attributed to it. This sounds easier than it actually is. It has been said that no idea is original and everything has been done before. This may be true but this is where the idea of creativity comes in. It’s one thing, for example, to create art based on fairies, but how you express that subject matter in terms of your style, medium and even colour choices can define that artwork as uniquely yours.


Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised but it’s unlike the repetition from drawing the same subject matter over and over that creates familiarity and muscle memory. Exercising your “creativity muscle” is more of a mental and intellectual pursuit with a healthy dose of experimentation. It involves discovering the unique way that YOU see a certain subject matter and then visually translating that into art. 

Let’s take an example like the subject of pet portraits. This is a popular subject amongst colored pencil artists who are especially taking commissions. Much of what is being created in the subject matter tends to look very similar. To some extent this isn’t a problem because the nature of this type of commission requires it. From a creative and artistic perspective however this where opportunity is. Figure out what it is about your approach to pet portraits that is unique to you. This may even be what leads people to seek you out for commissions over someone else. You can approach this in a few different ways like the way you do the backgrounds, a focus in a specific crop or even developing a stylized way of rendering your subjects. 


Another way to improve your creativity is to study but not copy your favourite artists. Inspiration can go a long way for developing your personal style. Of course there is always a fine line which I discuss in my blog post Stealing vs Inspiration. By studying what your favourite artists do you can use that information to start building your own visual language that can be then translated into your style. 

Look at patterns in colour palettes, visual themes like subject matter and even line work for more illustrative artists. Write down what you like about what they are doing and what draws you to their work. Next think about the subjects that you are interested in. What colours do you have a lot of in your wardrobe or home? What type of stories are you drawn towards? The is similar to creating a word map where you start creating or list or even a mood board of your creative inspirations that will inform the type of work you want to create.

Here’s an example: Perhaps you love landscape art, you also love agricultural themes from your time growing up on a farm. Maybe you also love lots of colour. If you combine all of those things you could explore creating a series of artwork of old barns at sunset where you use a more impressionist approach to your colour palette that allows you to incorporate many colours in your work. 


Maybe you’re not ready to dial in quite that far yet or still aren’t sure what inspires you. Using a sketchbook for experimentation can be a great tool for this. As an extra add on, try doing a 30 day prompt challenge. The great thing about sketching with prompts as an aid is that it can challenge you to draw subject matters and themes that you normally wouldn’t. There’s valuable discovery that occurs when you do this, because you can determine the subjects that you do and don’t enjoy. You could also approach the prompts with an over arching theme. Popular Instagram challenges like March of the Robots and MerMay are examples of this. Taking words that seemingly don’t have anything to do with robots and mermaids and creating a drawing with that theme in mind can be a great creative challenge. I have sketchbooks full of starter ideas for future projects from doing these prompt challenges.


Creativity may not come easy to everyone, but it’s not unattainable. Giving your brain exercises to start thinking about the things that interest you and how you see the world around you can kick start a process of discovery. If all of this still sounds overwhelming to you, working with a mentor can help you focus in on your path. 

One of the biggest perks of art school was the built in mentorship from my instructors. All of the hours spent in class along with side conversations to get more information was absolutely invaluable to me in my growth as an artist. Understandably, not every person can afford to go to art school or it’s just not practical if you are currently working a full-time job. I‘ve been through the process myself, and I know what it’s like to desire finding that thing that is unique to you. I feel very passionate about mentorship and its benefits and it’s something I’m now offering to other artists as well to help them on their journey.

Click here to LEARN MORE about my mentorship services and claim your spot – Space is limited!

The most important thing to remember when it comes to improving your creativity and making art that is authentic to you is that it doesn’t happen over night. That may be somewhat discouraging to hear for some, but their are few things in life that happen quite that quickly. The discovery process can be so rewarding if you really embrace it, and you never know what you may discover about yourself and your artwork!


I recently co-hosted an episode of the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast with John Middick to discuss this topic. In Episode 310 of the podcast – Making Art Authentic to You, we discuss strategies to find your path and create the type of artwork that is meaningful to you.

LISTEN HERE or on your favourite Podcast Platform: https://sharpenedartist.com/podcast/310

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.

2 Responses

  1. Absolutely great article! Some things, I’d already learned, but it also gave me several fresh insights and ideas. Thank you!

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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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