5 Ways to Get Out of Your Creative Comfort Zone

Living in your comfort zone is nice, isn’t it? Feels great. But after a while, that cozy place can get a little stifling. Something inside you says you need to see what else is out there, even if finding your way around can be challenging. There are great rewards to be had if you break out of your creative comfort zone, like gaining more confidence and having a more fulfilling and satisfying art practice. You just have to be willing to sacrifice a little security to become the best artist you can be. Ready?

Here are five ways you can bust out of that comfort zone and take your talents to the next level:

1. Take a class in something you’re interested in, but know absolutely nothing about. Becoming a rank beginner is not easy, especially if you’ve spent years perfecting techniques in certain areas. Nothing is more humbling than starting from zero, but there are also few things more rewarding than mastering something completely new. One-shot workshops are great, but if you can swing a class that spans several weeks, go for it. That will encourage you to practice and embed the ideas and methods into your routine, making it more likely you’ll continue to use them.

In a class setting you’ll also become accustomed to showing your art and possibly receiving helpful critiques from the instructor. Both can help you grow tremendously as an artist.

Have you tried mixed-media encaustic art? In the September/October 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Cathy Nichols has a great project that includes collage and encaustic painting. (Art by Cathy Nichols, photo by Sharon White Photography)

2. Share your artwork with the world. I believe that art shouldn’t live in a vacuum. You don’t have to put everything you make on social media to break out of your comfort zone; maybe the first step is showing your work to a good friend or family member. Don’t fear rejection or unkind comments. Even if you encounter a little of that, it will pale in comparison to the encouragement you’ll get and the community you’ll find. I was terrified when I posted my first drawing attempts on Instagram—I thought the negative feedback would come pouring in, or I’d hear crickets. Neither thing happened. Instead, I received some lovely praise and support, and that gave me the courage to keep going. I love seeing other people’s work, and hearing what inspires them, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Get great advice for your creative life in Carrie Bloomston’s column “The Spark: The Big Reveal,” in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. (Art and photo by Carrie Bloomston)

3. Go public. This is different from showing your artwork to others—I’m talking about creating something in a public place. That could be sketching at a coffee shop, painting in a park, or collaging in a laundromat. Creating in your workspace may make you feel secure, but there’s no variety of inspiration. When you’re out and about you can’t control everything, and that’s good. You may hear a song that you love, smell jasmine in a soft breeze, or pet a sweet dog. All of these things can be fresh influences on what you’re creating. Don’t worry about people seeing you and your work—they’ll be focused on their own tasks. If someone is curious about what you’re doing, it could spark a great conversation.

4. Create when you don’t feel like it. I know that there’s a school of thought that says you should only make art when you’re full of energy and the stars are aligned and your studio is in tip-top shape. I don’t buy it. If I waited for those moments I’d get next to nothing done, because life usually has other things in mind. My husband and I have a standing date night once a week, and I use that time to draw. Sometimes I’m tired, or I’ve had a bad day, and I could use those or any other excuses not to draw. Instead, I pull out my sketchbook and get to work. And after a few minutes I’m feeling calm and focused, and I’ve done something for myself that I love. Yes, there are times when I create terrible art. But most of the time I draw something I like, and that makes me happy and confident.

Going to the gym is an analogy that’s often used for this method of getting out of your comfort zone, but it fits. I can think of a million excuses not to work out, but when I push myself and go, I’m always glad I did, and I feel so much better afterward. Think of this as exercising your art muscles!

Robyn McClendon challenged herself to create a collage a day for a year, and she shares the results in the November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. (Art by Robyn McClendon, photo by Sharon White Photography)

5. Create a piece of artwork that’s intensely personal. Dig deep for this one and use a powerful feeling, a pivotal event, or a special goal as inspiration. You don’t have to show it or tell anyone about it. The idea is to tap into those raw emotions, whatever they may be, and translate them into art. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with painting pretty flowers—I do it all the time—but as artists, we need to go further in order to make significant breakthroughs. The artwork I connect with most usually reveals something about the artist that’s tangible and resonates. That inspires me to create artwork that has the same effect, and I hope it inspires you too.

Learn how to stretch your talents and create handmade books with meaningful content in the article “Books that Speak” by Rachel Hazell in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. (Art by Rachel Hazell, photo by Sharon White Photography)

Taking on an art challenge is a great way to break out of your comfort zone. Get some great tips for taking on an art challenge in this blog post!

Don’t miss Carrie Bloomston’s The Spark column in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, and learn how to become a more confident artist!
Creative Strength Training by Jane Dunnewold features prompts, advice, and strategies to help you develop your unique voice and help your art practice thrive.
Trying new techniques is perfect for getting out of your creative comfort zone—give encaustic art a try! Get started with the video Encaustic Collage Techniques with Cathy Nichols, and see how to combine your favorite materials with the art of wax.