'Every idea you turn into a painting deserves special consideration if you are going to get the most from your hard work,' says Max Hale.

'It may be dulling your creativity if, for instance, you adapt an inspirational vision to fit a particular support, just because you have it to hand. Imagine applying this principle to every piece of work you produce: same format, size, colour palette, brushes, method or timescale.

I know artists who mount and frame in the same colour and type through habit or because they bought a batch of frames at a knockdown price. True creativity should be unfettered and unrestricted.

'I think that every artist can be inspired if they open their minds to the idea that making art is much more than the result, it’s almost a therapy.

'Don’t even consider failure because when you create from the heart and from an image that moves you, the process rather than the result can be the art.'

Ideas to re-invent your artistic process:

1. Try a new subject

Daffodil Vase, Cobra water-based oil on canvas panel, (35x25cm)

I don’t usually paint flowers but I was so taken with a vase of daffodils – the shapes and beautiful contrasting bright yellow blooms against a dark background – that I just had to.
Now I am considering further pieces of work to include flowers, something I never thought possible.

2. A change of tools

If you paint with oils or acrylics do you always use brushes? If so, try using a painting knife or even a piece of plastic like an old store card or a stick to apply the paint.

It takes some getting used to and completely removes your ability to handle detail, which is not a bad thing. It makes you look at the big shapes and deal with colour and value as if they were blocks.

If you’ve never tried it please do, it has an amazing way of liberating you from the fussiness one can get into with brushes, especially small ones.


3. Look at art

How often do you visit a gallery or exhibition to see art?

Artists thrive on inspiration, ideas and emotion, so a visit to a collection or an art fair can raise your creative juices to the point of overload.

After a visit to the Affordable Art Fair in Bristol a couple of years ago I created a series of totally new pieces of work based on ideas I had picked up there. I adapted my subject matter and put my interpretation to the work as always but if I hadn’t been so taken by this artist’s style, I would not have tried this technique.

We underestimate how much we rely on visual stimulation from others in relation to what we create ourselves. All great artists are influenced by others and borrow ideas and tips. It’s a natural and well-established pattern for your growth.


4. Change your support

Try adapting the format and/or size of your support.

I recently injected more variety into my paintings by using a shape that suited the subject. I bought a piece of regular hardboard at my local DIY shop and asked them to cut it up into strips, each approximately 30x60cm and applied three coats of gesso to the smooth sides.

It transformed my paintings, not only because the format was different and it forced me to rethink my composition but I hadn’t used such a smooth surface with acrylics before.

This board in its landscape form had given me two new experiences and possibly another, if you count applying gesso and preparing my own ground on which to paint.


5. Change your medium

Try a new medium every few months and you will discover much.

I usually paint horses in oil or acrylic, but I desperately wanted to paint them in watercolour.

It was a challenge, as I wanted to show the deep contrasts of the evening shadows and the low spring sun as it raked across the field. I had to darken the horse considerably on the shadow side to increase the brightness of the backlighting. In oil or acrylic this would have been easier as the value steps with opaque paint are greater.

I’m now considering further watercolours and even pen and wash.

6. Try a darker subject

It’s common to paint subjects because they are nice to look at. There’s nothing wrong with this but it’s a useful exercise to leave the comfort of the pretty picture and embark on something grittier.

A block of flats may not be as attractive as a row of thatched cottages but artistically they still hold wonderful shapes, values and colour.

Don’t be put off by disorder or dull shades, look for an inspired angle and introduce your own interpretation of colours.

I have an artist friend who’s doing a series of paintings that are showing the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Her paintings of houses on bus routes, some executed in bad weather, are a super way of stretching yourself and making art live.

7. Go outside

Try painting en plein air.

I didn’t paint many landscapes until I got a pochade box.

A pochade is a wooden box that opens up into a laptop easel and holds your paints, brushes and usually two or three painting boards. Sometimes they hold a palette too.

I have been transformed into a plein air painter and it has given me so much freedom and pleasure.


8. Set a time limit

Limiting the amount of time you spend on a painting sharpens your technique and visual awareness.

If I have less time I must get the shapes and values down quickly and I am amazed at what I can achieve.

I experimented with a seascape in a 20-minute acrylic sketch – it’s not a perfect painting and I would have liked to have altered the boat positions and a few other things but it’s an acceptable piece and worthy of framing.

Across the Bay, Daler-Rowney System 3 acrylic on gessoed hardboard, (30x60cm)

Landscape is a popular subject for many artists, but if you paint landscapes, how do you go about it? I had drawn and sketched landscapes and then worked the results into paintings, in the studio on the few occasions I have been moved to do so. Until that is, I got a pochade box. This was painted en plein air using a palette knife.

This article is taken from the January 2014 issue of The Artist