How to Deal With Burnout as a Fine Artist

Hello my dear art friend,

This week, I want to discuss a topic that comes up a lot for fine artists: how to deal with burnout.

We pour our hearts and souls into our work, and that, on top of the pressures of running a business and dealing with our personal lives can sometimes lead to feeling completely drained. 

First things first, it’s crucial to recognize when you’re experiencing burnout.

It’s more than just feeling tired. Burnout can look like:

  • lack of motivation,
  • feeling disconnected from your work,
  • or even manifest as physical symptoms like headaches or fatigue.

For me the first thing I notice is that art-making begins to feel like a chore when it is normally my favorite activity. Recognizing this very specifically is helpful for me because I have health issues that often leave me tired or unmotivated in general. So I know if I have the energy to clean the house but not to paint - that’s burnout. And the first step to dealing with burnout is being able to recognize it.

So when you do realize you’re burnt out, it’s essential that you give yourself permission to take a break.

I know this can be tough, especially when deadlines are looming or you feel like you’re falling behind. But trust me, taking a break is key. I’ve learned for myself trying to power my way through when I’m burnt out will ultimately take me longer to finish a set of paintings than if I just took the break.

So step away from your work for a few days or even weeks. Use this time to rest and recharge. Personally, I find that spending time in nature or taking a trip to visit a friend is really helpful. Whatever I do, I stay away from art-making. 

Once you’re ready to come back to your practice, reconnecting with your past work can be really restorative. Spend a little time revisiting old work or sketchbooks, or create something just for fun without the pressure of selling or exhibiting it. I often revisit my early works to remind myself of the excitement I felt when I first started and to see how far I have come. It’s a great way to reignite that initial spark.

Now that you’re back to work you need to take some steps to prevent burnout from coming back.

A good healthy routine can make a big difference in preventing and dealing with burnout. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly. You can try to incorporate mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga into your routine. Personally, I’ve come to love oga Nidra - which is basically a guided nap. I use the IAM Yoga Nidra app and it really helps me stay centered and reduces stress. Taking care of my physical and mental health has turned out to be vital in building my art practice and business. I’m sure you will find the same.

Speaking of mental health, as artists we often feel compelled to say yes to every opportunity, commission, or project. But this can quickly lead to overload and burnout. Learning to set boundaries is crucial. Be selective about the projects you take on and don’t be afraid to say no if it means protecting your well-being. If you’ve done the work of identifying your long and short-term goals for your business you will better be able to understand which opportunities will help you get there and which opportunities you can easily pass on.

Another component of caring for your mental health is to talk to your fellow artists, creative friends, or a mentor about what you’re experiencing. Sometimes just knowing that others have faced similar challenges can be really helpful. You might also consider seeking professional help if burnout is severely affecting your mental health. Therapy or counseling can provide valuable tools and perspectives to help you cope.

So lastly, to avoid burnout becoming a regular occurrence in your life, you are going to need to find joy in activities outside of your art. Whether it’s a hobby (that you absolutely cannot monetize), spending time with loved ones, or exploring new interests, having a life outside of your work can provide balance and give your mind the space it needs to come back to artistic creativity.

That has been really hard for me because painting was pretty much my only hobby. But I’ve found that taking long walks with friends, reading a good book, Jazzercise (believe it or not), and traveling are great ways to unwind and gain new inspiration. Remember, your identity is not solely defined by your art. You are a multifaceted individual with a rich life beyond your work and the more time you take outside your work to enjoy life the more you will have to put into your art.

So to wrap things up, dealing with burnout is something many artists face, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Recognize the signs, take breaks, reconnect with your passion, establish healthy routines, set boundaries, seek support, and find joy outside of your work. Burnout can be a challenging experience, but it also offers an opportunity to grow, reassess, and come back even stronger.

All the best,


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