How to Be Intentionally Original When Creating Art

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You can be intentionally original when creating art. It takes a little work on your part, but the lessons learned and the wells of creativity you will find in the process are worth the time and effort.

Copying Art

One of the problems people have when they set out to create art is they rely on copying. Copying is a great way to learn how to create art and to sharpen your skills. What it doesn’t do is teach you how to be creative. It doesn’t encourage you to be experimental thus unique in how you create a work.

Does Art Have to Be Realistic?

People also get caught up in the idea that art has to be realistic. Realistic art is basically copying nature. I love a good realistic painting or drawing. And a good artist can take that style and be extremely creative and original. But the trap for beginners is it causes them to be too careful. They are so afraid of failing to make the subject look exactly right that the result is often stiff and uninspiring.

How to Be Intentionally Original
One of my realistic drawings.

The Comfort Zone

Many new learners are repetitious with what they choose to draw. They stay in their comfort zone. I’ve seen this over and over again as I’ve taught art classes. They only want to draw or paint what they already know how to do, so they don’t improve and tend to lose interest. Who wouldn’t?

A Limiting Mindset

A limiting mindset doesn’t always originate with the student. Many teachers teach their art class by instructing their students to do the lesson exactly the same way that they paint or draw. That’s a good beginning but it’s only going to get you so far. At some point, if you want to create original art, you’re going to want to begin to understand the creative process, and not just the creative process, but your unique creative process.

It’s OK to learn by copying, to be taught a certain way of doing art. But there are endless ways to create art and embracing the possibilities will lead you on a journey that will enrich your creativity and improve your art.

How to Be Intentionally Original
My Landscape. One of the few times I had my students copy me. I wanted them to learn to paint trees and tree lines.

How to Be Intentionally Original
My student’s work. Even though they copied, there is a different look and feel about their art.

The First Step

The first step to creating original art is to give yourself permission to do things differently, to experiment, to try things out, new things, and to fail and try again until you create something you love. This is so important. As an art instructor unless I can get a student to this point of agreement, I know that I cannot really teach them anything new. And my desire is to see them grow as an artist so it always makes me sad when they don’t say yes to new things.


Another trap that people fall into that is ineffective for increased creativity is seeing a piece of art that is inspiring, or an artist who is successful and then determining to do the same thing. This is intentional appropriation. You don’t go through your own creative process to make art unique and to make it your own. Appropriation is the act of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission. It can border on copyright infringement, but basically, it’s just not cool. So please learn to take the high road and improve your ability to think creatively at the same time.

Appropriation is the act of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.

You have it within you to be creative because you are created unique. You just need to figure it out. It takes a little bit of time. It takes a little bit of courage and I think it’s helpful to have an instructor who encourages your creativity instead of insisting you copy them.

How Do You Start?

I know what you are thinking. You want to create unique art, but you don’t know where to start, you have no idea how to make it unique.  

“Nothing is totally new. Your experiences and observations influence everything you paint or draw. You modify, add to, and subtract from what is there to make something new. However ordinary a subject may be, what you bring to it that is new is yourself.”

Nita Leeland

Nita Leeland in her book Creative Artist, explains, “Nothing is totally new. Your experiences and observations influence everything you paint or draw. You modify, add to, and subtract from what is there to make something new. However ordinary a subject may be, what you bring to it that is new is yourself.” So, don’t leave yourself out of the creative process. Get to know yourself as an artist and have the confidence to trust in your uniqueness.

Your Style

There is nothing new but there is a multitude of topics to draw from, materials to choose, composition to figure out. Even the decision on how large or small the work of art should be, changes the way you approach a piece of art. Then there is style. And the best style is always your style. You may not know what that is, but if you just get in there and start making art it will start to surface. A good instructor will recognize your style, point it out to you, and help you develop it.

When you face that blank white page it’s good to have the mindset, “I want to do a new thing”. Allow yourself to experiment, but more important understand your heart and what inspires you.

What Inspires You?

I keep a running list of things that I see and react to. Things that make me say, “Oh! I’d like to paint that”.

Again, sometimes especially when you make the decisions to start selling your artwork or submit to art shows, you look at art that sells and is accepted into shows and you think, “Oh!  I’d like to do that”. But that’s not from the heart. That’s from a desire to be successful and often at the expense of another person.

Start with subjects that excite you, that get your attention, that reminds you of a feeling, or a moment, or a place that you want to capture. Then explore it.

What I Love

I love flowers. I have always loved flowers, I come from a family of people who love flowers, so it seems like the most natural thing for me to paint is flowers. I’m not imitating anybody else. I’m not trying to do something that someone else does. When I sit down and paint flowers it’s out of my life experiences, so it’s genuine.

I paint flowers often. Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not, I’m still in the process of figuring it out. There’s a way that I paint. It is my style. I wrote about it in another blog. My style is to be somewhere between realism and abstraction. So that’s what you’re going to find when you look at a painting of my flowers. I have people tell me all the time that my art looks like Georgia O’Keefe. But I don’t copy George O’Keefe. I don’t try to paint like Georgia O’Keeffe, but I do relate to her, she does inspire me. She’s one of my favorite artists.


Allow yourself to be influenced by other people’s art. It happens all the time in art history. If you study it at all you’ll see that other artists influence other artists. The Impressionist artists influenced each other. And there were artists that came before them like Manet, who started the whole thing off, who they were inspired by. Impressionist artists went on to influence other artists, the Post Impressionists. It’s helpful to know who influenced you so you can understand your place in art history. Yes, your place!


The action or process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, of another or others.

Dictionary .com

My Influences

Early in my education I studied under a woman who was an abstract expressionist, Zoe Mac. I was influenced by a painter, Fritz Van Eden. He was also an abstract impressionist. I had a friend who became a very successful painter, Kathy Ammon, who also was an abstract expressionist and a student of Fritz Van Eden. I had a professor who was a realist, Nancy Dillon, I was influenced by her too. It wasn’t until I finished my bachelor’s degree that I was introduced to concept art. And being introduced to concept art gave me a greater understanding of the creative process, which I plan to write about in another blog.

These influences, although different, helped make me the artist that I am and maybe explain why I like to paint somewhere in between abstraction and realism. I am grateful not only for these artists and their instruction, but their inspiration. Because of them I can sit down and confidently explore the creative process and create art that is my own and truly unique. I always label my art, original art, because it is.


I recommend Nita Leeland’s books. They were written to help you learn to be more creative.

Nita Leeland’s Book Link

Nita Leeland’s Amazon Page

Biz News

The Valentine’s Day Gift Shop at Ruthieonart is scheduled to launch Monday, January 18, 2021. There will be nine creative small business joining me. Six have returned and there are three new shops.

Want to receive The Blog by email? Go to the form at the upper right of this page and fill it out. Each week I include a new download or a special discount to use in my shops.

New items in The Shop and on Etsy this week are Colorful Pansy original art and prints.

The Pansy Watercolor Collection was created in the summer and fall of 2020. It consists of eight small 7 x 10-inch paintings, a 10 x 10-inch painting in a circle and an 18 x 24-inch work that is yet unfinished and will be released later in the season.

Sneak Peek of WIP; 18 x 24-inch Pansy Work in Process

Pansies are considered the most popular plant in the world. They were cultivated from violets in England in the late 1800’s and are known for their incredible variety of colors. They are exotic looking but will grow in many different climates. In the south they flourish from fall to spring. In the northern climates they do well in the mild summers. Pansies will return year to year, but usually just for one season.

I have successfully grown them in my front flower bed in Texas. That is a testament to how easy they are to grow. They are a splash of color in our drab winter.

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