A diet for artists that has nothing to do with food

Food and diet go hand in hand. But artists need much more than just energizing food. A diet for an artist, especially one that works professionally, must feed the brain, so it can do the heavy lifting of creating something that did not exist a few hours, days or weeks ago. Now, here is a diet for artists that has nothing to do with food.


What is inspiration? Without loosing ourselves in scientific explanations, inspiration is the time period in which our brain puts together pre gathered information (knowledge) in a way that leads to a moment of realization. The brain has done a lot of unconscious work and is so crazy happy with the result that we are often filled with a burst of energy and motivation to act right now.

That is why inspiration is such a welcomed starting point for any creative endeavor. Think about the moment you sit in front of a blank canvas or piece of paper and think: “I have no fucking idea where to start and what to do.” Ahh, ugly, right? A little inspiration would be nice now.

Here a few simple examples (before we get to the main point) of what you can do to jump start your inspiration:

  • Take a walk through nature. Listen to sounds of the leaves, water and birds. Look to the horizon or go up close to the bark of a tree. What do you recognize?
  • Listen to some unusual music instrumentals to find a mood that grabs you, and then take this mood and catch it in quick and loose sketches. Sketch without thinking, just hear the music and let your intuition take over. Maybe you can create a painting with a specific song playing in your head.
  • Think about the last moment you had a really strong emotion. Fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise, trust. When do you feel these? What is your emotion you tend to have quite often? Can you make an angry piece or joyful piece?
  • Reading stimulates the imagination too. Grab a book and enjoy the free images your brain is generating.
  • Play with an ai art generator and let it create images of not visual concepts like: inspiration, love, hate, capitalism, socialism, democracy and so on.

Inspiration comes from everywhere, if we are ready and open for it. And this is the crucial part. Being open for it. I had William Faulkner in my studio for an interview and asked him what he thinks about this. His answer: “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine every morning.”

This is a killer mindset because it shows an understanding of how the brain tends to do things. It is lazy. Or it wants to be. But, we can negotiate with it.

Artist: “If you give me inspiration at this time of every day, I will let you rest for the of it, okay?

Brain: “Sounds good, lets do it!

What is important for many professionals is a reliable working routine. They start creating every day at the same time. The brain and body will unconsciously prepare for that time to have inspiration and energy available. So build a routine and let it come.

But remember the deal you have made with your brain. It needs time to rest. It needs time in which no new information and experience come in to process, sort and connect the stuff that is already in there. Then, it will create these magical moment of inspiration for us.

Inspiration is just a spark, the fire needs wood to burn. So, let’s move on to the second half of a diet for artists that has nothing to do with food.

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Let’s assume that we have a little spider in our head (whaaat?). The spider likes to build nice and solid nets to catch flies, like all spiders do. But when no flies come around, the spider will die of hunger someday. Right? Keep this in mind for a moment.

When we watch a movie for the second time or read a book for the fifth time (when does that happen?) we often find new information that we did not notice or understand the previous time. Why did we not see this the first time? Because everything about the film or book was new. We had no preexisting knowledge about it, so we focussed on the main story and characters and went with it. The next round we have some basic knowledge and can focus more on the subtle details. After watching or reading this piece of content several times, we will have a fantastic understanding of it, are able to summaries it, talk to others about it in detail, critique it, and even get creative and imagine how we would have changed it or how a second part of the series will look like.

Back to the spider metaphor: Every time a new information fly comes by, it will be caught by our spider. The spider likes it and want to catch more the next time. So it will add to the already existing net of knowledge a few new strings. The spider will get really busy as more and more information flies come by. It will create new knowledge strings and catch more and more information flies. In the best case, this goes on and on and on until we die.

What sets masters apart from amateurs is the realization that learning ends with one’s own life. A skill or knowledge base is never perfect. Never. There is always something we can do to improve and grow.

The first thing we need in our diet is knowledge. If you want to be a painter, some painter knowledge will not hurt you. It will make you better. Therefore, it is advisable to get lessons more often, to watch the videos again and again and to repeat the exercises again and again, even if we think that we already understood everything. Learning success is based on the premise of not having understood enough, or to stay in our metaphor, that the knowledge net is not strong or big enough yet.

Here is a tip I got from Marshall Vandruff: Eat a masterpiece every day, like a really tasty meal. What he meant is that we should take time to analysis a great piece of art and get it into our system. You could do this by looking at it in black and white to understand the structure of values, you could repaint it to learn about mark making, or you could summarize and interpret by writing about it. Maybe you look at it from a historic point of view to get a sense of why this piece is still relevant today.

If you think of knowledge like something you have to eat to survive, then you will understand its value for a healthy artist (or any other profession). Knowledge is also the prerequisite for next part of our diet. So, start to read, listen, watch, travel or whatever but fill your brain with knowledge.

The diet for artists that has nothing to do with food is made out of inspiration and knowledge. Find a way to grow your knowledge and make space some for inspiration every day, and you will enjoy a healthy artistic life.