End of Project Blues–How to Handle Them

End of Project Blues–How to Handle Them

Have you ever experienced something I call the end of project blues?

That happens when you’ve worked on a piece for a long time, and put a lot of effort into it? Sweated over it to make sure everything’s just right.

It feels great to finish it, doesn’t it? Time to celebrate.

But then what?

A lot of big projects come with a hidden problem. Something that doesn’t show up until the project is finished.

What is it?

End of Project Blues--How to Handle Them

Apathy about starting the next project.

How to Handle End of Project Blues

End of project blues takes many forms. Maybe no new subject really inspires you, so nothing looks appealing. You feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled by the masterpiece you just finished.

Or maybe you just need a break.

I’ve been in each place many times. Some of my “breaks” have lasted months, rather than days. One time, I walked away from the easel for two years!

We all need a break now and again, but not for weeks, months, or years (most of the time.)

So how do you keep moving forward after finishing a big project (or any project)?

Following are three things I’ve done in the past that keep me creating. Not all of them will work for everyone, but I hope they at least get you thinking about ways you can curb the end of project blues!

Always Have Something New in the Works

It’s a lot easier for me to go from one project to the next if I already have something in progress. Sometimes it’s just a collection of photos in a folder. Sometimes I’ve cropped some of those photos, and sometimes I’ve already started the line drawing.

It doesn’t matter how far along the piece is as long as I have something already started when I sign the current piece.

You might also try working on two things at once. That way, you already have something else well started when you finish the current piece. That’s also a great way to combat boredom with a project. Just work on the backup piece!

Batch Work Basic Things

Batch work is what happens when you do a batch of similar tasks at the same time.

With art, that might be sorting and preparing reference photos. What I sometimes do after finishing a project is go through all the photos in my Potential Projects folder and sort out half a dozen or more that look promising.

Then I spend an afternoon cropping them in various ways to find the best compositions. Sometimes I combine photos.

Technically, I’m not drawing, but I am preparing to draw, and that’s the first step in the process.

Try Something New

Perhaps the best suggestion for overcoming end-of-project blues is doing something completely outside your usual work.

For example, if you do human portraits, try a landscape.

If you work in a realistic style, give surrealism a try. Or maybe an abstract.

Getting outside and drawing is also a good way to cure the end of project blues.

You might also try something that’s just, plain fun. I like to play around with watercolors and watercolor pencils. They’re more spontaneous, and even if I don’t get a masterpiece out of it, I’m almost always motivated to get back to the serious work.

Beating the End of Project Blues

These are just a few ideas to get you started. As I mentioned earlier, not all of them will work for everyone.

But if they get you started on the right path to what works for you, then they’ve done their job!

And so have I. Happy penciling!


  1. Gail Jones

    I identify and many times lately I do have a couple of projects going at once so I don’t get the blues when I finish one. Also sometimes the enjoyable part can be that when I finish something, I sit down and plan what I am going to order from Blick with my fun money, for my next project or group of projects. I like that too, to keep things interesting.

  2. Hit’s the mark, Carrie! I like shuffling my “Ideas” folder around when I’m getting bored. I keep my Ideas electronically, give each it’s own digital folder and assign a priority from * (maybe) to *** (in prep). Sometimes I’ll spend hours at this shuffle game and get sucked into stuff like cropping, photoshopping, assembling additional images for the subject. etc. It reactivates the old enthusiasm battery! And kickstarts the enthusiasm machine. Thanks for the topic!

    1. John,

      I like your rating system. I, too, have dozens of folders for potential ideas, but have yet to find a suitable rating system. Maybe I’ll have to give yours a try.

      And I’m glad to discover I’m not the only artist who can spend hours sorting images! That discovery may not make me any more productive, but at least I know I’m in good company!

  3. Hah! My “system” is primarily based on my emotive response to a sample photo reference which can be a newly acquired or just discovered among oldies but goodies that may come from a brainstorm or a chance encounter. . That gets the idea a * and its own folder – usually with a cheesy temporary title just for name recognition.

    When I’m in the mood or just plain bored I visually flip through the • folders looking for more emotive response which may get a folder a •• rating.

    Then I begin to think about such things as: within my capability / if so how long will it take / have I not done something very like this one before ( I try not to duplicate) / support – paper, canvas, sanded surface, travertine?/ shape/ availability of surface

    If I happen to be in. Gallery or intending entry to a juried exhibition I might consider salability/probability of jury-in as a secondary consideration.

    All that takes almost less time than one would think. I assign a ••• to the folder.

    Sometimes I jump right to a •••• which means “In Prep” and move its idea folder up to the folder named “ On Easel” for any cropping, added reference needs ( mostly for my Civil War art) and thumb sketches for composition, values, color studies. etc. I may have more than one idea in this – working prep as I get time or inclination.

    Of course it is always possible I may lose interest or another idea may take precedence in which case the idea may get dropped to a •••, ••, or even •. But that doesn’t happen very often.

    This nay seem time consuming but it’s really a rapid process to get fro • to ••• and in general a session doing this is a refreshing visit to the world of “could be”.


    1. Excellent explanation of the creative process that happens BEFORE you start a piece. All too often, I think new artists tend to think of creating art as what happens when they actually have a pencil in their hand and are making marks on paper. But it’s a lot more than that, isn’t it?

      For myself, it begins with a camera in my hand and not a pencil!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *