Aside from painting tutorial requests, the most often question I am asked is how do I combat burnout. I've been a full time painter for the last 5 years. I have experienced burnout several times even before doing it for a living and I've found a few things work for me and I'm going to share my insights in this post.
For those who haven't experienced it yet, burnout is when you know you should sit down to paint and the idea interests you but when you actually sit down to do it, you have zero interest and it feels like pulling teeth. It causes most painters to be frustrated, a little depressed, and worried. This is perfectly normal.
Burnout usually occurs when painters have been painting a lot and frequently but how you combat it can be based on what you are painting. I'm going to address a couple different situations below.
I find it happens more with army painting than it does with single figure painting. The reason being is that army painting can be dull, uninteresting and not too challenging. It is very repetitive work. The same faction, same or similar colors, it's just very bland. If you are an army painter I recommend assembling only 5 miniatures at a time to work on. You can clean everything in one go but put them back in their blisters or packaging if you can. Set most of the minis aside and start with up to 5 minis for assembly, priming and painting.
If you have let's say a 50pt Warmachine army that you want to paint. For Cyriss (since I've been painting a lot of it lately) you can have 15 Angels just making up 15 points and still need heavy and light jacks, warcasters, servitors . . . basically a lot of stuff on your table. If you prep it all at once and then set it on your table and try to paint it all at once it is overwhelming. You see the mountain of minis you need to paint and it can be very demoralizing.
If you only do 5 models at a time and keep everything else out of sight, you tend not to get bogged down. It goes faster and you can decrease chances of burnout. Out of sight, out of mind. It's all psychological.
Display/Single Figure Painter
If you are someone who paints a lot of display level models either for yourself or for commission and find you are having burnout just accept it. It's ok. This happens from time to time and it's usually during a period of artistic and personal growth. If you find yourself experiencing more frustration than joy while painting just put your stuff down and don't look at it for a few days. Do something completely unrelated to miniatures during that time that is also a creative or stress relieving outlet.
I am very well rounded in my interests and have too many activities I can engage in to feed my creative side. I don't rely on miniature painting only. I bake, cook, crochet, am going to learn knitting soon, sew, draw, pole dance, play with make up, keep a journal, etc. If you focus so much on miniature painting that it's the main activity you have aside from family and work/school, you can get bored pretty quickly. It's not to say painting is uninteresting but you need to have several activities to focus on instead of just having tunnel vision with a hobby.
Get out and have a pint with friends. Go see a movie. Relax and don't worry about that you SHOULD be painting. Just enjoy taking some time off and then come back to painting later.
Burnout happens to everyone. We all experience it whether we are full time professional painters or painting for ourselves. It's normal. Don't fight it. Embrace it, relax, enjoy yourself and check things off the bucket list while taking a break. When you are ready to paint again you will know and you will be voracious!
I've experienced burnout for 3 months before. It was before I was a full time freelancer and was working a corporate job so I didn't need to paint to pay the bills. I would look at my desk every day but when I would sit down to paint I just couldn't do it. It made me so sad and frustrated that I finally just gave in. I said I was going to paint again until I was ready. I binged on video games, read tons of books, started learning how to crochet, baked at least a ton of cookies and fattened up my coworkers. I did other things I'd been wanting to do for a while and was happier for it.
I sat back down and painted a model for myself and struggled to get back in the saddle. I had to get comfortable painting all over again but it came back very quickly and I was jazzed! Since then there have been times where I've struggled to want to paint. However, when it is your full time job and you need to paint to get paid and pay the bills, you have to shrug off burnout and just paint.
I am able to partition my mind between commission painting and painting for myself. Commission painting is very automatic, I have my routine that I follow to get myself in the right frame of mind to paint all day and complete projects for clients. Knowing that I need to pay the mortgage and buy groceries is also a good motivator.
When I sit down to paint for myself I tend to get a bit more cerebral and lost in my painting. It's still very automatic but I think about what I want to push and experiment with. I takes a lot more focus for me. As such, if I have a really hard time even getting started on painting something for myself then I just walk away and go do something else for a while. I don't push myself.
Burnout periods are also great times to read lots of painting blogs with indepth tutorials, watch painting DVDs/Videos, admire other artists' works and appreciate the artistry of miniatures. A lot of times this can be the jump start someone needs to become interested in painting again.
Just remember, burnout is normal. We all experience it at some point. Don't get discouraged, just take a break. You're allowed.