At some point in their lives, I am sure every artist has an art block. I know I had one for about 20 years, so I know a little about it. One of the first things to work out is why you’re having an art block. In my case it was because I was working as a graphic designer, and “had to” create for other people. So why are you having an art block?
Work out why you’re having a block
There are many reasons why you might be having an art block. Working this out can help you come up with solutions. Here are a few possibilities to consider:
- You feel like you haven’t got enough time
- You’ve lost your confidence
- You’re too concerned about the outcome
- You’re burnt out
- You’re not doing it “for you” you’re too busy creating what other people want.
- You’re scared of the blank page
- You’re bored with what you’re creating
- You don’t know what to draw or paint
- You find it hard to motivate yourself
- Your last piece of work wasn’t successful
Tips for beating your art block
You feel like you haven’t got enough time
Can you make small pockets of time for your art? For example, waiting. What about while you’re waiting to pick the kids up from school, your waiting in a dental surgery for your appointment, or during your lunch hour. You could skip watching TV or draw something on the TV while you’re watching it.
You’ve lost your confidence
Perhaps you’ve created a few drawings or paintings and weren’t keen on the outcome, or someone has criticised your work. In this case try doing something which allows you to be bad. You could start doing very quick timed sketches, maybe 5 minutes each day. You can’t expect yourself to create a work of art in this time so it removes the pressure. Plus, you’ll find that the more you do it the better your sketches will get. You could also try doodling. There’s something about calling a drawing a doodle that removes any preciousness from it. Of course, you don’t have to share your work publicly if you don’t want to. You might just share it with a friend or in a supportive group which also eliminates the fear of harsh criticism.
You’re too concerned with the outcome
Sometimes being so worried about the outcome stops you drawing and painting. How many times have you thought, I’ll paint once I have the right paper, or paint or the weather’s right. Really this is just an excuse, because you are worried the results won’t live up to your expectations. I know this only too well as I had been putting off painting a face in watercolour for a couple of weeks. This is another time when you have to try and enjoy the actual process of creating rather than being preoccupied with the result. You could try a timed sketch as mentioned before, or a continuous line drawing, to reduce expectations, or just realise that the only way to create good art is to practice and create a lot of it.
You’re burnt out
If you’ve been pushing yourself to create every day, for example in a long creative challenge, sometimes you just need to take a short break. Or failing that, switch to a different sort of art or creativity for a while. I remember taking part in the 100-day project and creating 100 cartoons digitally, the last thing I wanted to afterwards was to create more cartoons.
You’re not doing it “for you”
If you work in the creative industry, you have to be creative for other people every day. Sometimes, the last thing you want to do is create more. I think in this situation in order to enjoy what you’re doing you need to create in a very different way. For example, if your work is all done digitally try creating by hand, if your work is slick, try working loosely. The same sort of situation could also arise if your art is all commissioned work.
You’re scared of the blank page
In one of our podcasts, Sandra mentioned how she had kept a sketchbook for ages before she drew in it because she was too scared of ruining the pages. There are several ways to get over this. You could buy a very cheap notebook or sketchbook so you don’t worry about using the paper. I buy cheap A5 sketchbooks with 72 sheets of paper for £1 and use these for messing about. You can also try pre-messing up the pages with washes of colour, or bits of collage. We have lots more suggestions in our Podcast Episode 8 How to make your sketchbook more interesting.
You’re bored with what you’re creating
If you’ve been painting similar things for a long time, maybe you’re just bored and need to mix things up a bit. You could try switching mediums, subject matter or experiment with styles. Think about taking an art class either in person or online. Websites like Skillshare have a large array of art and creative classes taught by artists all over the world.
You don’t know what to draw or paint
Perhaps indecision is stopping you from creating. Sometimes narrowing things down can really help. You could choose your own theme, for example, “animals” and stick with it for a month to see if you enjoy it. Alternatively, you could join in with an online group challenge. Many online art challenges provide optional prompts which you can use as a starting point for your work. You could also go to a random word generator and let the word be your starting point.
You find it hard to motivate yourself
Maybe your lack of mojo is about needing the motivation of others around you. Think about joining an art or creative group of encouraging people and making and sharing regular art with them. You might find one locally on Meetup, or by googling art groups in your area, or join an online group like our Facebook Group.
Your last piece of work wasn’t successful
This can be a real confidence crusher and can leave you making every excuse under the sun as to why you shouldn’t get to work. But for every unsuccessful piece of work comes a new lesson. We need to fail sometimes in order to help us improve. The quickest way to deal with this as hard as it might be, is to get back on the horse!
Whatever the reason for your art block, I hope one of the suggestions helps and you’re soon back to creating regular art.