5 tips to get over your art block

Every once in a while, as an artist you get to a point where you've lost your mojo. These times are usually the most frustrating part of being an artist (aside from money of course), because you're thrown in a situation that's contrary to your instincts. I like to think of creativity like a well. Sometimes there's enough water there to keep things going for a good while, but eventually it dries up. So in those trying times, how do you become like Stella and get your groove back? Here are some tips I've incorporated into my life to keep the well from drying out.

5. People watch

The foundation of many arts or the relationship people have with each other, with themselves and so on. People watching is an important aspect of being an artist because the information you gather (how quirky, complex or simple someone can be and so on) can help be your foundation for future projects. A lot of the metaphors we see in art was probably a couple of degrees removed away from someone's experience. People are endlessly fascinating and there's always material. In essence this is an endless source of inspiration. Bonus points for making up stories about the people you watch. That guy waiting by the store with flowers? Totally a serial killer. That girl petting her dog, serial killer. You see where I'm getting at.


4. Do something else

One of the simplest things you can do to get over a creative block is to do something else for a little while. Changing up your routine when things start getting frustrating gives you time to flex different muscles, leaving your creative well to accumulate some much needed water. A good example is fitness. When you work out one particular body part for too long, those muscles get fatigued and you won't see any growth. That's why a lot of fitness trainers will tell you to work out different parts of your body if you're going to be in the gym for a while. Your brain is a muscle, and can get fatigued as well. It never helps to force something when you've exhausted your capabilities, so taking a break is usually in your best interest. Don't fret, it doesn't have to be something completely different. It could be a freelance project you've already started working on or it could even be chores. The goal is to get your mind off whatever you're doing currently that is blocking you.

3. Experiment

This is probably one of the more fun points. If you're at the start of a project or drawing and you can't really figure out what to do, one of the best things to do is to change up your style! You'd be amazed at what comes pouring out of you when there's a different pen or brush in your hand. Using different materials can force your hand (pun intended) and put you in a very interesting creative space. A lot of my favorite pieces of art are the result of me just goofing around, unattached to the outcome. Experimenting with your materials is one thing but it doesn't stop there. You can experiment with your style and the type of content you make as well. Really anything goes when you experiment so don't feel pressure to do things a certain way. This is your chance to relieve your childhood in a great way, so get your hands dirty and make some art.


2. Have a life

This might be one of the obvious answers in this list, but it's also one of the most important. Speaking as an artist, and from my experience working with a ton of artists, tunnel vision is commonplace. In some cases tunnel vision can be a good thing like when you're knee deep in a project. In other cases like artist's block, it's your own worst enemy. Reason being that you're so focused on trying to force yourself to make art, it ends up setting you back further.

Have you ever experienced a moment where you can't remember a word? It's on the tip of your tongue, but somehow you just can't remember and you give up. Suddenly after some indeterminate amount of time, you remember exactly what the word you were thinking is! This is exactly what it's like having artists block and in particular, trying to fix your block by getting tunnel vision. In this case, the light is not at the end of the tunnel, it's somewhere else.

So how does having a life help? First of all, it removes you from getting tunnel vision and forces you to do something different. Second, it gives you chances to explore the different things life has to offer, and this is where inspiration comes in. Living more and exposing yourself to different things will become a well of inspiration for you, so when you sit down and put that pen to paper, you can draw upon any number of experiences you've had in life. That trip out last weekend? That could be art! If you're stuck at home drawing all the time and struggling, you're limiting yourself in a very dangerous way. Art feeds life, but it's also important to realize it works the other way around as well. Do things, and those experiences are there for you to recreate whenever you're struggling.

1. Write your ideas down (make a plan)

This is perhaps the most boring part of this list, but it's the one I found most effective in curbing any artist's block that has come my way. So much so in fact, I could say in the past 3 years, I can count with a few fingers how many times I've felt blocked up. A lot of time when making art, I've noticed my other artist friends simply draw in a very stream of consciousness sort of way. As in, they pick up the pencil and have at it. I think there are is a big problem with this approach. It puts your mind on the spot and that's bad because instead of just drawing like you would normally do, you're stuck thinking about what it is you should draw first. This is completely counter intuitive.


So in my experience, when I want to make art, I plan for it. It's not much different than making an outline for a paper you would write for school actually. Essentially, whatever ideas come to you, put it down on paper as detailed as possible. Do this for every idea that comes to you, good or bad. Remember, think of creativity like a muscle, the more you do it the easier it gets working it out over time. Eventually you'll have so many ideas you can pick and choose exactly what it is you want to work on. Again, it sounds boring at first, but what this method teaches you to do is to separate the function of making art and thinking creatively. So when you get a chance to do mindless drawing or prep work for a future project, you've already done the heavy lifting in figuring out creatively what it is you want to do!

In conclusion

To sum up, there are a lot of things you can do to get out of an artist's block. The gist of it all is to plan and take a break (remove yourself from the environment in which you're struggling). I hope this list can be beneficial to you, and if it has, I'd love to hear how!

See you later.