Don’t wanna read all these words? Check out the video above to hear all my tips and tricks for overcoming artist’s block in detail.
If you prefer to take in information in a more traditional way, here’s a run-down, pretty much word-for-word, of everything I say in the video.
This all began when I went through a bit of a bout of artists block. I couldn’t come up with things to draw and I couldn’t really motivate myself to try, so I thought I’d go through the ways I made it out of that funk and a few other methods I’ve found effective over the years to get inspired and productive.
I’ve found that when you’re a creative person by nature and you’r so used to getting and executing great ideas, when your mind goes blank, it’s almost like forgetting who you are! I mean, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’ve definitely had times where I haven’t been able to create something for over a week and I sort end up doubting myself and what I’m actually capable of.
So I think the best thing to do when that uninspired feeling first hits is to REMIND YOURSELF WHO YOU ARE. I know that sounds a bit silly, but I know for me it really helps to look over my old sketchbooks. And it also helps to have your art online somewhere like Instagram because that allows you to quickly go over all the highlights; your best bits of work, all in one place. And all of a sudden you think, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that, I was really proud of that, I can draw afterall’.
It can also help to RECREATE some of those old favourite pieces of work. You did it well once, so why can’t you do a great job of it again, maybe an even better job. A lot of the time, that’s just the sort of confidence boost you need to get back into the swing of things, plus it doesn’t require much thought or imagination.
Now, if you’re like me, you might not like drawing the same thing more than once, in which case you could try to RECREATE the work of someone whose art style you admire. And obviously I’m not advocating plagiarism or anything like that, don’t go copying someones work and sharing with the world, claiming it as your own, This is really for your eyes only, its just a practice to sort of wake up your creative muscle memory, get your hands back in the swing of handling your art tools and get your brain back into a zone of creativity.
Another thing that helps my remind myself who i am, is to DRAW WHAT YOU KNOW YOU’RE GOOD AT. It can be really dis-heartening when you try something new and it doesn’t go well. And when you start to feel useless or talentless, all motivation to create new things just sort of goes out the window. So, I like drawing faces; mainly of women, mainly facing dead-on. On most days, I can do that and like what I end up with. It might be really samey and similar to stuff I’ve done a thousand times before, but again, it boosts my confidence and gets me back in the mood to do more.
Or on the absolute flip side of that, but equally as effective, TRY SOMETHING BRAND NEW. Do something you’ve never done before. You don’t have step completely out the box; it could be working on a different coloured paper (which is what got me out of my last artists block as you might have seen me talk about in my yellow scarf video), you could use a different type of pen or paint, you could work on a much bigger scale then usual, or much smaller. If you always draw people, draw some animals, do something futuristic or fantasy-themed. Do some fan-art. Try cubism. Lose control. Go wild.
On the subject of challenging yourself and pushing your boundaries, how about taking part in an art CHALLENGE or project? Pages like Sketchdailies, give you prompts for things to draw every day and there are loads of other communities like it. Or I now the artist from the channel Love Teacup Kisses on Youtube is doing something called Weekly 5 where you complete 5 drawings a week (read about it in her words here).
That type of thing really breaks you out of a funk because its fun and you sort of have no choice but to create something!
You can also make up your own challenge that fits with your needs. I recently set myself to fill 100 sketchbook pages using prompts that I came up with myself. Maybe you could draw a hand every day in different positions or do a 30-day background challenge. It really enforces a routine of drawing again that’s not only fun but rewarding as well.
One really easy challenge that I set myself sometimes when I’m procrastinating on social media is to draw every single thing i see while I’m aimlessly scrolling through. Pinterest and Tumblr and Instagram are great sites for this; you basically have to interpret every single image or piece of writing or even music in some way.
Alright, so a lot of the time when people are talking about creativity and productivity and inspiration, they suggest going outside and taking in the world around you. And I think that’s a great tip, it makes a lot of sense. But I’m not much of an outside kind of person, especially when it’s as cold as it is now. I have found however that you can get the same sort of refreshing, rejuvenating feeling by simply moving to a different room, or even a different part of the room, or by just tidying up the space you’re already in.
I’m in the habit of always keeping my room super tidy, especially my workspace but I’m guilty of spending most of my time working in bed! Its warm, its comfy, what can you do? But sitting there all day can start to feel quite stagnant so it really helps to pick up all my bits and bobs, move over to my desk and spread everything out. It’s like taking a deep breath of fresh air. My mind is so much clearer.
On top of that, I love to make my space really sort of attractive and relaxing. So as well as tidying up, I’ll add some extra flare by lighting candles or turning on my fairy lights. I also like to put on some music to fit my mood. When I’m particularly stressed out, I have one special cassette tape that never fails to ground me. I try not to listen to it too often so it can keep its magical powers. Have a listen here.
Those types of things, plus that sort of self-indulgent feeling of setting the scene, really alleviate feelings of being pent-up and trapped and stuck in a box. Once your mind is feeling freer, the creative juices should be able to flow a lot better.
If none of that stuff is working, it might be time to GET TECHNICAL. You can never have enough practice as far as I’m concerned so dedicating some time to looking at references and working on your knowledge of anatomy or whatever else is always really useful. I like to spend some time looking at reference practice boards on Pinterest. And I also like to take lessons on YouTube like those done by Draw with Jazza. It’s really useful to draw along and learn some new skills. And you’ll find that once you’ve learned something new, you’ll be so eager to incorporate it into your work, that artist’s block will be a distant memory.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to really APPRECIATE EVERY VICTORY. It’s so easy as a creative person to put too much pressure on yourself and focus on these perceived failures and over time, that sort of mindset just sort of breaks you down. So make sure you’re really appreciating yourself throughout the day, even the littlest things. Like as long as you tried, that’s worth something. And I take this really quite literally because I think it can work in all aspects of life. When I feel like I’m done drawing for the day, or for the moment, I take a second to really actively tell myself, you did well. Then when it comes time to draw something again, instead of feeling deflated and hopeless, there’s this underlying sense of achievement already there. Like,‘I remember last time I was sat here drawing, I did well, didn’t I? I’ll do well again.’
So I hope these tips have been useful, I hope I’ve been able to give you at least a couple of new ideas of ways to overcome a creative roadblock. Let me know how you guys get on if you decide to try any of these tips.
The problem is; working from home doesn’t really feel like work. Just imagine the disapproving raised eyebrow you’d get from Susan in HR