November 6, 2021

How to Combat Art Block

We’ve all heard of writers block haven’t we? But what exactly is art block? Like writers block, art block is an abstract term to describe the lack of creative motivation; the ignition switch in the brain that just does not want to start. It is almost a given that working within the creative industry that you will hit that inevitable wall or “art block”. This can be incredibly hard to navigate, especially if your projects are time sensitive. An artist can spend hours upon hours staring at a blank canvas looking for the perfect concept to no avail.

This block stems from varying layers of disconect within oneself which may be tempting to just ignore and hope it magically disappears on its own but this can lead to weeks or even months of time lost to the fog.

causes of art block

The general consensus is that the causes of creative block are most likely down to:

01. being too self-critical
02. comparing your work with other artists
03. a lack of external motivation
04. a lack of internal motivation

tips for avoiding art block

+ getting adequate sleep | I feel like this one is a bit of a catch 22 because I often find myself at my most creative in the small hours of the morning. While these random bursts of creativity are what I live for as an artist, they are not particularly helpful in me being productive in running my own business during the day. A balance of these bursts and sleep hygiene is crucial for keeping a creative business afloat – however much we may wish to live for those 2am painting session.

+ managing your time efficiently | this is rather another catch 22 situation (are you seeing a theme evolving here?) because those random bursts leave you wanting to paint and paint until you cant paint anymore but and all or nothing approach is sadly not the best. Ensuring that you get adequate breaks can help reignite that creative flame which would end up being snuffed out trying to juggle everything at once all the time. Setting yourself work days and not deviating from them will allow you time to let your brain b r e a t h e.

+ write down your fleeting ideas | this gives you something to refer back to whenever you feel like you’re about to hit the wall. Scribble them down in a notebook, in your notes app on your phone or on the back of canvases – literally wherever!

+ eat and drink enough | the basics of survival are more important than you think for the function of your brain and therefore your creativity. Drinking more than the odd swig of accidental paint water and a painty sandwich will do WONDERS for your cognitive ability (and also give you more energy on those small hour painting sessions…and to actually clean your paintbrushes properly)

how to deal with art block

Okay, so we have gone past the stage of trying to prevent it. We are here. We are suffocating in the bleak, colourless wall. We have a deadline in 2 weeks and now idea what the heck to do; whatever bleak scenario you want to go with. Once you’re here it’s difficult to get yourself out of the funk but there are things you can do to help reduce the amount of time you are sat, paintbrush in hand scratching your head for ideas that just arent coming.

+ use quotes as inspiration | i like to collect quotes from books, tv shows, people I know in real life, anywhere and create art from them. 80% of my traditional art once started out as a quote.

+ take inspiration from dreams | not only have I painted my own but also other people’s. I find the most abstract and fantastic ideas come from the unconscious mind. The best artwork I’ve ever seen is that of the deepest, darkest, depths of the mind. I like to connect with the artist, I want to feel what they felt when their brush hit the canvas.

+ get outside | we are all probably guilty of being stuck in our studios or offices which is an all time creative killer and we know it. Nature is the epitome of art, it’s the mother of all things beautiful so go and watch the sunset or the leaves change colour. Don’t just look at it – feel it.

+ mind map ideas | this is essentially primary school logical but why fix what isn’t broken? This is a great way to get the brain thinking creatively again. Start small with random words and continue to expand on them until something inspires you.

+ immerse yourself in the creative world | whether this be online via Instagram, Pinterest or at an art gallery or event – putting your brain in the middle of nothing but creativity can help spark your own imagination.

+ take a break | sometimes there really is nothing you can do but take a step back and let your creativity breathe. I think there is a certain pressure put on artists to be consistently creating new and innovative things but it’s unrealistic to expect us to be on the game 100% of the time.

+ take part in an art challenge | there are a bunch of these scattered about the internet!

Try not to look at art block as a complete failure! While failures are often part of the process of creating anything, art block isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. It often gives you a chance to slow yourself down and grow. My favourite pieces are usually ones I’ve created right after an art block – don’t give up!

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