Recently I've been feeling a lot like this illustration; in a dark place with a tumbleweed rolling across the emptiness of my brain. Emphasizing the drought my creativity is currently experiencing...
I have been struggling a lot with art block. Not even prompts are helping me right now! SO I decided to write a post on this topic. I will be sharing some of my thoughts on how one can go about overcoming art block. let's start off by defining this thing we call art block.
I read a very...majestic..definition for art block on The Urban dictionary once:
"It's the worst fucking thing for an artist to ever encounter.
It's when you run out of ideas to draw things off, and temporarily loose all motivation to do anything art related. "
So...basically when you run out of ideas of what to draw, according to this definition that is. I, however, believe that it is much more than just this. Many times I find myself with countless ideas of what to draw, but I never seem to get a start on them. Either they don't seem worth persuing to me or my skill level just doesn't seem up to it. Most of the time it has been a lack of purpose in my pursuit of making art. And I think creative purpose is something that takes time to develop. And it's something you lose often or it changes etc.
So I have been thinking long about this and came up with some strategies that have helped me get through the drought. Sometimes they work, sometimes you just gotta let it go and do something else for a while before trying again. But without further adue here are a few strategies I've prepared...
Just make marks! If you did the same course as me then that’ll probably sound all too familiar to you, since we had one lecturer who was a bit known to tell that to us. Draw, write, paint! Just make splotches, dots and lines or anything on the paper. I usually do this if I can’t think of anything to draw or paint. Making marks warms me up and usually it helps me flow into a creative rhythm which in turn helps me flow into an idea. And sometimes it's just freeing to create without a purpose. It becomes an act of play.
Mixed-media artist Trey Speegle suggests making a drawing and photocopying it 50 times, then altering each image in as many ways as you can think of. “The important thing is to turn off your brain and just play with a repeated form and let your mind see where no ideas or thought processes takes you,” he says. “Create your own tight parameters . . . Then give yourself a lot of room to play.”(Porter:2015)
Practice from observation
If I really don't feel the creative flow I'll just open a life drawing website and do some gestures or open one of my figure study books and practice a part of the anatomy I usually struggle with. Sometimes this leads me into a creative flow as well. I've gotten character sketches out of doing this before and I've even ended up making complete illustrations from starting like this.
Going to a completely different space and drawing different people around you is also an effective way to practice drawing and to get myself into drawing again. It helps that you're simultaneously also switching up your environment when doing something like drawing on location, which brings me to my next point.
Explore new areas
Whether it be a new area in the creative field or a new area in terms of location. Changing things up usually helps freshen my creative flow a bit, sometimes a little change goes a long way. Another way you could change things up is by looking at a favorite artist and study their process and then try to make art the way they would go about it. Apart from it being fun, this can also be a good learning exercise.
Buying new art supplies is probably one of the best ways to get myself into creating work. It just fills me with delight when I can play around with new tools and explore new techniques with tools I'm using for the first time. This strategy is what helped me overcome my most recent bout of artblock. And it was especially special to me since my new art supplies were mostly gifts from a loved one.
Surround yourself with like minded people
I definitely think that being to connected with other like minded creatives helps in overcoming the hurdle of art block. And I don't believe it necessarily has to be people who work in the same field as you. Nothing is as contagious as being around someone who is filled with enthusiasm for their hobby. My guy loves making just about anything he can use his dremel with if not more, and it just fills me with motivation to make art when I see him eagerly hammering or gluing away on a building project he has thought up for himself.
I have found that I come up with ideas easily when I am relaxed, either after I've done something completely different to my usual routine or after a holiday period. So what I'd usually do is sit by my work place and listen to music and a podcast and let myself relax. Taking long periods of time by myself when I can helps get me going for this reason.
I would love to hear any suggestions you might have that I haven't mentioned here. What are some things that help you get out of an idea-less rut?
Sources and further reading: