Ah, art block. The bane of every artist’s existence. Nothing feels worse than your pretty little brain feeling like a dry sponge needing the hydration of creativity, and the struggle to find that lake of inspiration to get it kicking again. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve become art blocked. Seriously, it used to be so bad even my mom (who is not art inclined AT ALL by the way) used to give me crap about it. I’m probably even slightly a hypocrite because when I’m stumped myself during my creative process I don’t practice what I preach.
But over the years, I’ve accumulated a few tips that have helped me whenever I am going through an artistic dry spell. Now some of these things you may halve already read on someone else’s journal or article, but I’ve found that these tips are common for a reason. They work!
Tip #1: Stop Making Art
I know, it sounds weird. Cause I’ve been there, sitting and stewing about what I should draw, or how to proceed on a piece, or even hating making art in general. us artists like to call this burnout. But I’ve found that stepping away from the tablet for a few hours or even a day can help reset your brain. Take the time to go engage in something non art related. Go for a walk, take a trip, play a video game or watch a movie. As people we get our inspiration from things that we enjoy, people we meet, or from the outside world, so take the time to go engage in those things. Which brings us to the next tip….
Tip #2: Seek Out People
As artists, our tendencies tend to be introverted. We sit at our work space, for hours a day, in our own world painting and creating. And I can’t blame anyone cause honestly? It’s cozy and comfy. However, I actually believe most successful artists also are somewhat extroverted, whether it is a part of their personality or not. I’ve found that getting out and talking to other people and fellow creatives helps to get an outside perspective. One of the places I get to chat with people are conventions (which are a whole other beast in itself). These events are loaded with fellow creatives from many different backgrounds, and since a large chunk of them visit in the artist alley, it’s always enlightening to talk with them about art. Now cons aren’t the only place of course to meet people, try local art groups, drink and draws, or workshops. Overall hearing other people’s experiences in art help to get me inspired to try out some of their suggestions. It’s always beneficial too to get outside critique from these people, as they might have a suggestion that you never would have thought about before when you are working on a piece.
Tip #3: Break Your Ceiling
I’d like to share a little story with this one. When I was in college, I was finishing up my mentor-ship with my professor, who was well rounded in knowledge of digital painting and concept art. I remember sitting down and talking to him about my progress artistically in the class. I was struggling at the time, feeling like my art wasn’t improving like I wanted it to. Now my mentor put up with me for a year and a half, and when we approached this problem he told me this.
“Your art progression is like the stories of an apartment building. Every time you improve, you move to the next floor, where the amenities get better and better. The next level may have nicer furniture, and the next level may have better appliances and a better view. The thing is, the higher up you move, the more comfortable you get, and once you feel you’re living the life of luxury, and you’re at your comfiest on the top floor, it’s time to break the ceiling. otherwise you will be stuck in limbo.”
In summary, I thought I had all the knowledge I needed to succeed as a digital artist, thus I stopped focusing on my technical skills. I didn’t worry about learning more about color, or anatomy, or composition. I worried about just creating illustrations, but when it came to the point of creating something that incorporated a concept I didn’t understand, my art suffered for it. So if you have art block, it may be because your artistic knowledge has surpassed your skill set, and thus it would be beneficial to go back to some basics, such as doing master studies, or watching tutorials on YouTube that cover the concepts you are struggling to master. So bottom line, get off the top floor and break your ceiling. Level up your art game. Analyze what you are struggling with the most and find resources to help tackle it.
Tip #4: Switch It Up
Sometimes, when you get stuck, it might be best to change your pace in regards to the medium you are using. I mostly am a digital artist, but one media I have come to love accidentally is sketching in ink. There’s something about the thinking process behind creating a drawing in ink, knowing that whatever mark you make will not be editable. Now I’m no Kim Jung Gi (while I always aspire to be an eighth as good as he is), but the switch to traditional media is always a nice break from staring at a screen. So whether you draw mostly digitally or traditionally, make the switch every once in a while. The concepts from one medium definitely transition into the opposite media, and you never know, maybe your digital painting just needed that fresh ingredient you learned while working traditionally.
Tip #5: Stop Caring about your Art (and other’s work)
Yep, I know. That sentence seems like sacrilege in itself. But as artists, there are times where we care WAY too much about the work we create. Now don’t get me wrong, of course we should always strive to create great, meaningful work. However, sometimes that passion controls our emotions about our art too much. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to the people we look up to as creatives, and thus, we lose sight of our own artistic process. We forget to stay in our own boat when it comes to improving our art, where instead of putting pride aside and tackling the concepts that we need to learn or are struggling with, we begin trying to replicate what other artists are doing, with the hope that it will be just as good. Well news flash, and I’ll be blunt, you will NEVER be as good as that artist. Not because you aren’t talented, or not driven, it’s because you aren’t that person. You don’t share the same experiences and influences as everyone else, and that’s the beauty of art. Art is an expression of our minds and souls, that’s what makes it to important and valuable. So when you try to copy your hero, you’re creating a red herring, not something in your own artistic voice.
I’m sure there are a hundred and one more things I could touch base on, but overall I hope I touched base on some big ones. Art block is common for every creative, so if it hits, switch up your routine! Monotony can sometimes be the biggest killer, so don’t forget to break your routine!