Imagine you have a big project to tackle or a commission to complete before your deadline.
As you sit down to start, you somehow just can’t find a good idea to work on. You have zero inspiration.
This phenomenon, experienced by artists and creators everywhere, is known as art block or artist block.
Originating from the term “writer’s block,” which was coined in 1947, artist block occurs when you have the desire to create but can’t seem to come up with any ideas.
It strikes all kinds of creatives and can cause issues with completing projects or starting them in the first place.
What causes artist block?
Artist block can be frustrating, but knowing what is causing your artist block may be the first step to overcoming it. It can also aid in helping you prevent artist block from happening again in the future.
One major cause of artist block is lack of inspiration. If you haven’t been able to read new things, experience new events, or view new art, you might find that your creative stores have run out.
Changing your environment by taking a walk, or finding art by other artists you admire, may help your brain get creative again.
Another cause might be your mental or physical health. Have you been feeling depressed, sick, or otherwise lethargic?
If so, you can’t expect your creativity to be at its peak. Engaging in some self-care and addressing these outside issues will eventually help clear your mind and allow you to tackle new art projects.
Finally, stress or intimidation may be causing a blockage. Tight deadlines work well for some but can cause anxiety and artist block in others.
You may also feel intimidated by a project if you’ve been held to some sort of high standard by a commissioner or an audience, or if you are creating something for an important client.
How to overcome artist block?
One of the simplest ways to cure artist block is to put your project aside and come back to it later. A fresh set of eyes will help you see areas where you need to improve your work, and where you can expand your concept.
If you’ve been staring at your creation non-stop for a while, it might be worth stepping back and returning to it at a later time.
However, you don’t always have time to step away. If that’s the case, try some of the exercises outlined below to help spark the inspiration to continue or begin your project.
Exercises to help with artist block
1. Make Lots of Mistakes
Prepare yourself to create something, but before you start, tell yourself that you will make a bad drawing or paint a messy painting.
Giving yourself the freedom to “mess up” will allow you to release some inhibitions that may be holding you back. And who knows – what you create in that “bad” drawing may inspire you, or it might even be good enough for you to sell your artwork!
2. Use a New Medium
Take a look through your collection of art supplies until you find something you’ve never used before.
If you’re an oil painter, try pastels. If you’re a charcoal artist, try watercolors. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like trying to work with a medium that you’ve never thought to try before.
Take a look at our article on art mediums that are easy to learn for more ideas.
3. Seek Out Art that Inspires You
This is an easy and fun way to get inspired to create.
Collect reference photos of art pieces you enjoy or browse the websites and online shops of your favorite creators. You are bound to find something that inspires you to pick up a pencil and start drawing.
4. Organize Your Studio
You may struggle to create if you can’t find the supplies you need or if you’re distracted by a messy workspace.
Doing a little tidying up might be what you need to find the supplies you were looking for. It may also help to freshen your perspective and clear your mind.
5. Chat With Other Artists
Creative communities are invaluable, and if you have one, feel free to reach out to them when you’re in a state of artist block.
They are sure to have experienced the same thing, and they can give you prompts to draw from or critique your current project.
If you aren’t in a creative community yet, there are plenty of places on the internet where you can chat with and learn from other artists.
6. Complete an Art Challenge
Art challenges are popular ways for artists to try something new.
These challenges include the 100 Heads Challenge, Draw This in Your Style prompts, daily drawing challenges, drawing without looking at the paper, or re-drawing an old piece of art.
7. Generate a Random Prompt
These may help spark an idea that you otherwise would not have thought of. For an extra challenge, you can combine these features to put together a challenging list of elements to include in a piece.