Overcoming Artist’s Block

Artist’s block is a beleaguering but usually inevitable reality for many creative types. It can stall progress, waste precious studio time, and is generally disheartening. Many different factors can cause artist’s block, but there are usually ways to overcome it. One difficulty is, everyone is different! There is no surefire fix or antidote, but I have compiled a few ideas that work for me and other artists that I know. Remember: the main obstacle to overcoming artist’s block is lack of initiative. Whether you use the ideas below or your own, the most important thing is: make the time to do it!

  • Go somewhere you’ve never been, or somewhere you enjoy. Sometimes a change of scene is all you need. Find an inspiring environment and spend your “studio time” there instead. This could be anywhere: a park, a new coffee shop, a zoo or aquarium, a walk along the ocean, a museum… whatever appeals to you! You’ll be surprised how refreshing it can be for your mind to focus external stimulus instead of turning ideas in circles inside your head.
  • Visit the library. See above, but I wanted to separate the library in particular as it is such a good place to go for inspiration. Look at art books, but also look at books on subjects that inspire you: for example, if your work relates to urban environments, look up books on architecture and urban planning. Walk around the shelves aimlessly and pull things out.
  • Try a different media. Sometimes artists can get stuck in a rut, especially if a particular medium has worked well for them in the past. Try dropping your usual routine and pick upĀ  something fresh that you’ve never used before. The farther away it is from your comfort zone the better! Sculpture? Guerrilla public installation? Screen printing?
  • Visit art galleries. Seeing other artworks in person is great for inspiration, and taking the time to check out other artist’s work is always worthwhile. Whether you love the work or not, there is always something useful to be gleaned from this experience: you might see a colour you love, a canvas built in a way you hadn’t thought of, something you hate and would never do… anything!
  • Take a class. There’s nothing that makes people work like deadlines and clear-cut expectations. Taking a class is great for so many reasons: you have a professional guiding you through your work, most likely offering you useful and new suggestions; you get to meet and make connections with other artists taking the class; you usually end up doing everything you never thought you would do, and hopefully enjoying it!

I hope you enjoy the suggestions above, and please feel free to share your ideas! Let us know in the comments below what works for you in overcoming artist’s block.

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4 thoughts on “Overcoming Artist’s Block

  1. (Wading slowly into the shallow end of the pool)

    Sometimes I say to myself “OK, I’m not actually going to paint, I’m just going to put paint on the palette…” then, “Maybe I’ll just put a few strokes down on the canvas….” and before I know it, I’m working. This may sound like a silly process, but for me, baby steps seem to work to get me going.

    (Diving into the deep end)

    Also, as much as I hate deadlines and schedules, they tend to be effective in getting me to work on (and finish) paintings.

  2. Gessoing canvases seems to get my creative juices flowing. When i’m in a slump I buy & gesso 3 or 4 canvases in different sizes, by the time i’m finished I am filled with ideas as to what to paint on them and can’t wait to get started.

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