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Art Block and creative walls: working around a slump

Art block. Everyone hates it. Everyone gets it at some point. It’s like the herpes of the creative world. Not life threatening but certainly a pain in the neck. So what do we do when it strikes? How do we get rid of it and get back to creating or being productive?


Use prompts in your sketchbook or near your workstation


There’s nothing worse than getting all your materials ready, opening your sketchbook and hitting a blank on what to draw. One way of getting over this is to have a list of prompts on the front or back page. Don’t know what to draw? Just check the prompt list and choose one. Boom. Now you’ve got some guidance and that’s a start. Once you’ve used a prompt I’d recommend scoring it out. Having single use prompts is more constructive than just drawing from the same prompt over and over again (unless that’s something you want to try out).


Prompts are good in the regard that they get you thinking and can let you get a feel for what you’re in the mood for. Even if you can’t choose a prompt from your list they’re still a good starting point to give you some ideas.


Do a challenge


Challenges are great for everyone, regardless of level. If art block hits, then starting an art challenge is always a good way to shake yourself out of it. Challenges are a good way of leaving your comfort zone and really forcing yourself to create and try things you otherwise might shy away from. Can’t think of something to draw, take up a character challenge or a random object a day challenge. Now you’ve got something you have to draw and it’s probably out of your area of expertise. Congrats, you just got over your block and you grew a little as a creative.


Challenges are an excellent way of getting back into the habit of creating by working towards a goal with the chance of success or failure at the end of it. If you’ve had a block for more than a few weeks then a challenge is the ideal way to break out of it.


Do art studies


I keep a (very long) list of things I need to work on. So when I hit a block or I’m just not in the mood to make something original I pull out that list and I work my way down it.

How do I do this? With art studies. It’s easier than some folk will let on. You pick one technique , medium, whatever it is you need to work on and you just google it. Then you look up masterclasses or those weird deviantart tutorial infographics and you get to work. You look for references, you save them and you study them. I have a sketchbook dedicated to art studies that I pull off the shelf when I’m in a slump. I still have a long list to work through but by doing art studies and working on the fundamentals I’m still keeping what little skill I have sharp for when I do get some idea for a piece or a design.


Art studies are absolutely vital to any creator and one of the best times to do them are when you haven’t got anything in your head you’d dying to get onto the paper or canvas.


Switch up your medium or try a new one out


A change of pace is always a good idea when you’re struggling to create. One of the best ways to do that it to switch up your art medium to something else. Changing to another medium you’re familiar with and taking a different approach is always better than forcing yourself to create with tools you don’t feel like using. Better yet trying or experimenting with an entirely new medium works wonders for getting through blocks.


Personally for myself I cycle between inks and fine liners, watercolours and digital art. By changing between the three I find I’m a lot less susceptible to burnout or art block because of it.


Do a creative fast


When all else fails, sometimes the best thing to do is remove yourself from all the creative stimuli you use regularly. Give yourself a reprieve from the constant bombardment of art and the pressure to create.


In this day and age we are constantly blasted with stimuli and images of art. This is great and can offer a plethora of inspiration and motivation. It can also have the opposite effect and make you apathetic or demotivated to create. It’s hard to feel inspired when there’s a 13 year old Slovakian genius who can make a Magnum opus with ball point pens and sharpies.


Sometimes taking a break from art and the constant sharing in the online circles can reset those expectation you set yourself and remove any negative influences that come with constantly being exposed to art. I’m not saying this is bad but it’s helps to take a small break from the constant influx of art and focus more on yourself.


And that’s the list. If there’s anything not here that helps you feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

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