How to Overcome Art Block

How to Overcome Art Block

This, I know, has a million solutions and for every solution that actually works for a given person, there are 999,999 that don’t. So I’ve compiled a few ways I know to punt my creativity back up to speed, both in writing and art.

First of all, I know there are plenty more ways to get your creativity back that I didn’t list below. Please comment with methods that’ve worked for you.

Secondly, art block isn’t a supernatural monster that sucks your creativity out, just so you know. It can be laziness, depression, or any variety of negative emotions plaguing your mind. It may be worth it, if you’re really stuck, to read a self-help book or two, particularly those concerning positive mental attitude and personality reform.

Anyway, that’s just one solution, and most artists don’t have to change their personality just to enjoy something they’ve been doing for years. I’ll order the rest into a list here. It doesn’t have a million solutions, but it’s probably got enough. Give it a read:

1. TAKE A BREAK
And no, I don’t mean an hour or even a day. Recently, I ran into the biggest art block of my life after someone told me my work would never amount to anything. I feverishly tried to draw every day to get infinitely better and prove him wrong, but I soon realized that striving to shove my art in a troll’s face really wasn’t the best motivation in the world. A good, long break can get your mind working in different ways again. If you do one thing for a long time with very little deviation, of course it’ll get boring or frustrating. You’ll only be thinking inside the box, be it the art box or the writing box. It’s no surprise that artists and writers have to have a vast base of knowledge. How do you expect to ge that knowledge base if you don’t get your eyes off your paper or screen? Just go out and live! I solved my previously mentioned art block by getting a job and learning the basics of game design.

2. GET A JOB
Students have all felt this way at some point or another. Your free time is a lot more valuable to you when you don’t have very much of it, or at least as much of it. Besides, the best ideas often come to us when we’re not trying to come up with them. A lot of the content in my over-the-top action stories is based on something I saw or did at work; some tiny stimulus to my mind that projected itself into something enormous. Also, kids who live with your parents, do your chores. It’s not fun, but it creates a sense of perspective that you just can’t acquire when you’re sitting around and drawing (or writing) all the time.

3. THINK ABOUT YOUR MOTIVATIONS
Why did you start drawing in the first place? What were your goals? Did you want to impress a girl or boy you liked in school? Were you jealous of such and such’s drawing abilities? My reason to create is actually quite stupid, but that’s okay. As you go on, your motivations will branch out. The trunk of your motives will always be your starting point, though. I don’t know the exact philosophy behind this method, so I’ll leave it at this.

4. DRAW SOMETHING NEW
Try a different style. Now, I know a lot of people get flamed for suggesting this. Plenty of artists see the anime style as childish and too easily-accessible, but there’s a reason behind its popularity. Part of that is the enormous variety of sub-styles within it. Likewise, a lot of anime artists see realism as boring and time-consuming. While I can’t deny the latter, if you seriously try it out and stop worrying about the little things (i.e. this guy’s too ugly; the shading takes forever; I can’t use lines!?), you’ll find that it’s pretty fun. And 99% of the time, the most time-consuming work produces the best results. Just go for it. The reason exploring styles works so well is because it gets your mind to work in a slightly different way, opening up new possibilities. If you’ve drawn furries your whole life, and are in what seems like an endless block, try eliminating the fur, or eliminating the entire human element. Try out backgrounds, cars, buildings, and random objects. This seems daunting at first, but trust me on this. Charting unfamiliar territory expands your comfort zone and drives out art blocks.

5. LOOK AT ART YOU ADMIRE
For me, this is anything from Yabuki Kentaro’s cute manga girls to Jason Chan’s epic fantasy scenes. Inspiration comes from influence, among other things. You’ll never surpass Tony Taka if you just copy his stuff, though. When using reference, it’s a good idea to twist the picture up a bit and make it your own work. In addition to infringing copyright, drawing the exact picture you’re “referencing” also cuts your creativity short.

6. DRAW WITH SOMEONE ELSE
As long as you don’t waste time talking about useless things, drawing with a friend is fun and beneficial. Log on to iScribble and find an interesting room, or if one of your favorite sites has similar software, go for it.

7. WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM
Just switching from digital to traditional does a lot for you. Switching programs in digital art can help, but be careful not to get caught in the downloading trap, where you download all the drawing programs available and never use any of them. Downloading stuff does get addicting. So don’t fool yourself, thinking you’re just getting a few more programs to find a favorite or something. Also, if you’re a traditional artist, try switching to paint, or sculpting. Painters and sculpters, try other traditional mediums as well. I have a friend who never seems to get blocks because she consistently switches between crafting masks, building wood structures, and drawing furries.

8. GET WORKED UP
If you’ve ever been on a sports team, you probably realize that moving around and shouting gets you motivated. This works for everything, not just sports. It can be hard to do this discreetly, mind you.

9. KEEP YOUR DRAWING SPACE ORGANIZED
I don’t know for sure why this works, but it does. I’m thinking it’s something about the subtle feeling of accomplishment you get when you finish a job. Then again, I’m not a psychologist.

10. GET STUFF DONE
See that “to-do” list on your wall, or open in Outlook? See all that stuff not checked off? It’s good to get all that done before drawing. Being creative under stress is very difficult. You’ll find that stress goes hand-in-hand with depression, the primary cause of art block.

11. WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE CREATED . . .
. . . should be what you end up creating. Not enough good moe stories? Write one that actually is good. Not enough Christian comics? By all means, draw one. Not enough enriching pieces? Wanna write a strip explaining your political views? Do it.

I can’t pretend any of these are the ultimate solution to all your creative problems. That’s impossible. Every human has different problems and different needs. The basic problems are, in general, exactly the same, which is why lists like these work. If one item doesn’t work, try another. Don’t get discouraged by a few art blocks, or even a big, long one. If you start to think you should pursue something else instead of art (or writing), don’t push the thought away and keep going. Turn around and confront it. Do what you think you’d do if you weren’t an artist (seriously, starting up on game design helped me a ton). Eventually, you will want to go back and draw. When you do, it’ll be all the more satisfying.

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KJ Hamm, posted this comment on Jul 3rd, 2011

Oooh, I should try number 6.

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