What Is Creative Block?
Creative block is when you feel like you are in a rut with your art. You can be outputting art regularly and one day just feels like you’re stuck. It’s like you forgot how to create art and feel bored with what you’re creating. It’s a feeling of total loss while everyone else around you is excited about creating wonderful works of art. You feel like you lost an ability. A sense of dissatisfaction with what you create or what you think you can create. These feelings are okay as an artist. It’s okay because it happens to us all. Picasso, Matisse, Pollack. — All of these artists have most likely gone through a creative block which impacted the work they created. You can tell because their work changed over their span of life. Picasso went from having a blue period to cubism. Matisse went from colorful still life and Fauvism to modern pieces that only used one color. Pollock went from abstract expressionism to the more infamous contemporary drip paintings he is now known for. We tend to think the creative block is a negative, but maybe we need to shine a positive light and begin thinking it’s a way our art is about to evolve.
Helpful Ways To Overcome & Use Creative Block Effectively
1. Start sketching and doodling in a personal sketchbook
Keeping a personal sketchbook by your side is a great way to keep your pencil active while your brain or heart isn’t. The first thing I pick up when I have creative block is my sketchbook. I don’t have to show my work to anyone but myself, and I don’t have to worry about what I put down on that paper. It can be a doodle, a quick sketch, a still life. It’s freedom from critique, and I can be free to go back to basics with just drawing shapes. I’m also able to pick up other mediums like different colored pens, inks, pencils, pastels, charcoal, or even lay down some collage. Not only do you leave the criticism aside, but a sketchbook is the best way to get your creativity sparked because you forget about the cost of paper. A sketchbook is a cheaper source to free your mind from using an expensive piece of canvas or paper. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a blank canvas and felt lost on what to create. Sometimes a new canvas or expensive piece of watercolor paper can create my creative block because I worry about the cost too much. When this happens, find your sketchbook. It might lead to your next great painting.
2. Visit museums and gardens for inspiration
Creative block can be a great excuse to get yourself outdoors and explore. Removing yourself from your creative space and studio can help ease your mind from thinking about the need to create. A great place to visit is the museum. I like to visit a museum to find inspiration and educate myself on other artists, color, imagery, mediums, and more. It’s a good way to keep your brain actively thinking about your art without the stress of creating at the moment. Being outdoors is a good way to find inspiration. Everywhere you look is color and shape. You can look at a building or landscape and think about what you're looking at to see if anything sparks your creativity. Switch it up and visit a botanical garden. Botanical gardens are therapeutic and relaxing while being very inspiring with loads of color, landscape, and shapes. While in Phoenix, Arizona, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden and left with loads of pictures and inspiration. I went home and painted tons of cacti and landscapes. Whenever I feel like I get a bit of creative block coming, I look back in my photo album from that trip and it gets me excited to paint.
3. Take a trip to the art store and seek out new mediums/materials
Not only will visiting the art store spark some creativity but coming home with a bunch of new supplies will get you excited to create. If you’re still feeling lost while in the art store, you can always pick up a new medium or paper product. As artists, we have so many different mediums at our disposal. Last year, I went through a creative block while I was painting with watercolors. I had seen some artists using gouache as a medium and I really wanted to give it a try. I was a bit torn about spending more money on a new medium but I’m so happy I did. I have found a new medium that I’m in love with, and if I never gave it a shot I think I could be going through more cycles of creative block. If you’re unsure what type of medium to switch to, a good source of inspiration can be found on Instagram and Pinterest. You can always look at an artists social page to see what products they tag or click on their website to see if they have a section that lists the products they use. Don’t be shy to ask the artist. I’ve had many people ask me what type of paint I use, and I always tell them. I also have a list of products I use and recommend that you can find here.
4. Play with line, shape and color
Another good way to battle the creative block is taking a step back and playing with line, shape, and color. It can be fun and less stressful when you allow yourself to play around. Often, even when I don’t have a creative block, I like to sit down and paint different colors on paper. This not only helps me see what my paint will look like when it’s dry but also gives me a sense of what colors look great next to each other. This might set you up with a future palette that you’ll want to try out with an old drawing or painting. Drawing senseless shapes and lines are also a good way to let your mind be at ease. Try drawing shapes and lines on a piece of paper while allowing your mind to be stress-free. Don’t think about the lines and shapes you create. After it dries, go back and use colors to fill the spaces. Another way to ease your mind on creating but staying active is by creating a color wheel. You can create a variety of color wheels using different colors you might have. Try creating a color wheel with colored pencils, gouache paints, acrylics, oils, or watercolors. All of these color wheels will help you in the future when you find that boost back into creating.
5. Take a break
Sometimes, you just need to take a break altogether. It’s okay to take a break. Especially if it will help you forget that you even have creators block. You’re mind and heart will let you know when it’s time to create again. I once took a year or more off while I was in college, but there was always something within myself that made me have an urge to create a piece of art. Whether it was creating a large collage on canvas or a simple sketch — the urge of creating has never left my mind. While taking a break, spend some time cleaning out your art supplies, organizing your art bins, and archiving old artwork into archival storage boxes. You might come across a pen, a tube of paint, or a piece of paper that will excite you to create something. During your break, take a class such as a cooking class, learn how to give a massage, or try a new workout studio to keep your mind active. I’ve taken mixology classes that are very interactive and you can be creative while creating a drink. These can be fun and less stressful while being creative. While you’re at it, you can invite a friend or have a fun date night.
I hope these tips on overcoming and using creative block effectively are useful. I know it’s never easy battling creative block, but if you can find any positivity through it, then you might just find a new artistic style or hobby. Whether it’s taking a new class, playing with colors, taking a trip to the art store, or visiting the museum; I hope that you keep your mind actively seeking creativity.
My personal feeling: Recently, I’ve been battling with my own creative block. I have spent time painting different shades of gouache in several shapes to see what palettes I love, I picked up new art supplies (oil paint sticks) at the art store, and started a passion project creating different patterns of color and geometric shapes to create different styles of packaging. These have helped me tremendously and I have felt a new spark of creativity.