Artistic Blockbusters

How to deal with artist’s block

If you are a creative person you will have experienced artist’s block at some point. In this blog I’m going to give you some tips and trick on how to deal with artist’s block and use it as a positive time for your art.

Artist’s block can apply to any craft. Writing, cookery, garden design, song writing, whatever your chosen creativity there will be a time when you got stuck. You couldn’t find the motivation, you had the motivation but couldn’t think of an idea. You had the idea but it just wouldn’t go how you wanted it. Does that ring any bells with you?

I am going to give you some tips and tricks on how to get over artist’s block. I have concentrated on creating art here, but some of these suggestions may translate to your own chosen craft. Use them for inspiration and see if it gives you any new ideas.

Tips and Tricks on how to deal with artist’s block.

A powerful shift.

The best thing you can do to deal with artist’s block is change your mind-set. This is a powerful thing. If you keep trying to paint and it isn’t working, STOP! Stop trying to paint and use this time to play. Once you switch your mindset from painting to playing, you have taken the pressure off to ‘produce’ and are now in the mindset to enjoy and discover. This time is an opportunity to try new techniques, ideas and materials.  Give yourself permission and take time off from creating masterpieces and have some fun. Sit down without the pressure of producing a finished painting and get messy with your art. It will relax you, you’ll have some fun, you might even discover something new. But most importantly you will turn a time of frustration into a time of discovery. The negative momentum will become positive. The self-criticism will be pushed aside for a mind open to new possibilities and who can say what exciting things that will lead to?

So these tips and tricks below on how to deal with artist’s block are here to help you play and open up your mind.

1. Go for a walk.

If it’s raining put your wellies on and a jacket and jump in puddles. Choose something from your walk to draw. Pick up a leaf. Pick up a twig.  Look for a natural patterns. Reflections in water. Cloud watch. When you get back home paint something from memory. Paint your leaf. Recreate the pattern. Pick a colour that suits your mood and play with different shades of it. Use the twig to paint with. Do a leaf print. Being out in nature is always uplifting. So go outside and feel the sun, the wind, the rain on your face and let your mind run free with possibilities.

2. Try a new craft.

If you’ve never tried it, have a go at collage. Gather together lots of things that take your fancy. Gorgeously coloured materials, fray them at the edges. Snippets from magazines. Threads, buttons, newspaper, book pages, wax, paints. Choose one colour and collect different shades. Choose a rainbow of colour and mix them up. Go black and white. Add some sparkle. Stitch things onto a canvas. Stick things onto a board. What is the craziest idea you can think of with this. Try it! If collage doesn’t get the creative juices flowing, try something else new. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try? Buy some clay, try baking, gardening, writing, singing, poetry. After all a change is as good as a rest so whatever takes your fancy, give it a go.

3. My third tip on how to deal with artist’s block is to be contrary.

Do the opposite of what you normally do. Break the rules. Do things in reverse. If you usually paint landscapes, try a portrait. Paint the sky green and the grass blue. Try oil paints on watercolour paper. Watercolours on canvas. Draw the negative space around and in between the subject instead of the subject itself. It’s easy to slip into the same habits and approach when sitting down to paint your usual subject. Doing something different makes you think differently and concentrate with a new enthusiasm. But remember, we are not painting to ‘produce’ at the moment. So just play, experiment and have fun.

4. Look at something from a different perspective.

If you paint from a photograph, turn it upside down and try drawing what you see without thinking about what it is you are drawing. Sit on the stairs and draw what you can see. Sit further up the stairs and start again. Move your work desk to a different part of the room (or a different room altogether) for a trial run. Paint outside (if it’s cold just wrap up warmer). Go for  a walk and take a sketchbook. Paint a bird’s-eye view of your garden or your street. Paint a worms eye view of your garden or your street. Get your brain buzzing with all the different ways you can view a subject or space and the different ways you can inhabit that space yourself to work within it. 

5. Make something for somebody else.

I always do my best work when I am creating it for someone I care about. Can you think of someone who needs some kindness at the moment? Is there someone who has always been there for you? Someone with a special birthday or anniversary? Someone you could send a gift to anonymously? Make something for someone just for the pleasure of giving. Even if it doesn’t cure your artist’s block, it will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

6. Create something with somebody else.

Who else could you create with? Do you know a musician who could create music inspired by your paintings? A poet whose writing might inspire you to paint. Could you both work on your own craft but in the same room? Create work from the same photograph, piece of music, idea? Have an arty party and invite a few of your friends. Get painting with the other creative people in your life. Have fun, have a chat, have a cuppa and some cake (or a wine) and get inspired at the same time. What a great way to deal with your artist’s block and get social at the same time.

7. Go back in time

Children have the ability to lose themselves in play. They become totally absorbed in what they are doing. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to regain that skill. Mindfulness is the grown up word for this. Being completely in the moment, all other thoughts, worries and fears banished from your mind. As a child, laying on your belly on the floor on a Saturday morning, watching Why Don’t You or The Goodies, crayons and pencils all over the floor while you coloured and created until your heart was content (or you had to move because your Mum was trying to Hoover). You were lost in your own world and happy. What creative things did you do as a child? Could you try them again? Paper Mache, cross-stitch, melting wax crayons, making paper look old by baking it in the oven. Painting using only colours you can find in the fridge or cupboard (beetroot, turmeric, coffee) or garden (Dandelions). Let your mind travel back in time and think of all the crafts you loved to do. Paint with your fingers. Get messy! And don’t forget to use round ended scissors and get a grown up to help you!

8. Listen to Music

Listen to a favourite song and dance around the room. Dig out your favourite songs from your teenage years, I bet you can remember every word! Get some paper and paints set up ready to paint then listen to some moody music. Close your eyes. What do you feel? What colours reflect this mood? Open your eyes and put paint on paper. Don’t think. Paint. Lay down colour, paint to the rhythm of the music, feel the music in your body not your mind. Let it travel through you and come out on the paper. Nobody has to see this, it is just for you and this moment. Let whatever is in you come out. Laugh, cry, and dance onto the paper. Do whatever you want and whatever you feel. Just go with it and you will feel the benefit mentally and physically.

9. Get a sketchbook

Treat yourself to a gorgeous sketchbook. (I always buy from the Stillman and Birns range) and use it as a visual diary. Nobody else is going to see this so fill it with whatever you want. Hopes, dreams or sadness. Fill the pages with sketches, photos, quotes, diary entries, anything goes. It’s the bolt hole for your mind to escape to, a safe place for your creativity.  You don’t have to use it everyday (I’ve never been that disciplined!) just as and when you feel the need to get an event or a feeling down on paper. Don’t get ‘new sketchbook phobia’ and be scared to make a mistake. This sketchbook is meant to get used, get scruffy, battered with life and love. So fill it with your life and your heart, the good the bad and the ugly. After all, this is a book to help your mind, so anything and everything can go in it. It will  help you to deal with artist’s block and in time, will also inspire you as you look back through its pages and your emotional journey.

10. Paint for the bin.

Finally, chuck it in the bucket! This last tip on how to deal with artist’s block I first heard from Jean Haines. She is an incredible watercolourist and has inspired my work greatly. One of the lessons in her book Atmospheric Watercolours is to paint for the bin. I love this because you instantly take the pressure off of yourself to produce a finished painting. You can take risks and experiment. Try odd colour combinations that are never going to work (or are they?). Play with different brush sizes, weights of paper, or different textured paper. Use wax and resist techniques, sprinkling salt on the paper or lay cling film over the top to make patterns. Try all sorts of weird and wonderful things, knowing you will probably ‘chuck it in the bucket’ at the end. Set yourself free. And while we’re on the subject. If somebody tells you to keep the paintings that have gone wrong so you can ‘learn from your mistakes’. Don’t! Throw them away now! All they do is make you feel bad. By all means, learn from them within a day or two of painting them. But don’t keep them any longer than that. We are our own worse critics already, we don’t need to keep proof of every bad painting we’ve done.


The last bit

So, in conclusion, the best way to deal with artist’s block is to take away its power. Don’t keep trying to paint when it clearly isn’t working, use the time instead to have some fun. Don’t get stuck in a rut of using the same materials and painting the same subjects, instead, try something new. Book a class in something you have always wanted to try or have a wander around your local art and craft store and see what takes your fancy. Break down the barriers that are holding you in, break the rules, lift your head from your canvas and look around at all the possibilities that are out there. Go on, stand up, step outside and go and discover a whole world of ideas and inspiration that is waiting just for you. But most importantly of all lovely people, have some fun. After all, if you are not enjoying your art, what on earth is the point!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I really do hope you feel inspired. If you enjoyed this post, I’d recommend Seasons of Creativity next,  I think you’ll find it interesting. Writing Seasons of Creativity, and particularly writing about the winter season in art, was the inspiration for the blog you have just read. Again, I hope you enjoy it. let me know what you think with a comment here or over on my Facebook Page.