The number one way to break through art block is simple in form but can be hard to execute: limit your choices.

Blank Canvas:  Every Artist's Nightmare
A blank canvas, every artist’s nightmare.

Yes, you heard me. Do not sit in front of your tablet, hoping an idea will come to you if you’re suffering art block in the vast void of your mind. Shorten your scope. Tell yourself “I am going to draw a cat today” and draw that cat. You will be amazed when you finish the piece, and you’ve drawn a flying cat with laser eyes destroying a city.

By limiting yourself, you’ve opened up your mind to relax and allow it to wander. But that, alone, may not be enough to bust through that wall that is a creative block. Through this article, I’ll go through some methods to stop Artist’s Block that has not only worked for me but has worked for many artists the world over.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.”

Orson Welles

What is Art Block?

You’ve settled in front of your tablet determined to do an art piece, and that dreaded thing is on your screen: a blank canvas. Nothing is happening. No ideas are coming, or worse; you’re rejecting every idea you come up with. The field of emptiness haunts your very soul and time slips by without a single pen stroke.

This inability to create is Art Block. The failure to put pen to paper, or tablet, and get an idea out. Or maybe your creative block comes from a bleaker place, thinking you aren’t any good at what you’re doing so why try. Let’s go through some things that can cause this most frustrating of times for any creative.

What Can Cause Art Block?

Art Block, also known as a creative block, can be caused by multiple sources. Being an artist and a writer, it’s something I suffer frequently. The blank canvas or the blank page can be both the most beautiful thing in the world or the most terrifying. Sometimes, though, it can help to identify what causes your creative block to put a stop to it.

Stress

Fjolnir
One of my greatest stress relievers and hey look, an art inspiration too!

Probably the number one factor of most creative’s today in causing art block is stress. You have to meet those deadlines; you’re not progressing fast enough, you’re losing followers because you’re not posting enough content on Instagram – these all contribute to stress.  

A tip to ease stress:  Do something that takes your mind off your worries. Easier said than done, I know. Some things I do to relieve stress: Take a walk, watch some tv, cuddle with your pets.

Depression

The lack of motivation to do even the most basic tasks can also lend itself to art block. You don’t have the energy, and you’re struggling to get out of bed, to take a shower. It can be incredibly difficult to push yourself through it to do art at that point.

A tip to work through depression:  Reward yourself for doing something while depressed. It can be something like a favorite small treat or watching the newest episode of your favorite show. Try to make sure the reward matches the effort. You may find that you can trick yourself into wanting to create things to get those rewards.

Self Doubt

“I’m no good at this, so why am I doing it?” Self-doubt can not only create creative blocks, but it can also kill an artist’s will to do art in the first place. Self-doubt is the number one reason most new creatives stop before they even begin.

A tip to kill self-doubt:  Build yourself a support base. Friends, family, an internet group – as long as they’re willing to support you, they’re golden. Tell them that you’re having some trouble and you need some encouragement. I reach out to a friend and tell them point-blank: “I need a boost – tell me I can do this.” Oddly, it works for me.

Hatred of your Subject Matter

Hating your subject matter is a little lesser-known cause of creative block, but one that can still strike. You’ve been drawing that same subject matter, let’s say for example cats, for years. You’re sick of drawing cats. But this is what you’re good at and how you make your income.

A tip to break the cycle:  If you are forced into that subject matter by necessity, do side art that’s just for yourself. Do you now hate drawing cats and want to paint people? Set aside some time to do a portrait.

5 More Ways to Break Out of Art Block

At the beginning of this article, I gave you the number one way to stop a creative block: limit yourself. But I bet you’re looking for more specific ways to go about breaking your Art Block, so let’s go through five more methods you can use.

Change Environments

If you’re a digital artist, like the majority of my readers, changing your environment can sound like an overwhelming task if you have into a display tablet hooked up to your PC. If you can be mobile, obviously get up and move to another location. If you’re stuck in one space – try moving things around in that space. Restructuring your environment may seem like procrastination, but it can help clear your block by giving you a new view to stare off into space at.

Use An Idea Generator

DrawFee Suggestion Generator
This was the first recommendation DrawFee gave me.

Google is your friend. Search for “art prompts,” and an extensive list will appear. Some of these you can filter down to even smaller such as “cartoons” or “landscapes.” Check out writing prompts if art prompts aren’t getting the juices flowing. You can also easily make your own by writing down some ideas that you want to draw and then using a random generator and pick the one that comes out on top.

I personally enjoy Drawfee.

Do Something Fun

Doing something fun can go two ways. Either take a break and do something fun such as playing a game or hanging out with friends OR if you’re stuck doing a bunch of art for commissions, work, etc. – do some art you find fun. Are you a concept artist stuck on a character armor idea? Draw some water scenes if you find that fun instead. Getting outside of your bubble can help.

Try a Drawing Challenge

You can usually find these sorts of posts on Twitter or Instagram from other artists.

You can usually find these on social media or by searching Google. September is Sculptember for Cubebrush, for example, and Inktober follows it. While you don’t have to do the entire month, doing a few of these challenges not only gives you ideas and limitations, but they can also break you out of a rut. Another challenge, or at least a prompt, that some might overlook is a “Draw This In Your Style.” Those can also get you noticed on social media when the original artist reposts them!

Do A Study

I know, I know – this one is work not fun. Studies have their purpose, though, and practice never hurts. You can make yourself a list of things you want to study or get better at, such as eyes, noses, tree branches, leaves, and keep that list for a rainy day. Pull it out when you’re in a block and use that time to practice rather than fret that you can’t get something on canvas.

Conclusion

Art block can come in many forms and for a variety of reasons. I hope this article has generated some means that you can break through a creative block the next time you run into one. The biggest thing I can recommend, however, is to use what works for you – in either dealing with the causes of art block or the symptoms. No one trick is going to work for everyone!

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Are you stuck in a creative block and unsure how to get out of it?  Afraid you\'ll never break through it?  Check out this article on How to Break Through Art Block.