Art block is something most artists experience from time to time and can be explained as a lack of inspiration or creativity when trying to come up with new ideas. While this condition is mainly associated with anxiety and a lack of motivation, many other causes give rise to a creative block for an artist.
Art blocks are pretty frustrating as it is, but for professional artists, they can be quite troublesome and bring their creative process to a halt. Whether you’re a traditional artist or a digital art creator, art blocks can strike when you need your creativity the most.
Thus, it’s important to know what an art block is, why many artists face challenges due to a creative rut, and how you can get out of this rut to overcome an art block using a few simple solutions.
(This article may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you make a purchase)
Is Art Block Real?
Yes, art blocks are real enough for thousands of artists all around the world. However, each one of us tends to experience different intensities of the artist’s block. Some of us are much more susceptible to an artist’s block than others.
This can be due to an artist’s nature and expectations. Perfectionists tend to have very high expectations for their work, and thus they often have a hard time coming up with ideas that completely satisfy their expectations.
Art blocks or creative blocks are often accompanied by the same signs and behaviors. These can include:
- Shortage of inspiration and motivation to make something new.
- Inability to translate your ideas into artwork.
- Irregularity in creating new artwork.
- Inability to kick start your creative engine.
An art block can sometimes halt your entire creative process for weeks or even months. There might be tons of ideas swimming in your mind, but none of them seem feasible or worth pursuing when you have a creative block.
Causes of Art Blocks
Many things can cause an artist’s block, and they usually vary from person to person. The situation you’re in might also affect your artist’s block. Below are some of the most common causes of an art block that may resonate with your situation.
While art blocks are common occurrences for artists of all expertise, beginner artists are more likely to fall prey to this problem than other artists. This is mainly due to their feelings of self-doubt and apprehensiveness.
This condition is known as impostor syndrome which is a common occurrence for high achieving people or perfectionists. It leads you to believe that you’re not as talented as others perceive you to be. You might start questioning why people even like your art and consider your ideas to be ordinary.
Impostor syndrome will ultimately make you feel guilty for giving yourself too much credit and generate an unrelenting fear that people will see you for the fraud that you are.
This, in turn, will lead to a lack of motivation and can discourage you from putting your ideas into artwork. Knowing how to overcome this condition is essential for your well-being.
While this may not be true for all people, solitude can be a demotivating factor when working on your creative projects. Art blocks are often caused by a lack of people in your surroundings.
Many artists need to have decent company and feedback to get into their creative space. Without meaningful conversations and honest feedback, getting inspired can be very challenging.
In addition to the insecurities created by imposter syndrome, the common insecurity most artists have is regarding their income. Artists are primarily self-employed, and many have to work hard for years before they start getting recognized and paid a suitable amount for their work. Plus, work often dries up leaving you to feel on edge and worried about money.
In times like these, it becomes increasingly difficult to wake up every day and get working with a motivation knowing there’s no guarantee that your hard work will be rewarded.
When people don’t care about the art you so passionately created, it becomes hard to keep going.
This is the point where you start questioning yourself and your work, and this eventually leads to your artistic spirit getting snuffed out and you fall down into the pit of a creative block.
Mental and Physical Exhaustion
Considered to be two of the most common causes of art blocks, mental or physical exhaustion can lead to an automatic block in creativity.
People tend to overlook the importance of good mental and physical health for getting inspired and instead focus on other factors when the answer is so simple.
Whether you’re stressed because of work, school, or family matters, the mental and physical fatigue will take a toll on your creative side, resulting in little to no inspiration or motivation to produce new pieces of art.
Making the Wrong Type of Art
While there’s no right or wrong when it comes to creating art, you may be trying to produce art that is just wrong for you.
Many artists start their journey with the genre of art they’re passionate about, but some artists struggle with finding the type of art they’d be interested in. The latter usually end up choosing something that pleases the public or has a promising career.
What they don’t realize is that they’re spending so much time and effort on something that’s not close to their heart. Thus, they ultimately face a major lack of inspiration and creativity resulting in an art block.
10 Ways To Overcome an Art Block
Art blocks seemingly strike out of nowhere but usually have specific causes. There are many ways you can overcome art blocks, the choice of which mainly depends on what problems you’re encountering, or what the reasons are for your art block in the first place.
1. Take a Break to Get Out of Your Creative Block
The best advice for someone trying to overcome art block is to take a break, because why waste your time and energy on something that’s not working out at the moment. Instead, you should focus on something you like that brings joy to your life and refreshes you.
You’ll actually find that breaks are more productive in the long run as a break will give you time to declutter your mind and come back with fresh eyes.
So take a break from your work, take some time to rest, and recharge your batteries so that you can show off your best performance once you get back to work.
However, it’s also important that your break doesn’t go on for too long and only last for an hour or less. After all, it’s a break, not a vacation. A break lasting longer than an hour would amount to procrastination and further problems that hinder your efforts to get some work done.
Some activities you can try while on your break can include:
- Doing some stretching exercises or simply lying on the floor.
- Listening to your favorite songs and/or dancing around the house.
- Practicing some meditation techniques to energize yourself.
- Take a 20 to 30-minute power nap.
- Reading a book.
- Indulging in some healthy snacks, etc.
2. Get Inspiration from an Idea Generator
The quickest way to overcome art block is to use an idea generator that can help you come up with themes, subjects, or situations to draw.
Some idea-generating apps and websites even go as far as coming up with a new idea all on their own for you to simply recreate.
All you’d need to do is select a category and wait for a satisfactory result to pop up. The best part about generative art is that it doesn’t require you to put in too much time and effort and come up with a suitable art idea for you to create.
3. Make a List of Drawing Prompts
If you’re struggling with finding inspiration and ideas for your drawings, create a list of drawing prompts in order to help you come up with ideas faster.
You can easily find drawing prompts by doing a quick google search or asking your family and friends for some ideas.
You can further explore different paintings and drawing sketches to get additional ideas for your list. Write down or doodle rough sketches of the drawing prompts and keep this list close to you. The next time you have an art block, refer to your list to get inspiration.
Here are a few drawing prompt ideas to get you started:
- An urban landscape
- Repeating patterns
- Detailed textures
- A flower vase
- A cute animal
- Figure study sketch
- A cartoon character
4. Change Your Creative Space
A simple solution for ending a slump is to change up your creative space whenever you start feeling your creativity being blocked or suffocated. A good way to do this is to change your surroundings.
You can do this by changing the furniture around, painting the room a different color, arranging your art supplies differently, getting new lights for your room, or simply going to a cafe, the seaside, or some other place to immerse yourself in fresh surroundings.
Changing your environment can enable your brain to think differently, get more creative and give a new perspective to your ideas. Working in the same environment for long periods has a proven effect on your creativity, in the sense that it snuffs out inspiration and leads you into an art slump.
5. Socialize More
You must be familiar with the quote, “Man is a social animal”, and tons of studies have proved this fact to hold true. Humans need a level of social interaction and physical touch to be able to survive in society.
For most artists, being surrounded by their loved ones gives them the energy and inspiration needed to come up with artistic shapes and ideas needed for the development of their artwork.
While there are exceptions to this fact, most artists benefit from having friends and family around, if only to bounce off some ideas, and have meaningful conversations that inspire them. This is why it’s important to surround yourself with your loved ones, especially when you’re struggling with art blocks. Artists create their art from experiences that hold meaning for them.
6. Study Your Subject Thoroughly
Having a list of prompts is a good idea until you get eternally confused about which ones to select for your project. As an artist, it’s important that you have a distinct style and personality to show the world, and while it’s good practice to have a list of prompts ready, it’s also necessary to explore your style and stick to a specific subject.
For this, select a prompt that you feel speaks to your personality, and practice different studies of the same subject.
For instance, if you like creating art with abstract shapes, be sure to practice a bunch of different abstract art. Once you’ve done enough practice, you will start to get better at the subject, until the time you master it.
7. Learn More About Your Favorite Artists’ Works
Whether you’re an amateur artist or have been in the art industry for a while, you must have some favorite artists that never cease to inspire and influence you. When in a creative rut, it’s a good idea to revisit the artworks of your favorite artists to draw inspiration.
Save whatever art catches your eye as a reference for later. Write down the various elements of their art that you’d like to incorporate into your project.
If you have art books of other artists, browse through the pages and bookmark any designs you find interesting. By doing this, you will not just be getting inspired, but will also become aware of different artistic techniques and elements that you would desire for your project.
8. Go Outside and Enjoy Nature
Nothing inspires artists more than the beauty of nature.
The hardest part about being an artist is having to sit in one space and stick to a regular routine. This really snuffs out their artistic groove and leaves them feeling trapped.
The best way to solve this is to go out for a walk, a run, or sit outdoors and get some fresh air.
If you’re in dire need of inspiration, explore places you haven’t seen before. Go on adventures, hiking trips, visit gardens and other places with natural surroundings that are full of life and color.
This will not just get you beautiful places to look at, but also provides you with some much-needed exercise, which is said to boost your mood and broaden your vision.
Art blocks are often a result of redundancy and boredom. When you’ve been making similar art projects for a while, they start to become excessive, and soon enough, your interest in art dwindles. In this case, it is the perfect time for you to try something new with your art, whether you’re painting, sculpting, or drawing.
Your project should be able to garner the attention and appreciation of the public, and for this, you will need to research new techniques, styles, and prompts as explained before and try other things you haven’t done before.
Try using an art supply you’ve never used before, and experiment with new colors, shapes, designs, techniques, and mediums. Try something completely different than what you’re used to, and maybe you’ll get out of your art block.
For example, if you’ve only sketched using charcoal pencils before, try to draw using colored pencils. If you’ve been working on a traditional art project, maybe it’s time to shift to digital artwork. If you’re looking for a modern art technique to try, consider generative art, or pop art. The point is that you should look toward newer perspectives to expand your artistic mind.
10. Revisit Your Old Projects
You’ve probably created marvelous works of art that you’re proud of throughout your career. Thinking of those projects can bring you more motivation than you realize. So, revisit an old project that you think can inspire you again. This solution is perfect if you’re lacking structure in your artwork.
Redraw or recreate your old project, and you’ll be able to see how you’ve grown as an artist, how your technique has improved, and whether or not your style has changed.
The old you would have never imagined how far you’d get in the next few years. Realizing the improvement might spark your creativity or inspire you to generate new ideas for your artwork.
What Is Art Block – Final Thoughts
There are tons of ways to overcome art blocks, and now that you have a good understanding of what causes one, you can use the above techniques to get through your art blocks with ease.
While it’s perfectly normal for artists to experience art blocks, they shouldn’t have to suffer through them in the first place. Art is something that cannot be forced, and so, if you’re having trouble putting your ideas onto paper, don’t fret. Just give it some time.
Draw as much as you can – after all, practice makes perfect! Even doodling rough sketches can be quite useful when going through a creative rut.
Art blocks shouldn’t be stressing you out. Instead, think of this time as a small hurdle that is simply providing you a chance to revitalize your mind and grow your creativity.