Artist Well-Being

Clearing Creative Blocks


In today’s blog I wanted to look at a topic that has been coming up frequently in my research and conversations with artists… the dreaded creative block!  It’s something that a lot of us experience and it can be a source of major stress and frustration.

The first thing we usually think is “Why is this happening?”.

When experiencing a creative block it can be good to sit back and think about what’s going on at the time.  Often it can be a stressful situation that you’re dealing with, or maybe it’s due to heightened anxiety levels, lack of sleep, etc.   If you feel it’s a deeper issue at play then there are different avenues open for getting the appropriate help (speaking with someone you trust, your doctor, therapist, etc).

In regards to tackling the block itself, here are a few things that myself and some other artists I know will often do.

Spinning Plates


Sometimes the idea of balancing too many projects at once can feel like a nightmare, but other times it can actually help you with your focus and motivation.  Different projects carry different expectations and potential pressures, and sometimes the longer you stare at a blank sheet of paper the more daunting an object it becomes.  So in that regard I’ll always keep a few different projects running, normally at different stages of completion.  That way, if I feel I’m having one of those days where I’ve forgotten how to even hold a pencil, I can pick up the brushes and do some work on a painting.

Revisit/Redo


A few years back now I hit a really deep creative block and to try and dig my way out of it I thought I’d look back over some of my old designs.  There were a few pieces that I initially cringed at as my work had changed a lot over time, but once I got over that initial cringe I decided that I still really liked the initial idea behind the designs.  I decided to redraw a few and see how they would look filtered through my current sensibilities and skillset.  The process ended up helping me to break through that creative block and it’s a process I still turn to now and then.

It’s also a really nice chance to reflect back on older work and look at the ways in which your approach to art has evolved over time (and sometimes it’s just a nice confidence boost to finish the new piece and think “Hell yeah, that craps all over the original version!”).

Here’s an example of a piece that I’ve revisited previously…

Keep A Sketchbook


For years I would always have a sketchbook close by to scribble down ideas and just doodle in.  As my art became more and more project-driven I let that practice go as I felt that my creative time always had to be spent on what projects I was currently working on.  Last year I returned to the practice of having a sketchbook for the sole purpose of drawing whatever odd little things I felt like drawing.  It’s a space to create purely for the fun of creating, and most of what goes in there never gets shared with anyone.  It can be a really nice place to experiment and be more open with that goes into the art, and I’ve found it’s a great space to turn to when trying to move past a creative block.

Have a Break


Sometimes the best way to break a block is to just disconnect entirely from the creative space.  I know this isn’t always possible, especially if you’ve got looming deadlines, but if you can give yourself some time to step away and let your mind wander into some different territory then that can help shift things around internally.

And try to keep a good sleep routine.  Sleep is so important to our overall health, and it’s often the first thing to be sacrificed when we’re feeling stressed or lacking time.

So there are a few things to consider the next time a creative block decides to sneak up on you.  But I’m sure there are plenty of other approaches to tackle the problem.

What are some things that you do to help get through a creative block?

Also, if you decide to try the Revisit/Redo approach then please share the results in the comments below so I can check it out!

Stay safe

Matt

View additional posts by Matthew Dunn

Matthew Dunn

Matthew Dunn is a Melbourne-based artist/illustrator and Artist Community Advocate at Redbubble. You can find him at www.matthewdunnart.com

Comments