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10 Practical Ways to Avoid Artist Block

You know inspiration cannot be forced, so what do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut? I’ve outlined a few pro-active activities you can do to help get your creativity, motivation, and inspiration back on track!

As an artist, speaking to fellow artists, I think we can all agree how difficult it is to go through seasons where inspiration is all but gone. In these dry, uncertain moments, I want to offer hope.

Creating a career out of your passion is demanding and creativity simply cannot be forced. However, there are various practical things you can do to get those creative juices flowing again!

Stay Calm.

Every artist goes through dry spells. It’s so easy to feel like once you’ve lost your inspiration it will never return. This is simply not true.

Give it time. Stay cool. Inspiration comes and goes, and it’s important to remember that much like the ups and downs of life, we can always expect inspiration to come back again.

So, stay calm and doodle on.

Get outdoors!

Even if you wouldn’t consider yourself an out-doorsy type of person, there is always something to be found outside, whether it’s the buildings surrounding your home or the flowers growing next door.

A few months ago, I took a picture of poppies growing up through the pavement. That picture stayed on my phone until I was looking for a bit of inspiration while flipping through my photos. That picture stood out and I ended up turning the poppies into children’s book characters.

It doesn’t have to even be as complicated as taking pictures and turning them into your next illustrated children’s book. Sometimes just a waft of fresh air and the smell of rubbish can motivate you to go back inside, cuddle up and light a scented candle you actually enjoy smelling while doodling.

Go somewhere new.

Going to an unfamiliar place will allow you to experience new sensations you wouldn’t normally experience when going to your favourite spots.

For example, if you spend most of your time going to coffee shops to work, try visiting a juice joint. You never know what a shot of citric acid, rather than caffeine, could do for your brain.

Every place has a different vibe, so trying new places can really give you the boost you’re looking for.

Be spontaneous.

It’s hard enough finding your illustration style and sticking to it for the sake of consistency and building a portfolio that looks neat, predictable, and professional.

But sometimes all you need is to let yourself out of the box and do something different. Forget your style for a moment and allow yourself to flow with your feelings, thoughts, and passions.

You have the freedom to create anything you want, even if you never show it to anyone.

Visit a gallery. Or a museum, or a mural.

I get a massive amount of inspiration from illustrators and artists who have gone before me. Their stories remind me that I can pursue my passions, come what may (even if that means bouts of artist block every now and then).

One example is how I find inspiration in Rothko’s work even though his style and mine could not be more opposite. I am a children’s book illustrator using digital media and he was a studio painter on the cutting edge of colour block painting. But somehow every time I see his work, it leaves me wanting to create.

But, it’s not all about staring at famous artwork, it’s about finding work that speaks to you. Looking at artwork made by your peers can be just as helpful. It could be on Instagram, on a street corner, or scrolling through various artist platforms.

Stop making art.

This might sound counterproductive, but the worst thing you can do when you feel uninspired is to force yourself to keep making art.

Giving yourself time is healing. You’re worth does not depend on creating inspirational illustrations every day or the approval of your followers on Instagram.

You have time to pause and you have options for how or when you want to continue creating your artwork.

Focus on things that have deep roots in your life.

Sometimes going to the source of your thoughts, feelings, and impulses can provide a wealth of inspiration you never knew existed. This can be a daunting process, but it may also give you a chance to revisit the very reasons you create art in the first place.

In all honesty, I’d rather go to a donut shop to find inspiration. But, all things considered, some of my favourite pieces of artwork have come from place of deep “soul-searching” and I’m thankful for it.  

Spend time with the people.

Focus time is good, but when you’re feeling like you’ve hit a creative rut sometimes the best thing to do is get up and get social.

Being around people, especially people who know you well, can help you stay loose and take your mind off the never-ending to-do list in your head.

Not to mention, spending time with people, regardless of how well you know them, can provide a wealth of inspirational material.

Prep your space.

Much like a chef preps his kitchen before undertaking a fancy meal, it’s important that an artist preps their workspace before getting to work. 

For me it’s making sure there’s a cup of tea at hand, my hair up in a messy bun, having enough light, and being I’m warm. I can’t function when I feel cold. 

When you’re workspace is right, finding inspiration and cracking on with work can much easier!

Give yourself grace. 

The last thing I want to point out is that your mental-emotional health is important. The stress, pressure, and strain of creating every day can be a lot to handle.

As artists and illustrators, we depend on the approval of not only those we’re working for and but for those we want to impress as well.

Unrealistic expectations coming from ourselves and others can be debilitating. So, it’s important for our creative health that we take a moment to recognise the pressure and disarm unrealistic expectations. 

To Close...

I hope this information has been helpful to you. If you’re struggling through artist block feel free to reach out- we‘re in this together!

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