If you've been an artist for a while now, you have almost certainly experienced creative block — and the strange combination of horror and boredom it brings. Whether you feel uninspired, unmotivated, or just plain drained, it can be very frustrating. But it's normal to struggle to put pen (or brush) to paper and create art.
It's easy to beat yourself up when you're feeling blocked and unproductive. When you feel sapped of creativity, don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other artists. This will only fill your head with lies and make you feel worse.
All artists face creative blocks from time to time. Instead of viewing it as a sign of failure, see it as a challenge to dig deep and persevere. When you continue to show up for yourself and your craft, the joy of creating is sure to return.
So the next time artist's block rears its head, remember: there's no secret or magic to making art. All it takes is practice. And despite how it may feel, you can actually learn how to be more creative.
When you need a boost of energy, motivation, or inspiration, try out one of these 10 easy tips.
1. Do Something That Makes You Happy
Surely there is something you like to do apart from painting or making art. It is very important to give your mind some rest from the constant pressure to create. Give yourself a breather and do something fun.
If you have a hard time giving yourself permission to do something just for the fun of it, remember that this time of rejuvenation is actually an essential part of the creative process. While you're resting or having fun, your creative ideas continue to percolate in your subconscious. And when you return to your art, you may find you have a fresh perspective.
What activities bring your pleasure? What makes you lose track of time and leaves you feeling refreshed? Think simple, everyday joys like cooking, reading, dancing to music, or just going for a relaxing stroll.
Make it a point to incorporate small pleasures like these into your weeks and days so you don't overwork yourself. Self care is the best antidote to artist's block, and your creativity will thrive when your mind and body are relaxed and stress-free.
2. Take in More Art!
As we mentioned earlier, it's important not to compare yourself to other artists, so be mindful of how you consume art. For some, endlessly scrolling Instagram, for example, leaves them feeling depressed, while others feel inspired.
When facing a creative block, head to a museum, art gallery, or local coffee shop exhibition, if you can. Or visit a museum or gallery virtually. The Barnes Foundation shares YouTube videos of curators talking about various works in their collection. And you can find more online content from many, many other art organizations.
Art in all forms can nourish the spirit and help you reconnect with why you love creating art in the first place. Whether you marvel at a painting, quilt, or ballet, it may stoke the creative fires within you.
3. Let Yourself Get Bored
Remember being stuck indoors on a rainy day as a kid? Your boredom and restlessness drove you to come up with all kinds of creative ways to pass the time. Maybe you liked to draw, make videos, or put on plays. Whatever creative outlet you gravitated to, you became engrossed because you didn't have an adult keeping you busy or dictating how to spend your time.
Even grownups can benefit from having nothing to do from time to time. How about blocking off a day and making no plans? Challenge yourself to stay inside. Don't do any work or chores. Don't watch TV or use the internet. Let yourself grow restless and, yes, bored. It will feel uncomfortable, but that discomfort is exactly what will push you to create.
In our hectic, high-speed lives, doing nothing is a revolutionary act. Stop filling your time with noise and distractions and allow your inner voice to be heard. When your mind starts to roam, you might have some of your best ideas. And that's how dull moments can actually improve your creative practice.
4. Invite Others to Collaborate
Do you have friends who make art? Do you follow artists on social media? Whose creative work are you consistently drawn to? What about their art excites you?
Pick one of these artists and reach out to them to collaborate! There are many ways to collaborate and it doesn't have to be complicated. Collaborating can be as simple as making a new piece of art in response to another artist's work. For example, you could paint an abstract watercolor in response to a poem, and then the poet could write something in response to your painting.
By collaborating with other artists, you not only stretch your creativity, you also benefit from the human connection and friendships you may build. And it feels wonderful to have another person engage with your art in an intentional and meaningful way. That alone can help you overcome your creative block.
As a bonus, you will increase and build a network among your peers. Your work could be introduced to their audience, which will help boost your social media outreach as well.
5. Move Your Body
Take a break to practice yoga, go for a jog, skip rope, dance in the living room, stretch, or take a walk. Even gentle movement boosts endorphins and helps you get out of your head for a bit.
Research shows that movement leads to more energy, less stress, and a better mood. It's just as vital for your brain as it is for your body. When you regularly make time to move, you'll sleep better, relieve anxiety and depression, and actually become more resilient to stress.
Moving your body will elevate your mood and help you return to your creative practice refreshed. So put aside your inhibitions and get moving!
6. Use Brainstorming Techniques
If your artist's block is making it hard to come up with any creative ideas, it's time for a new approach. Simple brainstorming techniques can help when you're drawing a blank.
One way to brainstorm when you're stuck is to take a sheet of paper and make a list of "bad" ideas. Try to come up with 20 terrible, no good, embarrassing ideas that you would never make. It may seem counterintuitive, but listing out bad ideas can help you remove inhibitions, think from different angles, and in all likelihood, generate at least one idea you actually like.
Another way to brainstorm is to make a mind map. Start with a central idea or theme and write it in the middle of your paper. You could start with something concrete like "flowers," something abstract like "freedom," or a genre like "cubism." Then begin to jot down all the associations that come to mind around the central idea. Don't worry about making sense; think freely and connections will inevitably start to arise.
There are lots of brainstorming techniques out there, so try a few to see what's most fruitful and effective for your creative practice.
7. Listen to Music
Music powerfully affects our thoughts and mood. It can transport us to other places, bring up memories and imagery, and even tell a story.
If the project you are currently working on is frustrating you, take a break to listen to music. Just be sure to really listen, giving the song your full attention so your imagination can take flight.
It doesn't matter what type of music you listen to. Some of us have go-to tracks that always fire us up. But listening to something new and totally out of the ordinary for you might be just what you need. So turn up the volume and get lost in rock, pop, jazz, country, hip hop, classical, or electronic soundscapes. Then return to your work with a changed mood and outlook.
8. Revisit Old Works of Art
When you're feeling down on yourself, revisiting art you've made in the past can remind you that you are indeed an artist with a perspective unlike anyone else in the world. Sometimes old works of art reveal how much you've grown, and other times you might be surprised by how well they've stood the test of time. A painting you hated five years ago might look interesting and beautiful to you today.
Looking back at past works of art can also remind you of how you powered through creative struggles in the past. Remember how frustrated you got halfway through that clay sculpture for art class? But you pushed on and finished it, and you can do the same again and again.
You might even stumble upon an unfinished project and see it in a whole new light. Inspiration can come from picking up where you left off and, in a sense, collaborating with your past self.
9. Limit Yourself
Having endless options isn't always a good thing. In fact, it can lead to choice paralysis, where you overthink each brushstroke and end up doing nothing.
When you're creatively blocked, limit yourself with clear rules and parameters. For example, choose only two colors to paint with, or create a still life scene and challenge yourself to sketch it five times.
Paradoxically, limitations force you to think creatively. Put another way, constraints force you to think. They challenge, provoke, and lead to innovation. How many ways can you draw a self portrait with one continuous line, without lifting your pen from the paper? What happens when you paint the cactus on your desk using only your non-dominant hand?
Setting boundaries removes choice and helps you get past the hardest part: getting started. Once you've started, creativity will naturally take over and lead you to new and unexpected places.
10. Make Bad Art
Remember when we suggested brainstorming a list of terrible ideas for art projects? When you're frozen by fear of failure or the terror of a blank page, pick one of these "bad" ideas and go for it.
Why on earth would you intentionally set out to make bad art? Because it's actually an ingenious way of circumventing self-doubt and quieting your inner critic. You know what you're about to make will be bad, so there's no risk and no such thing as failure!
Intentionally making bad art lets you release all inhibition and, you guessed it, get out of your head and get started. It's a great practice in making art just for the joy and fun of it, and telling perfectionism to take a hike. Sometimes you'll be shocked to find that you love the results, and other times they'll be just as bad as you expected. Either way you'll warm up your creative muscle and gain momentum to keep going.
The Right Tools Can Unleash Your Creativity
Overcoming artist's block is a challenge you will face again and again. But this fact of life doesn't have to be discouraging. Face your creative blocks head on as both challenges and opportunities to grow, innovate, and generate something new.
Having the right art supplies and materials on hand can certainly make things easier, however. Viviva Colorsheets are an asset to any artist because their wide, rich color palette and convenient, portable package offers endless creative possibilities.
With vibrant pigments bound in a simple, compact booklet, you can practice these 10 creativity-boosting tips whether you're at home or on-the-go.
Learn more about Viviva’s safe, natural, 100% vegan color sets (but don’t forget to snag your promo code first!)