My experience with creative block and some possible solutions
Recently I’ve been seeing a few comments on social media around the theme of creative block so I felt motivated to write my own experiences down and things that have helped me overcome it.
Creative block is something artists often describe as their reason for having lack of inspiration or dis-interest in creating artwork. From a personal viewpoint, creative block can be a product of lack of practice; insecurity about ones ability; disillusionment; depression; ill health… all sorts of reasons can contribute to it. Without knowing a persons personal situation it is difficult to give advice in helping clear creative block. It is also worth noting that the time it will take to dispel the feelings of creative block can vary depending on the underlying cause. In my case it was an acute case of burnout and depression from several setbacks and ill health. Not fun, and not something I want to go into any more detail than that. I don’t suffer from those issues any more (touch-wood) and I’d rather leave them in the past where they belong.
When I was getting back into art after a long break, there were things that helped me. I have the opposite problem now. I’ve got hundreds of ideas for projects jotted down in my notebooks and sketchbooks from the last four years or so and my skills have improved. In this article I will describe some methods I used that helped me create art on a regular basis and start to enjoy the process of doing it again.
Get around like minded people
I went to art college at TCAT (Telford College of Art and Technology) in 2013 and had fun trying new things and reconnecting with art. The most important thing to me during that time was being around other creative people and realizing I was not alone. Although it was only for a year or so it helped heal some old wounds and I got a good qualification as well.
After completing the course I realized I needed to cultivate a connection with a creative community. Podcasts are a great way to listen to like minded people and lessen the feelings of being alone. On grey days when you are feeling down it can often help brighten your mood. I made a list of some design and art based podcasts in a previous article:
There are some more podcasts in particular I’ve found around the internet. Here is a round up of the ones I’ve listened…medium.com
If you know of any other podcasts feel free to suggest them in the comments.
I still wish I could connect more with other creative people but I’ve had little luck with internet social media. Getting into the real world is the most sure-fire solution. Try local art clubs, do a course at your local college, go to trade shows (I’ve met some great people at Birmingham NEC shows for example), visit comic and art conventions, galleries etc. This is something I want to keep working at. As someone who is introverted it is not easy to connect with others even online let alone in person, but the benefits are great.
Keep a diary or art journal
I got into the habit of keeping a notebook diary after I finished my art course where I would jot down any ideas I’d thought of and things I wanted to try. I also recorded my dreams which were very vivid during that time. Reading back on some of them is quite amusing to say the least. Most are complete nonsense but there are a few that would make great illustrations some day. Keeping a creative journal helped me connect with my thoughts and get them out of my head so I could focus on more constructive things. It was my way of figuring out who I was again and what I was interested in.
I found some good books that helped me. There are many books on the subject but one in particular that I found useful was the Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. Scratching for ideas was something that stuck with me.
Make Sketchbooks and Scrapbooks
I keep physical sketchbooks. I’ve also got folder organization on my computer for my digital work and I scan in my analogue sketches as well to keep related work for projects together. We made A3 sketchbooks in college to record our projects and ideas, so I kept up with the practice. I use hardback A4 and A3 sketchbooks where I record my sketches and ideas. I use cheap sketchbooks and printer paper for working sketches. If I want to make nice drawing I use more expensive paper of course. Printer paper is an affordable solution for doing rough sketches and brainstorming ideas. By sticking it in a hardback form later I find it helps me organize and assess project development. I stick anything that inspires me into my hardback sketchbooks and keep a digital inspiration folder on my computer. I also print out my digital sketches and put them into my hardback sketchbooks so I don’t have to look at everything on a screen. Making notes around the sketches often helps me come up with new ideas and solutions to problems.
Learn new skills
I enjoy learning new things and working out how things are done. Some things I’ve taught myself since college are how to make pattern designs and digital vector art. I learned the basics of digital 3D modelling and a little bit of cut out animation. I also brushed up on my art fundamentals (perspective drawing, color theory, composition etc.).
These things have helped me discover creative solutions I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. I like to research and learn about different disciplines within illustration and art and try different art mediums.
You don’t know what you are capable of or like to do unless you try it. I used to tell myself for example that I wouldn’t like vector art because it was “too technical”. It turned out to be one of my favorite things to do and helped me refresh my creativity. It was also a good way to lessen the difficulty of learning 3D software. Even if you decide something is not worth continuing with, it can help lead you to something else, so don’t be afraid to try something new.
Make time for rest and exercise
Art is great but it is not the most important thing in life. Your health and well-being is much more important. Make time for friends, family and yourself otherwise you will feel awful and not want to create anything.
Make time for practice
Sometimes when the ideas are slow in coming, the act of drawing can help. I practice observation drawing and make studies when I’m not working on Illustration projects in traditional and digital mediums. It helps keep my skills sharp and sometimes it helps generate ideas or new ways of looking at things. I like to chill out and make studies to try different techniques and loosen up.
It all adds up
Every day might seem like a struggle, but every single drawing you make, action you take, thing you learn and creative idea you jot down will turn into a bigger thing that will start to take a life of it’s own and motivate you to do more. Keep the faith and don’t give up and if you have a bad day it’s OK to take a break, in-fact it can often help in the long run.
I’m going to finish this article here, I hope you have enjoyed reading my jumbled thoughts and if you have any thoughts of your own on this subject feel free to write them down in the comments below. Take care of yourself and thanks for taking the time to read this.