How To Get Rid Of Artist Block

Have you ever encountered one of those days when you feel productive and want to create an artwork, but you stumble and run out of ideas? No matter how hard you try to rack your brains, you feel as if you’ve hit a wall, and nothing comes to mind?
It is a continuous hurdle that we have to overcome as artists at different stages in our careers. This article is an insight into the lives of our artists and how to get rid of Artist Block.

Table of Contents:

What is an Artist Block?

An artist block is a general term used to describe how an artist or a creative person wants to create something but can’t seem to translate their ideas into reality. An Artist Block can happen to anyone in the creative field, from artists to creative directors, sculptors, poets and even photographers.

It is also known as blank canvas syndrome, and it sucks. However, this does not mean that you do not have the skill set or the drive to engage in creative works. Artist Block happens to the best of us, no matter which creative or artistic niche we are in. It could be a temporary setback, and there are ways to overcome this artist block!

What are the causes of Artist Block?

There are many causes of Artist Block. It varies from individual to individual, depending on which stages of their career path they’re in. Whether you’re a novice artist just starting or an established and renowned painter, there are days where we experience an Artist Block. The following are some of the leading causes of Artist Block, based on our personal experience.

Lack of Confidence/ Self-Doubt

The lack of confidence can happen when artists compare their artworks against other successful and established individuals in the industry. As a result of this comparison, the artist feels like they lack their personal touch/style. They tend to feel that other artists’ styles/ skills are better and try to copy those particular artists’ art styles.

This, in turn, causes an Artist Block as one may eventually feel that they lack originality and cannot find their personal touch/style in their artworks. (i.e., no matter how hard they try, they cannot create something unique. Everything seems to gravitate towards another artist’s art style.)

Lack of Inspiration

The lack of inspiration can be due to sourcing inspiration from the same old sources (i.e. Pinterest, Instagram etc.), aka the lack of fresh ideas.
As a result of the lack of inspiration, we get bored of drawing the same things/ topics repeatedly. Although there are a plethora of things in the world to draw, the themes we search for are always the same few (e.g. landscapes, pop art, portraits, florals etc.)

The methods, techniques and elements of art become very “theory” based, and we create our art piece by the book instead of going with the flow. Although we claim that there is no right or wrong to creating art, experiencing an Artist Block will make us feel as if everything is wrong.

Fear of Judgement or Criticism

The fear of judgment or criticism tends to come from past experiences and setbacks. For instance, you submitted your artwork for a competition but failed to win anything. This failure can lead to self-doubt and overthinking that we are not good enough/ bad at drawing.

Another instance of this fear could be due to past criticism from others (e.g. social media followers) who made a curt remark regarding your artwork. All of these negative remarks add up and result in this fear of judgement or criticism, and in turn, leads to an Artist Block.

Lack of Clarity/Focus

When artists have a following, they may become too focused on drawing or creating works to please the audience instead of themselves. They end up being obsessed with trying to draw something deemed “popular”, but this often leads to sub-standard art pieces. They end up drawing for the sake of drawing (for their followers) instead of drawing from their imagination. 

Regarding these works of art, they may not be drawing with their emotions as their heart is not in the right place. As a result, they tend to be dissatisfied with their artwork and lose the drive to create more art pieces, leading to an Artist Block.

Another reason for the lack of clarity could be because artists become too focused on creating art as a commodity. Like the above pointer, artists who view art as a way to generate business tend to focus more on the output and the quantity (number of art pieces created) instead of creating art (process).

As a result, they may become unfocused and lose their passion and interest in creating their unique works of art and suffer from an Artist Block.

Lack of motivation

There are many reasons behind the lack of motivation to create our masterpieces. This lack of motivation could be linked to the aforementioned reasons or other work commitments. For instance, due to taking on other art commissions, the artist neither has the time nor motivation to create their works of art. (They could be too tired from other commitments)

Another reason for the lack of motivation happens to many artists who have just started. There’s a prolonged period whereby the artist has to continually put out works of art for awareness. During this stage in their career, the artist may not receive their desired response and feel unmotivated as a result. 

The prolonged lack of motivation is another underlying factor behind an Artist Block. 

Suggestions on How to get rid of artist block (Blank Canvas Syndrome)
Suffering From Artist Block (Blank Canvas Syndrome)

How to Get Rid of Artist Block (Suggestions by Artists for Artists) 

The following are some ways our artists personally use to get rid of Artist Block

  • Exercise/ Take a Stroll / Get Some Fresh Air

Exercising can be a great way to ease our minds and do some self-reflection. New and fresh ideas may pop up when you are feeling more relaxed. With a change in pace, we tend to be more receptive to different artistic ideas. When we go for a stroll or a jog, we get exposed to our surroundings and take in new sights.

  • Take a step back and think about what you like to draw and why you started drawing in the first place?

Think about what you wanted to express/ show when you first picked up the pencil? Was it purely for fun and to relieve stress? Suppose the reasons were self-expression and stress relief. Isn’t it ironic that what you wanted to do for enjoyment and pleasure has become a stressful chore?

So take a step back and rethink again. Ignore the obstacles hindering you from unleashing your utmost creativity; draw something that makes you happy. Appreciate and value your work even when the world doesn’t know how to.

  • Explore new art mediums and have fun with it. 

There is a steep learning curve when one learns a new medium. It can provide you with a different perspective in creating art and showcase the artistic wonders that art can create! Check out our previous article on Digital Art Mediums 2022 if you need a fresh insight on mediums to explore!

  • Take a break from posting your artwork on social media.

Taking a break from social media provides a deterrent factor of comparing one’s works with other artists. It also encourages one to enjoy art better by drawing and creating things they like, without worrying or getting anxious about statistics. (likes, shares, comments etc.)

  • Draw with kids!

Kids tend to have the wildest imagination (they can tell you the craziest stories as they create their doodles/characters). As crazy as it sounds, they can be a great source of inspiration.

Kids draw with freedom and tend to express themselves fully without holding back. Learning to doodle and draw with kids will provide fresh new perspectives and insights and help one overcome their Artist Block.

Artist Block Ideas and Artist Block Drawing Ideas

The following are some artist block ideas and artist block drawing ideas by Artist Celine Chia throughout her career as an artist.

Artist Block Ideas - Clouds Digital Doodle (2021), Artist Celine Chia, digital art using Procreate
Clouds Digital Doodle (2021), Artist Celine Chia

Artist Block: Artist Celine Chia was tired of using traditional mediums such as acrylics and oil pastels to do scenery drawings. She decided to use the digital software ‘Procreate‘ to play with the effects (blending, special effect brushes).
It was a mindless and therapeutic experience to doodle away with no clear end in sight.

Artist Block Ideas - Pokemon Ditto (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Digital art using procreate
Pokemon Ditto (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Digital

I wanted to doodle something cute and straightforward instead of an intricate piece with fine details. However, this doesn’t mean that we neglect the drawing’s basic techniques (like the blending and highlights).

I enjoyed creating this piece as I felt that even though Ditto (the character) has an elementary slime-like shape, we still have to create it so that it looks slightly translucent and rounded at the edges (by adding highlights). As for the background, I gave it a free-play by doodling random shapes and adding splotches.

Minimal blending and artistic techniques were involved when designing the background as I wanted to keep it raw.

Artist Celine Chia, 2021
Artist Block Ideas - Pooh and I (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Digital art using Procreate
Pooh and I (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Digital

Artist Block: Artist Celine Chia was inspired to do a doodle on Winnie the Pooh but did not want to copy directly from her source (Pinterest). Therefore, she decided to modify the drawing by changing the main character (Christopher Robins) to a cartoon/chibi version of herself.

This piece by Artist Celine Chia has a subtle meaning of grief.
To quote Winnie the Pooh, “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.”

Artist Block Ideas - Blueberry Cheesecake (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Digital art using Procreate
Blueberry Cheesecake (2021), Artist Celine Chia, Digital

Artist Block: This piece was taken from a photo sent by Artist Celine Chia’s friends. It inspired her to challenge herself to doodle the subject (blueberry cheesecake) based on the photo (with a rather messy background) instead of finding a nice picture of a cake to doodle.
Using her picture as a reference probably makes this piece more unique. The reference image is original and not found online (and be copied by others).

Artist Block Drawing Ideas - Flower Girl (2022), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch
Flower Girl (2022), Artist Celine Chia, Pencil Sketch

Artist Block: Artist Celine Chia ran out of different styles for her comic sketches. She has been using popular anime characters such as Demon Slayer, Attack on Titan and One Piece as a reference for comic sketches. However, it became mundane after a while, and Celine wanted to try out a different style of comic sketching with an unknown character. She chanced upon this cute illustration online and decided to do a quick sketch using a pencil. 

Bonus Tips on How to Get Rid of Artist Block
  • Carry a notebook or sketchbook along with you to doodle your inspirations wherever you go
  • Save images that catch your eye so that you can come back to them in future for reference.
  • Draw whenever you feel like drawing, not when others tell you to do so.

Final words

We wrote this article based off our own personal experience on how to get rid of artist block in the hopes that artists who’ve suffered from this can find better and more meaningful ways to overcome their personal hurdle.
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