Wondering if you have art block and how to end it for good? Then this article was written for you.
If you’ve ever felt like you were pulling your hair out trying to paint something, gotten anxious or annoyed at yourself for erasing a shape 50 times, or cried over your lack of productivity, you may be suffering from this terrible condition.
Art block is no fun at all, but this creative block can be overcome permanently.
I had art block for 10 years at one point in my life. I thought my creative side was gone- poof. But the good thing is, and I’m here as living proof to let you know, that creativity never goes away.
So if you’ve ever felt close to tears over art (and then mad at yourself for how ridiculous it seemed to get emotional about not making art) know that you are not ridiculous. In fact, let your emotions affirm this: You are an artist, plain and simple!
Let’s talk about 10 common causes of art block that may be holding you up. Then, learn some excellent tips and tricks to end art block permanently. These art block solutions will help you get motivated and inspired to create art easily. We will start with mindset tips, and then flow into actionable tips.
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What is Art Block?
Art block is the mental state of wanting to create art but feeling unable to start creating it. Art block may involve starting creative projects, and then not being able to proceed with those projects. It’s a feeling of getting nowhere despite your desire to make art and be creative.
Artist block is a frustrating, debilitating state of being that can last from days to weeks to years. It can cause intense stress and anxiety, and wreak havoc on your self-esteem as an artist.
When you suffer from this creative block, you may find yourself jealous of other artists. You may compare yourself, ruminate, and feel hopeless. You may completely give up on art for a period of time. The art block meaning can vary, but these are common symptoms.
Is Art Block Real?
Yes, artist block is extremely common but not always talked about. Many people experience the feeling of artist’s block and have no idea why.
In no way does having art block mean you are not a real artist. On the contrary- you feel art block because you are an artist. Non-artists don’t get art block.
Art block is something you can move past. It is completely beatable with the right techniques and mindset.
Knowing what causes art block is the first step to eliminating it forever. Once you identify the causes of creative block, you can put a stop to art block permanently.
10 Common Causes of Artist’s Block
1. Lack of confidence or self-doubt
Doubting yourself is one of the primary causes of art block. A lack of confidence can keep you blocked artistically for a long time. It can cause you to feel creatively frustrated.
Self-doubt can stem from many places: not receiving recognition as a child, teen, or adult. Maybe it’s a perceived lack of skill, perceived lower skill level, or another type of comparison.
2. Fear of criticism
Many artists fear criticism or the harsh words of others. People naturally seek the approval of others, and artists often crave recognition and affirmation. Fear of criticism can trigger feelings of shame, worthlessness, and more. This fear can cause creative block because other people’s opinions can feel so intimidating.
When it comes to criticism, know this: it’s easy to be a critic and even easier to have an opinion. Not so easy to do the work of creating art or of improving existing art skills. The next time fear of criticism enters your mind, remind yourself it’s better to be an artist than a critic!
3. Imposter syndrome
Many artists feel creative block because of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the fear that you are “faking it.” Or that you’re not a “real artist.”
Imposter syndrome often flares up when an artist compares themselves to other artists. The artist may feel “less than” someone else in terms of talent, opportunity, social status, or success.
Someone with imposter syndrome may imagine everyone is secretly thinking about how much they suck as an artist. Or worry they will never be taken seriously because they don’t “have what it takes” for any number of reasons.
4. Comparing yourself
Comparing yourself to other artists is totally natural. We are all constantly comparing ourselves to others as part of our human nature.
The problem is, thinking this way is toxic. Comparison is “the thief of joy” as they say. It can cause an intense artistic block. After all, how are you supposed to move forward and create art when you feel so much less skilled than someone else? Or less prolific? Or less popular on social media?
Comparison is highly debilitating and disempowering. Even if you’re comparing yourself favorably, you lose because your worth becomes dependent on other people. When you are better than someone else, your measure of success is outside of yourself.
Comparing yourself can also lead you to feel like the victim of your circumstances. The best thing to do is to become aware of this sneaky yet common problem.
5. Lack of skills
Lack of art skills or a lower skill level is one of the biggest hurdles to overcoming art block. It is extremely frustrating when you cannot draw the shape you want, or cannot achieve the look you’re going for.
Skill doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes just thinking of all the time and practice you need to become excellent is enough to make you throw in the towel.
Luckily, art skills can grow. And honestly, skills are often overrated. Consider the importance of other “art success” factors such as drive, unique ideas, passion, and inspiration.
6. Wrong art medium
Unknowingly working in the wrong medium and getting nowhere can leave you downright defeated.
Working in the wrong medium can make you think you’re a terrible artist and cause creative block. You may blame your lack of skills in a particular medium for causing art block, when in fact you have made the wrong medium choice to work in, to begin with. The wrong medium can cause a lack of inspiration.
As an example, I struggled with acrylic painting for a time. I liked painting, and I identified as an artist, but I was impatient and felt artistically blocked. My creative juices were not flowing. As a result, I wasn’t producing very good art. I wondered if I was simply a “bad artist.” But my intuition whispered, “keep creating.”
Then, I discovered graphic design and blogging. It all clicked and good things started happening. I was excited, inspired and felt more driven then ever. I still feel like that 6 years into blogging! I’m much happier in these creative mediums and I’m fulfilling my potential as a creative being.
So, do consider the fact that you are an amazing artist, and there is in fact a much better art medium for you, but maybe you haven’t yet discovered it. In the case of choosing the wrong medium, it’s not that you are crap as an artist- it’s that you need to try new ways of creating or a different means of expression.
Related: 15 Inspirational Art Journal Pages
7. Your environment
Your environment can affect what art medium you are able to work in, your level of motivation, self-esteem, and so much more.
For example, what if you don’t have room in your home for a painting studio area?
Or what if your workspace is dark and depressing and lacking fresh air?
Your environment can be tough to change depending on the circumstances and can cause art block if you don’t find a solution. It might take hard work to find a way to change your art environment, but where there is a will, there is usually a way.
8. Loneliness and depression
Loneliness causes sadness, despair, and sometimes depression. Those feelings can harm your mental health, making it hard to feel motivated. Other related issues such as anxiety may contribute to the dreaded artist’s block as well.
It is common for everyday distractions to prevent you from creating art. Distractions are everywhere. And sometimes allowing yourself to become distracted and procrastinate is often rooted in a deeper issue. Such as a lack of confidence, for example.
Working long hours, overscheduling yourself, or being unorganized get in the way of creating art, too. Failing to plan is planning to fail, as they say.
10. Exhaustion or illness
The exhaustion from working so much, parenting, personal drama, and more can be enough to block you from making art. As can any sort of poor health including mental illness or disease. When your body is tired, weak, ill, depressed, or struggling, art gets put on the back burner.
if you have an illness, disease, excess stress, or exhaustion, you must take care of your health first.
How to Stop Art Block Permanently
1. Be gentle with yourself
To stop art block, start by giving yourself grace. Be gentle and kind to yourself. It doesn’t help to beat yourself up. That will just make things worse. Giving yourself support and using positive self-talk is a good way to nurture yourself as an artist.
If you need more time to start making art, take it. Treat yourself as you would your best friend.
2. Affirm yourself and claim your artist identity
Affirm to yourself your identity as an artist. Don’t second guess yourself or deny it.
If you feel like an artist in any way, then you are an artist.
It doesn’t matter how much art you make, how often you make it, how long it’s been since you last made anything, or how skilled you think you are. You don’t need anyone to label you a “professional artist.” You can and should claim the artist identity for yourself immediately. This act alone is powerful and can end imposter syndrome.
You don’t need anyone’s approval or permission to be an artist. Be your own source of validation.
3. Have a sense of humor about art ego
If you hesitate to claim your art identity, have self-doubt, or worry about other people’s negative opinions, art ego may be the problem.
Consider the nature of the ego. Ego wants to keep you safe. One way ego tries to help you is by keeping you fearful. Think about how disempowering taking the ego seriously is when it comes to art.
Now, have a laugh at art ego. Take away its power to art block you and cause decision fatigue about what you’re doing with your life. This will stop your creative artists block in many cases.
Remember what Andy Warhol famously said: “Art is anything you can get away with.” This is so true!
Art can be just about anything, and it doesn’t have to conform to anyone’s expectations. Art doesn’t require being perfect. It doesn’t have to look pretty, and it doesn’t have to make sense.
The ego creates mind games around art. But you can overcome ego by having a sense of humor and seeing ego for what it is.
4. Adopt a positive growth mindset
A positive growth mindset means that you know your artistic abilities aren’t “set in stone.
You’re not born with a limit on your talent. There is no glass ceiling. Never ever say “It is what it is.” It is not! (I hate that saying, LOL.)
You can choose to make your art practice about what you can do, rather than what you cannot do.
For example, I’m not the best artist in the world. But that doesn’t stop me from having an Etsy printable shop. What I can make and sell are quotes, signs, and digital abstract art. (I recently purchased a used iPad. and started learning the Procreate app since I have little room to get messy with real paint and little patience.)
Look for opportunities, not disadvantages. Not enough space in your apartment for big paintings? Switch art mediums. Paint “en plein air.” Find out what you can do. Affirm that you can and will improve your skills in time. Look for new ideas daily and celebrate your best ideas with kind words to yourself. Stop art block by shifting your mindset to positive self talk, encouragement, and love.
5. Try a spiritual perspective
If you feel the desire to create, trust that what you create is desired.
What I mean is, that your desire has a match energetically. There is energetic supply and demand, even if you can’t see it yet.
God/The Universe made no mistakes when creating you as an artist. Your dreams are in your heart for a reason. Your creative drive has a purpose. Trusting in that can feel reassuring.
As well, you yourself are a medium via which The Universe/God creates art. You are a part of all-that-is, and not separate.
So if you like to take photos, trust that people will enjoy viewing them. If you enjoy writing, people will enjoy reading. The world craves content and new things. Your art is needed and wanted. Give your creativity to the world.
6. Make the commitment
If you want to make art, then make the commitment to yourself first that you will make the art. Declare that you are a professional artist and that art is what you do. Creative block be gone!
Making a commitment to art is similar to affirming your artist identity. It is an agreement you make between yourself and The Universe.
Creativity is a way of life. It’s not merely a hobby. So, set your intention and decide to live a creative life.
Committing to being creative or an artist helps your art identity. Your promise to make art allows the universal energy that is the art to flow through your being and manifest into physical form. It can help to meditate on this commitment, journal about it, or pray about it.
7. Be a professional
If you make art professionally or want to, then be a professional about it. Treat art as your job. Even if you’re not making any money yet.
I’m not saying “be a professional” in the sense that you need anyone to affirm that label to you. You affirm art professionalism to yourself when you take art seriously, just as anyone else in any other profession would. This is a matter of being disciplined. You must do the work without waiting to feel motivated first. Doing so will also raise your self esteem as an artist.
Creating a routine will help you be professional and thus stop creative block. Learn what time of day works best for you and get started then. Get organized, focus, and eliminate distractions.
Making a commitment to being an artist helps greatly with sticking to your routine. The commitment eliminates any question or decision fatigue about whether or not you will make the art, and the routine makes it easier to honor your commitment.
8. Use micro-movements
Showing up and doing the work of making art is hard. Therefore, you may need to trick yourself into getting started making art or being creative. Enter the technique of micro-movements.
This technique was invented by the author known as SARK. She is fantastic and I highly recommend all of her books, especially Make Your Creative Dreams Real.
Basically, micro-movements are small actions that take between 5 seconds to 5 minutes. They help you get started creating without becoming overwhelmed.
An example would be to open your computer, then open Photoshop. Walk away. Come back, then upload your artwork. Take a break, then begin to edit your art. I use this tip all the time to get started making art prints for my Etsy shop. Stopping art block with micromovements is outsmarting the whole situation.
9. Switch art mediums
You may need to switch art mediums, so be flexible about your creative work. Try different things to get out of that creative rut. It may take time to discover the medium that is the easiest and most fun for you to work in. You need to be having fun with your creative project or you won’t feel as inspired.
Think way, way, WAY outside the box. Try writing, acting on stage, sculpting, bonsai tree grooming, playing a musical instrument, starting a blog or a podcast- anything to be creative in any way, shape, or form. Anything to satisfy your creative soul. So long as you are creating, your actions are in alignment with your commitment to being an artist. In fact, by staying creative, you are being a professional artist!
The importance of finding the right medium to work in cannot be overstated.
10. Connect with other artists
Try joining an art group on the app Meetup if you have Meetup groups near you. Or, create your own group that can meet to make art. Use a similar app or Facebook.
Groups can help ease loneliness and inspire you, too. Usually, there’s not a whole lot of talking at these groups while everyone works silently. That can make it easier for introverts, anxious people, and shy people.
Groups, along with friends and family, can also offer constructive criticism and support. Support really helps stop art block.
11. Change your environment
Take your art to a different room of your home, to the library, coffee shop, the top of a hill, or another place if you can.
If you cannot do this, then try to experience a change of scenery in the form of a day trip or outdoor excursion. When you return to making art later, you may feel more refreshed and able to break through that artist’s block.
If possible (and I know it’s not always realistic,) consider moving to a new location.
If you have the money, rent a studio space somewhere. Or turn your garage into a workshop. Make it difficult for your creative block to persist by entering a new environment.
12. Copy other artists
Don’t worry, I don’t mean you should plagiarize. This tip means to steal like an artist. It is more about taking inspiration to eliminate your art block.
Everyone copies everyone all the time. No one is original or unique.
Luckily, we all have unique filters through which we create. So naturally, even if you “copy” someone, you aren’t usually actually copying them.
You may find this tip helps on a mental level to free your ego. And it may help on a practical level to take action.
Tracing something, for example, is copying. What you trace can easily create your composition or help you get proportions right.
13. Use art prompts to help the creative process
There are tons of art prompts available online these days to help you stop art block. In fact, there is a decent list of art ideas to try in this blog post:
You may also want to try an art class, or follow along with a YouTube art tutorial.
14. Gather inspiration
Ideas for art inspiration can be found just about anywhere- museums, online, books, people in your neighborhood, nature, and more.
You may want to keep a vision board above your desk for drawing ideas, paper scraps, and photos. You can use Pinterest boards too.
You will find inspiration and new ideas wherever you actively look because you are naturally more perceptive to visuals. Let the inspiration fill you with excitement! Think about your creative process from different angles. View your inspirational materials as the first part of your routine, then get started making art.
15. Reward yourself
Once you have created some art you feel satisfied with, reward yourself.
Take a relaxing break, have a snack, or do something else fun and enjoyable. Reward yourself with words of affirmation and self-love, too. Say “You’re doing a great job!” and feel it! Recognize your art accomplishment.
16. Make art for someone else
Did you ever make someone a homemade birthday card as a kid? It probably made you feel excited to have a creative project and so good to give the card as a gift.
Try making art for someone as a way to break past an artistic block. You don’t have to actually give it to that person, either.
Maybe you make it for someone famous you look up top, like a sports star for example. Maybe you make it to share online. Maybe you get a little silly just to keep yourself on your toes, (like I did by including this photo of a dog painting.)
17. Brain dump
Try a creative brain dump to break overcome the artistic block. You can do this with writing, drawing, painting, or another medium.
Allow yourself to get messy. Scribble, throw paint around, or glue a bunch of random things together. Maybe do a bunch of small sketches that only take a minute or two each. Get the creative movements flowing physically.
Don’t worry about how your project turns out, just be free. Let yourself feel like a kid.
Creating a big art mess helps release tensions. And then at least you did something fun.
What if you have art block for years?
I feel your pain. As I said, I had art block for years as well. It seems to me art block is trying to teach us something. What that something is would be up to the individual to discover.
In my case, I was out of touch with my authentic self, had unprocessed trauma, poor health, and other personal issues. I did a lot of inner work. Each artist has their own journey.
Final Thoughts on Ending Art Block Forever
I hope you enjoyed reading about the common causes of art block and my tips for stopping creative block completely.
Art block can be awful, but you can get out of a creative rut. Many new ideas are waiting for you, and you can make your creative dreams real. You don’t have to throw in the towel forever.
It’s helpful to consider that there are times when you cannot focus on art because of the flow of life. For example, when you have a baby and you’re in new mom survival mode just trying to get enough sleep and care for your family. Or, when you have pertinent health issues to take care of. Sometimes, art has to go on the back burner, and that is ok.
Never be down on yourself for not making art, and please stop doubting yourself. Be kind to yourself, and find the best ways that work for you to end your art block.
Please let me know what you think of these tips in the comments, and have a lovely day!
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