Have you ever felt like you were pulling your hair out trying to make art? Gotten anxious or annoyed at yourself for erasing something 50 times? Or like you simply couldn’t face the blank page, no matter how many attempts you made?
Then you may be suffering from art block. It’s no fun at all, but it 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 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, 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 art projects, and then not being able to proceed with those projects. It’s a feeling of getting nowhere despite your desire to make art.
Art 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 art 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.
Is art block real?
It sure is!
Know that art block is common and many people experience the feeling of artists block. In no way does it 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. Once you identify the causes, you can put a stop to art block.
Common causes of art block :
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 and feeling 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 or comparison to others.
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. It is scary to hear other people’s opinions.
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.
Many artists feel blocked 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.
Comparing yourself to other artists is totally natural. We are all constantly comparing ourselves to others as part of our human nature.
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. It’s 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.
Lack of skills
Lack of skills 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, skills can grow. And honestly, skills are often overrated. Consider the importance of other “art success” factors such as creative drive and joy of creating.
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. 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.
Consider the fact that you are an amazing artist, and there is in fact a much better art medium for you, but 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 a different means of expression.
Related: 15 Inspirational Art Journal Pages
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?
Your environment can be tough to change depending on the circumstances and can cause art block if you don’t find a solution. But where there is a will, there is a way.
Loneliness causes sadness and despair, and those feelings can make it hard to feel motivated. Other related issues such as depression or anxiety may contribute to art 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 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.
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 illness or disease. When your body is tired, weak, ill, 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 end art block permanently
1. Be gentle with yourself
To end 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. Give yourself support and use positive self-talk.
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 art 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 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. 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 ego. Ego wants to keep you safe, and one way it does is by keeping you fearful. Think about how dis-empowering taking ego seriously is when it comes to art.
Now, have a laugh at art ego. Take away its power to art block you.
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. Art doesn’t require being perfect. It doesn’t have to look pretty, and it doesn’t have to make sense.
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. Positive growth mindset
A positive growth mindset means that you know your artist 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!
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.)
Look for opportunities, not disadvantages. Not enough space in your apartment for big paintings? Switch mediums. Paint “en plein air.” Find out what you can do. Affirm that you can and will improve your skills in time.
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 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. 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 it.
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.
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.
Creating a routine will help with this. 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 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 is hard. Therefore, you may need to trick yourself into getting started. 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 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. I use this tip all the time to get started making art prints for my Etsy shop.
9. Switch art mediums
You may need to switch art mediums, so be flexible about that. Try different things until you discover the medium that is the easiest and most fun for you to work in. You need to be having fun or you won’t feel as inspired.
Think way outside the box. Try writing, 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.
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.
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.
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
There are tons of art prompts available online these days. In fact, there is a decent list of art ideas to try in this blog post:
Do a Google search, a Youtube search, or a Pinterest search for even more art prompts and ideas. Collect prompts in your notebook, start a word document or a Pinterest board.
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 paper scraps, take photos, use Pinterest boards, or visit a museum.
You will find inspiration wherever you actively look because you are naturally more perceptive to visuals. Let the inspiration fill you with excitement. 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 art 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.
17. Brain dump
Try a creative brain dump to break through art 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, and other personal issues. I did a lot of inner work. Each artist has their own journey.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the common causes of art block, and tips for breaking through art block. Art block can be awful, but it can be overcome. 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.
Please let me know what you think of these tips in the comments, and have a lovely day!
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