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Tips on overcoming artist's block

Tips on overcoming artist's block

When I get artist’s block, I put my brushes down and do something entirely different for a while. Taking the focus off my art takes away the stress even with looming deadlines for commissions etc. It defeats the purpose worrying about it. I usually find that all of a sudden I start to appreciate what is around me again like the colour things; sunrises and sunsets take on new meaning and I start to notice things like the form of flowers, the vase they are in and how the light interacts with it all. I notice my own shadow and how it changes as I move in different directions, all those sorts of things that inspired me once before. I start to feel the need to try and capture these things and put them down on canvas, and can’t wait to start again. These days it’s a job for me not just a hobby so I have to paint at times, I can tell you artist’s block rarely happens anymore and I think it may be because I treat it as a career and simply ‘get on with it.’ I know its not always that simple for some so here are a few tips to help you along.

Create a painting using a big brush or extra long brush - Its harder to put down detail using either of these methods as you have less control. The aim isn’t to create a masterpiece its more about having fun. You are forced to create large sweeping strokes so go with it and see what comes out of it. Try using large sheets of newspaper rather than working on your usual support.

Visit Art Galleries

Look through photos of your old work or sketch books – from when you were inspired, this will hopefully inspire you to create again

Create a work using wrong hand – so if you're right-handed, paint with your left hand, and if you're left-handed, paint with your right hand. The lack of control and co-ordination means that you will be so busy concentrating on that you will forget that you were feeling uncreative!

Tidy your Studio from top to bottom

Prepare canvas’s – this one I find really useful as it kills two birds with one stone, you are getting some necessary work done in that your canvas’s will be ready to use and usually during the process of putting paint (gesso) to canvas you will be inspired to paint again.

Create Colour charts – try creating  reference material by painting up colour charts using  the paints you normally use so that you have example of your paint dry, criss- crossing them over one another also gives you a ready example of how they react together so that can be a handy reference tool. Label each colour so you don’t forget what you used.

Visit the Library – get out books on creative thinking and painting tips and techniques.

Create an artwork using dripping paint effects – I use a turkey baster for this as it is easier to get a lot more paint together than loading up a brush to do the same. Point it where you want to see the colour and working slowly along squeeze the baster randomly to release the flow, more so in some areas than others. If you have more than one turkey baster you can add different colours. Wait until the drips are dry, turn the canvas and do it on the opposite side. You have no real control of the flow and can watch them create a mix of colours as they work their way down the canvas or page.

Water Painting – not quite water colour painting in that paint a large sheet with water making sure its really wet then add little bits of colour to the surface and allow it to do its own thing. It will spread and mingle with the water and other colours and create its own picture. Don’t try to control it, let it do its own thing and leave to dry.

Take an art class – it forces you to paint while there.


 Artists Dates – as mentioned in a previous post on the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, spending some time by yourself just soaking in the scenery around you can work wonders, you see a lot more when by yourself and chances are you will feel inspired to get back to the drawing board or in this case the easel!

Get inspired by others – most artists have artist’s friends, see if you can spend some time with them watching them work. Hopefully you will feel inspired to create while there so do take some materials along just in case. No pressure.

All in all, don’t be hard on yourself, you’re only human and being creative requires special circumstances. Learn to deal with the things that can affect you and cause the creative block and put plans in place to prevent them in future. Happy Painting!

Posted: Thursday 28 January 2010

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