Overcoming Artist Block

Hello everyone,

After a long break, I am back with a new blog post 🙂

Artist block happens when our fears or anxieties take control of our creative soul. It almost feels like losing our best companion, we feel lonely and totally unmotivated. Inspiration runs miles away and seems happier in those unknown lands, which makes us feel heartbroken. It also feels as if there is an invisible power holding our hands tight so that we can’t even pick up a pencil to sketch something. 

If you are following artists on social media, the chance that you have heard someone talking about this is quite high and maybe you have wondered: “What is an artist block”? 

To overcome this, first, we need to figure out the reason why we found ourselves dwelling in that not-being-able-to-do-anything state? Everyone has their own reasons and maybe I cannot cover all of them in one blog post but here are the most common reasons: 

1-    Mental Exhaustion

You may be going through a stage of difficulties in your life. You may have problems with your relationship(s), you may be struggling financially, or it may be that your working hours are simply too long to leave you some energy to be creative. Take your time and evaluate your life. 


2-     Lack of Confidence

Do you think you lack confidence when it comes to doing creative things? Could it be because you doubt yourself? As soon as you draw a line, do you feel like you are not talented enough to be an artist? Honestly, I have not met any artist who is not self-doubting and believe me, it does not depend on the experience level. Most artists criticize themselves harshly and feel that they lack certain skills throughout their lifetime. It may very well be because of our inner child that is very fragile and insecure. But there is one more reason for it: comparisons! Even though artists are not competing with one another, checking what other artists are producing, how they are improving their client lists, what kind of awards they are adding to their collections, or how fast they are expanding their portfolios can put a lot of pressure on us. This quote is often very useful to remember: 

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” — Sensei Ogui


3-     Ambition

Ambition is one of the most difficult emotions to carry. I often feel like an acrobat when trying to balance it out. It is something positive at first sight and can lead us to unbelievable achievements, but it can also be destructive in terms of pushing us to sacrifice without any limit. 

At the beginning of my career, I clearly did this mistake for about a year. I was using every opportunity I had to develop my illustration career. I worked very hard which meant to sacrifice my weekends and every possible “me time” that is left after fulfilling my responsibilities as a mom and as part of my family. Not having any break and setting very high goals for myself caused me to have a 6-month-long artist block. 


4-     Limited art skills

Why we go through an artist block can also be caused by something as tangible as right skills. I think there is no end to learning new skills in art, but you may be lacking the necessary skills to draw or paint certain things. This can be quite frustrating because your brain will perceive it as a giant obstacle staying between you and the progress you dream of. Many of us tend to stop whatever we are doing right after the first setback. It demoralises us which then causes an art block. It is important to remind ourselves that those setbacks are not our enemies, they are certainly not separating us from our big dreams. In fact, they are helping us to redefine our unrealistic goals. Unfortunately, learning a skill is not like downloading the right file to our brain. There is no short cut; art needs lots of practice, huge amounts of time must be dedicated sometimes only to improve one little skill. 


After identifying the cause, we can now look at some methods which might work to overcome it. 

1-) Take a break or take action

I think the right option really depends on the cause. If you are stressed/overwhelmed by your life problems, you need a break in order to be motivated again. Take time with friends or in nature as long as you need. If you are anxious about your skills or procrastinating, then taking action is the only way to get out of the block. 

2-) Start small

When you opt for taking action, you don’t want to jump into a big complex painting which will eventually feed your anxiety about your lacking skills. Just sketch things that make you happy & are easy to accomplish. Often times, I realise, taking that first piece of paper & colors are all I need to break the block. If you are not motivated immediately, don’t worry, just keep pushing yourself to paint simple things in a row for a few days, you will be amazed how drawing more will get you in the mood again. 

Tiny little paintings

3-) Make a plan

Sometimes, dreaming about some future job opportunities or having a goal is all you need. If you make a plan for what you would like to paint in the coming days or weeks may reduce your stress. That hope in your heart or the goal you have will keep you motivated to start over. I got rid of one of my artist blocks this way. I simply set a goal for what I want to see in my portfolio and made a plan. 

4-) Connect your art with your interests

Trying to connect your art skills to your other interests can be another quick solution. If you are feeling stuck, this method will do wonders. Let’s say, beside painting, you love reading books. Then take the brush into your hands and illustrate a cover for your favourite book. If you are into travelling, then paint your dream destination or create a travel agency poster. If you are into music, why don’t you try to make an album cover for your favourite band? If you are into food, draw your favourite dish in your sketchbook. Think out of the box and try bringing your interests closer to your art. 

5-) Observe other artists’ work

I must say that this could go wrong if you are in a rather depressive mood. If you feel like you will end up comparing yourself, skip this advice. If not, just checking what others do can be inspirational. I came out of one of my artist blocks this way. After checking some impressive accounts, I realised I would love to try illustrating streets, houses or buildings. This made me paint a series of lovely bookmarks. 

6-) Join art challenges

Instagram is full of art challenges, you can find something to join virtually every month. An illustrator friend of mine, Anna, is always collecting and sharing all those challenges in one post on her Insta page, you can find them here. Besides those challenges, there are also #dtiyschallenge, this means you re-draw an illustrator’s work in your own style. It can be quite fun and helpful to get out of your artist block. 

Anna Galitskaya

7-) Socialise/Read books/Watch movies

Most illustrators I know are working from home as freelancers, which means they are in the same environment the whole day. Even if you are an introvert and you don’t need people, long periods of loneliness might be the cause of your problem. Often times, those illustrators feel refreshed after a meet-up with friends. If you are an extrovert, then you need people even more, you might even not notice how the home-office working style is killing all your motivation. Maybe renting an office space with other artists could be useful for you. Besides, reading books and watching movies is sometimes quite useful because it may stimulate your creativity. A scene in a movie or a sentence in a book can be very inspirational for your next piece. 

If you have any other tips which work for you, comment below so others can also benefit from it. 

Thank you for reading! I wish you all a cheerful June!



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