How to Overcome an Art Block?

Are you lazy or in denial and stuck in an art block? This is actually very ironic because I'm stuck in one myself at the moment. Art blocks happen and sometimes it can be due to lack of motivation or inspiration (maybe even both?) 

I define Art Block as the lack of ideas, motivation or inspiration 

Art blocks can range from a few brief hours to sometimes weeks, months or even years. It is as long as you allow it to be. When you have an art block, please don't force yourself to create. Forcing yourself to create art will only lead to frustration if the outcome is not what you intended it to be and may put you in a longer art block than originally expected. After being in so many art blocks over and over again, I realized that each one is different and unique so I'll list my steps to overcome an art block below. (Please note, although these steps may work for me - it may or may not work for everyone. Overcoming an art block is very personal.)

1. Recognize the Trigger

With any art block that occurs, try to figure out what event/change in your life may have triggered it. Some questions to consider:

  • Are you suffering from stress?
  • Are you tired and losing most sleep than usual?
  • Has your diet recently changed?
  • Work burnout?
  • Burnout from too many projects or commissions?
  • Lack of exercise or exercise routine changed?
  • Not enough downtime/relaxation time?
  • Loss of pet or loved one?
  • Overcoming anxiety or fear in creating new works? (I call this the art creation phobia in which sometimes an artist fears starting a new project in order to avoid being "disappointed" by the outcome if it doesn't turn out the way he/she expected it to.)

Keep in mind that the above are just examples and maybe your art block trigger is not part of this list. You must figure out what the trigger is. For an art block to occur, there must be some sort of imbalance in your life that triggered it. A healthy lifestyle is the key to productivity and creativity. 

Art blocks can be triggered by anything. Another example of a trigger can be something as trivial as not getting your packages delivered in a timely manner when they used to be. Maybe that causes pent up frustration which triggers the art block - who knows! This particular example is a bit dramatic but you'd be surprise at what the trigger may be. The disruption in routine is enough to interfere with creativity.

It is up to you to figure out the trigger and realize why you're having an art block before you can actually overcome it.

2. Take as Much Time as You Need

When you finally do figure out the trigger to your art block - don't rush to overcome it and force yourself to create. Take the time to LET the art block run its course. It will resolve itself when you figure out what needs to change to bring that balance back into your life. Correcting your current lifestyle is not easy. Some examples to the possible triggers and how to go about resolving them:

  • If you are stressed, then de-stress. If you can't do that with art because you're in an art block; find alternative sources such as exercise, shopping or just staying home to rest.
  • If you are tired and fatigued - take some me time and try to sleep more if possible.
    • Sleep does wonders for the body and mind. Quality sleep affects how you perform both mentally and physically which will most likely also boost your creativity. Some artists are not affected by lack of sleep and that's great!
    • However, less sleep in the long run will eventually still lead you into a rut because you'll have less energy to create. Art blocks are ultimately inevitable. It's like catching the common cold. Everyone will at least catch it once in their lifetime.
  • If you are burned out from work or commissions - take a break!
    • Take some time off from work and plan a vacation for a recharge
      • I am probably in no position to give this piece of advice because I am a (borderline) workaholic. I'm unable to unplug at times despite knowing that I should. At the end of the day, a job is just that...a job. It should not affect your quality of life to the point where you lose sleep, skip meals, or have health issues from all of the above. 
      • If you burnout and fall will you perform at 100%? What ends up happening is a loss in quality of work coupled with more human errors. No company wants a sick employee to slip up on the job or even worse - spread your germs to other healthy employees. You end up becoming a company liability who does not enhance any company's work environment or image. (Trust me, I speak from experience.)
    • Pull back from some of your commissions/projects to draw/paint/create for yourself
      • Too much or too little of anything is bad. If you find yourself overwhelmed with projects; it's time to scale back. 
  • If you fear creating art because you're "not as good as other artists" or "it's not going the way I want it to..." please STOP.  
    • Art is not about comparing or "being the best" 
    • Art is created for various reasons: to tell a story, convey emotion, depict a controversial topic etc. However, it should not be used as a method to simply be the best artist out there. As an artist, you must understand that there is no such thing as perfect or the "best" type of art. Art is subjective. What someone may deem a masterpiece may end up being viewed as trash from another person's perspective.
    • In other words - don't create art just because you want to be a famous artist or to compete against another well known artist. That shouldn't be the goal. Don't strive to be "the best artist ever". Strive to be the best artist that you can be. Create art because you want to and because you naturally enjoy it. Art should not be created for all the wrong reasons/goals.

3. Create again

I was going to use this great analogy here and say "Art is like riding a bike" but then realized from a fellow artist that it really isn't...

Actually, art is not like riding a bike. It’s better than that.
— Robert Sloan

It's true that you never forget how to create or lose the ability to create art; just like you never forget how to ride a bike. What really differs here is that the mental process doesn't stop. I never stop taking in ideas for a new painting even if I am unable to execute them at the moment. Your memory stores all these images even if you are unable to create them into art. The creation process is dormant but always there.

When you finally realize your art block trigger and take the necessary steps to fix it, then you can create again. It might take you time but don't worry. Sometimes the best artwork is made after a much needed long break.

My current art block is actually a combination of many things. Stress, lack of sleep/rest/downtime and anxiety from several minor health issues are currently bringing down my artistic mood. This isn't the first time but this is probably the longest that I haven't created anything (3 weeks now I believe which isn't the norm for me)

I just have to let it pass and correct my current lifestyle. It may take me some time but whenever I get stuck in an art block - I tape up any unfinished work to my desk so that every day I can see it when I come home and sit at my workdesk. Eventually, one day I'll feel compelled to just finish it. This is just one of my several methods used in an attempt to create again but I'm sure you will find your own or even better methods.

Are you currently in an art block? Have you ever been in one? If so, what are your methods for getting out of one? If you're still in one - how long have you been in one and what tactics have you tried in order to get yourself motivated again?

Share your experiences in the comments below!