View Full Version : Artist's block.. how do you cope with it?

07-10-2003, 07:16 PM
Let's face it we've all been there, that blank piece of paper, every shade of pastel under the sun, but stuck for what to paint, nothing but nothing will inspire you..... so what do YOU personally do to overcome it?

Do you just work through it with a struggle, have you a secret remedy?.... If so let's hear it, let's hear how you cope with this.

I find music helps, not any particular type of music either, as my music tastes are wide and varied... looking at other artist's work doesn't work for me, it just makes me depressed when in the 'Artist Block' stage.

Would love to hear how others deal with this common problem.


Kathryn Wilson
07-10-2003, 08:34 PM
I'm not exactly having an artist block - just not inspired - usually looking at photos inspires, but not this time. I plowed through a bunch of Southwest Art magazines, still nothing.

New pastels are sitting on my table - and I keep looking at the pretty deep colors.

My only excuse is that it is sooo hot and muggy and I do not do well in heat. On top of that, I found a tick on me and one on my dog this morning. Does not entice me to go outdoors at all!!!!

Hopefully will be cooler tomorrow - storms going through tonight.

Craig Houghton
07-10-2003, 09:36 PM
I'm so constantly pressed for time (or pushing to fill time) that I've yet to have visual artist's block. I get writers block all the time though. It's usually only when I haven't thought through a given scene or character actions fully enough to actually make it happen.

Visual art is just pure fun for me, so there's always something to do. If I am stuck a bit, it's usually because I'm unsure of what to do next on a painting, or bored. In both cases I do something else till I'm unstuck. If I force it, I tend to pull a close-my-eyes-and-rush-it approach.


07-10-2003, 10:44 PM
I try something totally different. I do intricate beadwork and wirewrap jewelry or tackle a home improvement project that is faux something...I've found I've got to get the creative juices going...then I start looking through reference stuff I've had for years and reading old how to books and mags until I have a talk with myself about whether I'm afraid to be successful...then I get a real hard project going just to prove I can do it if I want to...and then I'm so busy worrying about getting a stupid ear just right that I forget I was ever blocked lol! Actually...usually it means that I need to go in a new direction with my work. When the mind says same old, same old then it's time to push the boundaries....

07-10-2003, 11:13 PM
ooh.....must admit.......I rarely have that.......LOL.....if I do then it just tells me I am doing something wrong, that I am repeating the same formula and I am getting bored with it.

New ideas I get by browsing through loads of art books, looking at all those pictures/paintings. Thinking....'I'd like to try that'
Or I go out with my camera ONLY to shoot interesting things....can vary between a worm in the mud to a person, house, sunset.....whatever........
Or Iisten to music and plan to try to put that 'mood' or atmosphere in my next painting.......
The hardest thing I find is getting models/photos for portraits....
So then I go back to landscapes (just go out and get amazed at the beauty of the outdoors) or buildings (got plenty of photos for that! :D)

I usually think 'so much to paint, so little time.....:D.........

Mo......are you in a 'artist's block'?

07-11-2003, 06:08 AM
Dunno about artists's block, but I have "block" sometimes ;) . Get upset that I can't paint the way I want to, then lose heart that I'll ever learn etc. I basically am too critical and then forget about how much fun it is to actually do it. It's the road, the travelling that is as much fun as the goal, or should be. Sometimes I get trapped in reading about painting rather than doing it, but I once read a book, Zen and the art of cooking or something and they gave the example of a child learning to walk. The babies just get up, fall over, then get up again. There's no child ever that says I can't do it, who am I fooling, I will never learn to walk, I have to do a seminar, read a book, maybe that'll help.
i also like the slogan for a brand of footwear. JUST DO IT.
Cheers and good luck if you suffer from it

07-12-2003, 12:20 AM
If I can't paint, I spin and knit, enjoying colour and texture in a different medium, and that seems to eventually bring me around to the right frame of mind-- but that's a slow-cooker method.

I think you're feeling a lot of pressure right now, Mo, to produce enough work for your show, so you think everything you touch has to be good and also quick. You're judging it as you do it, even before you start it, and that's the kiss of death to the creative spirit. Julia Cameron's maxim,"Great Creator, I'll take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality" can be a freeing thing to remember. Also, although we don't always like to admit it, quantity very often results in quality.

07-12-2003, 12:52 AM
I'm not sure if I get artists block where I can't work at all anymore, but I do get lazy. I get ideas and don't follow through with them. Then there are times when I want to do something but have no ideas. I find that starting to draw without anything in particular in mind helps me get over it and working again. Once I start, I can't stop.

07-12-2003, 08:15 AM
What to do??

You get off your arse and paint girl.....thats what you do!!!!!!!!LOL
By gawd you paint ..even if its trash...fuel your energies into your work!! Try mixing it up, dont stick to realism, or pastels...let your emotions be your guide!
And just maybe you will find that you are hiding styles and abilities you didnt know you had!:D:D:D

I know that you all think Ive fallen off the end of the world by not posting as much in here, but look around... (as you have Mo ;) ty btw)
and you will see that I dont just play in pastels!!!!! I go with what medium calls me;) <---sounds psychy eh? lol

Dont let your talent get bulked down by blocks! You have the ability to create...that doesnt go away...so slap yourself..and get busyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy:D:D:D:D

07-12-2003, 08:37 AM
I never get a block ROFLMAO :D You all know I don't HEE HEE I just take time off and eventually I come up with something to try again. I had a big block before I found the suede board or velveteen board. Then I had a spurt. Now it's back to what do I want to paint. I love Sandy's Meow Meow's new painting with the boat and the house. I just need to go out and find something I want to take pictures of. I've gone several times. Even took my camera to the beach when I went this past week. Took some pics but the water wasn't a real pretty color. It was nice though Not choppy and just walk in warm So I enjoyed being in the water most the time I was there *S* Seems when I forget my camera is when I find something. And with me sketching doesn't get it. I can't do it fast enough to get where the shadows go. I'll never figure out these shadows. I study things (when I'm driving) Hey So I don't have a cell phone LOL Anyway I look at a batch of trees and think I have it. But then trying to do it. No I don't have it. Oh well. Mo you'll get over it soon Have no fear *S* Just except it go out and have some fun relax and come back with a fresh attitude.

Deborah Secor
07-12-2003, 02:13 PM
I was suffering through a bad bout of artist's block one day when Albert Handell called. When I complained about it he said:

"The good news is, the older you get the less you believe it will never come back."

After I puzzled it out I found it oddly comforting, and proving to be true. So, having friends who know it will end helps a lot.

I find I have to paint through it. It's like when you're a little kid and you fall down and scrape your knee and run to mommy, who 'kisses it and makes it better.' You don't escape the pain, you just go through it.

07-12-2003, 03:26 PM
Well thanks guys, you lot are really great... although I don't think it's artists block so much as being over pressurised... no time to relax into things....

Redsy!!:D:D you are a tonic my girl! :D... My arse is now a nice shade of red. :D, you are so very, very right in what you say too... not pschy at all....good common sense.... I think I'm a bit like LostDreamer too.... LOL is that why you chose that nick? and Ange... thanks for your insight, I can relate to all that you say.....Luvy... you are never short of inspiration, you always seem to come up with brilliant ideas on what to paint.... so I shall take a note of what everyone has said and put it to good use, ... I think this thread could be useful to a lot of folks from time to time.... keep those ideas coming though, there's bound to be more.

thanks all,

07-13-2003, 11:23 AM
This is a good thread that needs to come back to the top.

I find it's never the same each time. Sometimes I get out my camera and shoot and then find something to paint from. Other times I just read a magazine or two and see if that helps inspire me.

Mostly I just accept this as a time of rest and a need for inspiration and go for a walk and try to just accept the fact. We live in seasons and eventually that season will come back.


As for the pressure Mo - make it light! You said that whatever is done, is done. Try not to take on anything more - just play with it a bit if you can. Oh and write us for some help and we'll do what Redsy did if necessary!!! Love her advice!


07-13-2003, 04:45 PM
Hey Mo,
I always have that brief spell betwen paintings in which I hesitate but I've currently got three paintings I want to do. Finding this helps. Rather than put all your energies into painting what your painting now, take a break and work on what you're going to paint next so that when you finish, the planning for the next one (or two or three) is done. Currently I'm about two ahead so feeling enthusiastic about it. Finding cleaning up the "studio" (er . . . tiny corner of the room) helps clear the mind as well.

07-13-2003, 05:23 PM
Thanks Barb... good advice so have been playing today. ;)

Crumby.. I used to be like that, always had more than one painting on the line, but lately like you said I have been pouring all my energy into just one, I must return to how I was before....
I did clean my little room today too... think I'll practice whatsitcalled...Feng Shui? Supposed to be good I hear for getting rid of negative thoughts :)


07-13-2003, 06:56 PM

David calls it Kim Chee - (you know the pickled cabbage) - he thinks Feng Shui is poo poo so we tease about it back and forth. speaking of which, maybe while he's gone I'll go put something purple in my wealth corner. Can't hurt!!!


Vegas Art Guy
07-13-2003, 07:29 PM
I switch it up. If I've been doing nothing but acrylics, I put them away and switch to pencils or pastels. If I've been only doing landscapes, I switch to still lifes or figures, if I've been doing monochromatic pieces, I break out ALL my colors. I find it keeps my mind fresh. Maybe that's why I can't settle on a style, medium or even subject matter...

07-13-2003, 07:38 PM
Originally posted by bnoonan

David calls it Kim Chee - (you know the pickled cabbage) - he thinks Feng Shui is poo poo so we tease about it back and forth. speaking of which, maybe while he's gone I'll go put something purple in my wealth corner. Can't hurt!!!


Barb I know nothing about Feng Shui... 'poo poo', but like pickled cabbage:D.... So If I put a jar of pickled cabbage in a corner...( BTW which one is the wealth corner) I can expect loads of dosh coming my way.. yes? :D:D

Hey Vegas, thanks, that's exactly what I've been doing today... it does work too. :)


Deborah Secor
07-13-2003, 07:41 PM
I take out my palette of pastels and clean them thoroughly so they're all bright and beautiful, then I purchase a new kind of paper or get some new product (last time it was Art Spectrum Primer in the elephant color) to try out. I just let go of whatever deadline I have, if that's holding me back, and go for some fun experimentation. This is how I came to paint using gold watercolors as a background for my hummingbirds.

Once I decided to use all the colors in my palette that had little or no wear, the really big sticks that had been unused for years. I decided if I wanted a deep purple sky, fine, an orange slash for a road, great, meagenta speckles in the fore, go for it! I ended up changing my whole style from that one. LOL

I think sometimes I'm just too worried about producing an image and I get all tied in knots over that instead of just using the talent I've been given.

This too shall pass...

07-13-2003, 07:55 PM
Mo, - there's nothing like pressure to kill the ol' creative spirit.
I find preparing for an exhibition always burns me out. The last few months I lose interest completely and start to panic.

In fact it was that kind of burn out last July that led me to pastels and to you guys. The inspiration just came flooding back, and has led to the most exciting and creative year I've had for a very long time.

Trouble is I now have some watercolour wildlife commissions to do and all I want to do is PASTEL. :D :p


07-14-2003, 03:01 AM
hmmmmm Feng Shui ..... Im quite 'into' that too Barb ....... reflexology and iridology lol....... I think perhaps I should get my books back out and have a re-study ....... thanks for the reminder :)

07-28-2003, 04:34 PM
Bringing this back up to the top.... seems some of us are experiencing a hard time right now, so maybe a read through here will help.... I know if I re-read Redsy's advice it should do the trick! :D:D

~ :) Mo.

07-28-2003, 05:42 PM
This is going to seem like a ridiculous way to get out of block, but I draw my shoes.

My ugly, shoelaceless, tragically worn shoes, on my feet. I like to draw them with the TV turned to some inane programming (like the news) and concentrate really hard, kicked back in my chair.

I find that drawin something or pastelling something so inane often opens my eyes up a little to nuiances in the little things. Drawing flowers are too demanding, but if you start with an ugly shoe, then you can be guarenteed it'll be ugly when you finish LOL.

I guess that I set expectations so low of producing anything worthwhile (as I intend not to) that I am thrilled if they come out. And I've practiced a little to boot (boot ... shoe ... get it? Har Har Har)

In any event, I've done this excersize a few times, and it hasn't disappointed. After looking at my shoes for a couple hours, it's easy to get excited about starting that project you've had sitting on your mind for awhile.

And it's certainly better than smelling them for a couple hours :D :p

- Greg

07-28-2003, 05:54 PM
Greg:D:D you are a tonic... are you in league with Redsy? :D

Thanks for that moving piece of advice :).. so once you have drawn your boots... you can say "These Boots were made for drawing"..... groan....I know.:D:p

~ ;) Mo.

07-28-2003, 08:55 PM
i had a little block a bit back...and pushed myself to go back to basics.......pencil drawing ....practicing sketching........and joined up in a learning thread ....so i have to do something!
I just sat doing a row of tones one day.......it was quite relaxing!
It will never be a masterpiece but it helped me at the time.
I just do anything .....and find that a change of medium helps too.

07-28-2003, 09:21 PM
Hi. Some great ideas here. I'm glad I stopped by. Its so refreshing once you realize you're not the only one who's ever experienced it and yes it does go away.

Artists block is also a hot topic in the Creativity forum. If you'd like some more ideas of how to break the block, here are a couple of threads:




We've also found that when groups of artist go through a program together their blocks do happen less and less. Its a fallacy that artists create alone, we do much better with support and companionship. So we're starting a group this September based on Julia Cameron's The Artists Way. I hope you join us. :)

07-28-2003, 10:38 PM
Hi Mo:
Terrific and informative thread--I think everyone gets a 'creative block' now and then. Don't know exactly what brings mine on but hate it when it happens.:evil:
I like others have mentioned switch to another medium and that usually does it for me. Also as mentioned trying something new--getting out of your comfort zone.
Last year I became interested in wet clay and plastine sculpture--took some classes and really enjoy the change.
Sometimes it's good to back away from what ever your working on especially if it's not going well. Put it to the wall--return another day with fresh eyes.
Another thought is to get to a place where other artists are congregated. I love talking shop with artists always some thing new to learn. Also another thought join a paint group or find one person who you have a good re-pour with and set a weekly paint day. It works...
Well I got off the subject a few times ok a lot :D I hope maybe one of my suggestions will help you when you get in that creative slump.

07-29-2003, 12:23 AM
Originally posted by Mo.
Greg:D:D you are a tonic... are you in league with Redsy? :D

Thanks for that moving piece of advice :).. so once you have drawn your boots... you can say "These Boots were made for drawing"..... groan....I know.:D:p

~ ;) Mo.

Oof ... LOL

Might as well be, cause they ain't for walkin' anymore.


- Greg

05-07-2005, 10:04 AM
Im sat here waiting for the inspiration fairy to spring some magic dust on me lol, my hubby wants me to do some art for our living room wall, I must admit to it looking rather bland and uninspiring, ill think of something soon...... :rolleyes: errmm....

05-07-2005, 10:31 AM
I put a big piece of something cheap on the easel, then I do something inane, like draw starfish after starfish- all different sizes and colors until the page is filled up. I have a LOT of pictures of starfish now :D but it gets me going on something that requires no thought, concentration (or talent). There is also a web site with paintings from artist all over the world- a lot of very colorful folk art, etc. that I like to look at and try to do something in their style- I find there is always something there I want to try:

05-07-2005, 11:17 AM

I get artist's block, and I try a few things to help get over it.

I do what I think is cross-training - In the KCMO area, there are several clay studios that offer classes, and it's really fun making clay pieces.

You might also try working with other sculpture, too. Polymer clay is an easy medium to use, also, something I've found that is really cool sculpture material is Magic Sculpt. It's a two part medium that you mix together and can model with your hands, and it cures really hard.

You might try working with fused glass or stained glass, woodcarving or anything else. You might try browsing the other forums here to find out what other people are doing and that might give you some ideas.

Try visiting art museums - that usually helps me really well. I agree with finding other artists and kindred folk to get past a block.

Also, if you can afford it, you might try making a small vacation or day trip to find inspiration.

This may also seem weird, but I sort of figure, what the heck. If it helps, you might try imagining a muse (or angel) whispering in your ear - if you leave the possibility open that there might be such things, then there may actually be one there, and even if there isn't, it doesn't hurt to imagine.

Hope this helps. :)

05-08-2005, 12:51 PM
We all talk about "artist's block" but I think there is a difference between a true block and what is really just a slump or a retreat from art for a while. It's like the difference between disabling depression and the blue blahs. A block is when the artist really CAN'T produce no matter what. I had one of those. It lasted for many many years and was very painful. As one poster put it we live in seasons. With all things we have approach and withdraw cyles, both of which need to be honored. When we are in slump, it often turns out to precede a very creative period. During the slump the unconcious is realigning things (Alright, already, I am a Masters level Psychologist, so what dya expect). So how do we honor a slump? Pull away from the analyltical, producing side of art and play, play with anything. I walk on the river and play with my dog. Get some other artists together, preferably children and do some really silly things with paints. finger paints are wonderful for this. Do some uncensored, stream of conciousness journalling, and above all be kind to yourself. I notice slumps usually for me are about neglecting some other area of my inner life, or neglecting some need I may not know about. Maybe I've painted myself into a social corner and need more friend time..Like in most things when we stop trying it comes back. We live in a world geared to ignoring natural rhythms, so we need to conciously honor our personal rhythms including slumps.

05-08-2005, 02:12 PM
A very good thread with a lot of good advice. Thank you. I haven't made anything successful since december last year. It all went straight into the bin. There is still hope, I understand.
Let's hope it will come back.