You’ve sharpened all your pencils, put your entire marker pen collection in order of size and colour, sorted all of your pdfs into handy folders, now let’s put that pen to paper… oh… wait…
Art Block. It can come at any time and without any explanation. One minute your blasting out commissions like crazy, the next minute, you’re struggling to draw a stick man. Artist’s Block can be frustrating at the best of times, but when you’re a professional artist it can stand in the way of you making next month’s rent! It can make you doubt your abilities, question every little mistake and, worst of all, completely stop you in your tracks.
So, here are a few tips I have found work for me personally when I am struggling. They may not all work for you, but we’re all different, so why not tell me what does work for you and together we can come up with a handy list of ideas for the next time we all have a bit of imagination constipation.
1. Step Away from the Computer/Drawing Table
It may sound simple, but just stepping away from your work (when you can afford to) can really help put your art into perspective. Why not go for a walk, to the gym or even to a local gallery or museum? Try to get your mind of your own art work and maybe soak up the art of others. Browse DeviantArt and find some inspirational pieces, or go to a craft fair or convention. You might find some new techniques or methods that you can use in the current project you are stuck on.
Working as an artist can be a very sedentary job. As such, we rarely get enough exercise unless we really take the time to go to the gym or for a run. Exercise can help clear your mind, make you feel more energetic and alert and, most importantly, make you healthier. Going for an hour in the gym before sitting down to work can help you focus your mind on your work. You may even get some ideas when you’re stuck in your own mind on the treadmill.
3. Enroll in an art workshop or life drawing class
Being surrounded by artists all creating and working together can be inspirational. Plus, the bonus of a class is that the teacher will generally give you a subject to focus on, meaning you don’t have to draw from your own imagination. This will get the creative juices flowing without straining your brain too much. Hopefully, you will get into the groove a little bit and take that momentum back to the studio with you.
4. Draw some Fan Art
Fan art can be a great way to get over an imagination slump. As you are working with already established characters, with set in stone costumes, hair and props, it takes some of the pressure off of your imagination while also getting you to flex your artistic muscles. Why not try some gender bending, costume re-design or setting characters in different time periods. You may soon find that your re-imaginations of characters will turn into your own character designs.
5. Dealing with Intimidation
Maybe you have to adapt your style? Deal with a new type of layout you are not familiar with? Whatever the design problem, do not be scared by it. Everyone has this problem every now and again and it’s how we, as artists, learn. I felt very blocked when I was working on the Kerrang! Komic as it was a size I hadn’t experimented with that much. I found stepping away and researching magazine comic strips like Pandora, really helped me gain perspective. Then thumb-nailing out as many different options as I could before settling on a final design made me feel much more comfortable before moving on to pencils.
6. Ask your friends for help
Even if your friends are not artistic themselves, that doesn’t mean they can’t help. Maybe they could take you out for a drink or go to the cinema with you to get your mind off of things. Also, they might be the same audience you are aiming your art towards. If you are drawing a book full of superheroes, ask some of your friends who like superheroes to see what you’ve done so far. They may not be able to give you advice on exactly how to improve it artistically, but they can at least tell you if it’s good or not.
7. Remember that you are only human!
This is probably the most important thing for you to remember when dealing with art block. A lot of the time art block can come from putting too much pressure on yourself, taking on too much work, or stepping outside your comfort zone. These are all things that commercial artists have to do in order to get by at some point or another, but the best thing you can do is learn from them. Learn how much is too much, learn your limits (only then can you comfortably exceed them) and learn how you as a person handle stress.
A lot of these options may seem like procrastination and…well… they kinda are, but that’s I like to think of them as progressive procrastination.
If it were up to me, I’d be drawing and working 24 hours a day, but that would slowly kill me. The problem with being freelance is that there is no set schedule or time period for you to work in. This can be both a blessing and a curse. If I didn’t take the time to step out of my head every so often I would spend half of my day chained to my drawing table and the other half stuck to my phone or laptop, checking e-mails and writing promos on social media.
Art and writing are expressions of life at the end of the day, and if you don’t have one, how can you be expected to express it?