I’m the first person to admit how difficult it can be to pull yourself out of a slump. As a creative thinker and a highly sensitive person, I go through a lot of ups and downs with my art. As I age I’m starting to become accustomed to this cycle and even have begun to embrace it lately, as I can now see the benefits that some down time has to offer. Even after the worst of “off” periods, I’ve been able to come up with some ideas for how to get rid of artist’s block and come right back into the ring swinging. No matter how bad I feel, or how much I want to give up, utilizing at least one of these 10 methods works every time.
10 Ways to Get Rid of Artist’s Block
1. Go Outside
This might sound vague, but it’s effective. It doesn’t matter what you do, just get outside and let the fresh air work its miracles. Try something simple like taking a walk, or sitting outside and reading a book. Better yet (and my personal favorite), go camping. Even a short camping trip is much longer than we normally stay outside for and it really sort of “resets” and stimulates your brain, getting you back to your most invigorated self.
2. Listen to Music
Again, a simple notion. But I seriously forget to listen to music sometimes, getting way too wrapped up in my own head space and negative thought processes. When I remember to put on my favorite tunes and crank up the volume, I’m instantly transported to a different space. I feel less weighed down, happier. Emotions that had been festering and brewing get released and I’m able to climb out of the pit, so to speak.
3. Find Artwork You Love Online and Create Pinterest Boards
This is something that works very well for me when I’m not only feeling uninspired, but also physically lazy. There is SO much amazing stuff out there and I really think sometimes we just need to have some chill time to surf the web and find it. Creating Pinterest boards is a great way to save and categorize it all so that you don’t just immediately forget about it. I have boards for painting, printmaking, photography, individual artists that I admire, historical artists, gallery spaces, craft ideas…you get the idea. Pinterest is a good way for me to store all of the imagery and names that my brain is too overloaded to handle. Then when I’m experiencing artist’s block, or just need a little nudge, I can scroll back over all the beautiful work I’ve saved and it gets me excited to create again.
4. Visit a Gallery or Museum
This might not be something you’re able to do on any given day, but when you do get the chance, take it. Physically putting yourself in the presence of artwork can be very inspiring. I always think of a museum as something of a sacred space. The whole building is there just to store and showcase art – what could be better? Walk around, explore, and just soak up your surroundings. Spend at least 10 full minutes with a piece that particularly speaks to you. It doesn’t have to be similar to your own work, just anything that engages you. The shift from thinking about your own work to thinking about someone else’s can be refreshing and your creativity and focus may spark as a result.
5. Keep a Sketchbook
Think of your sketchbook as your safe space. Nobody else gets to see it. It’s there just for you to move a pencil around on the paper and see what comes out. You can be as focused or as unfocused as you want. Write thoughts, doodle, create thumbnails that may or may not turn into anything, add color, paste in clippings of imagery you find interesting, anything you want! The act of doing this creates new thought processes by default, you don’t even really have to be trying. Just keep filling up those pages.
6. Take Pictures
This is something that I do quite often when I’m looking for new painting ideas. I like to walk around public gardens or go out into the woods and see what kind of interesting shots I can capture. Every picture you take is an original composition. From there the sky is the limit as to what you can do with it. Try playing around with the colors in a photo editing program, or combining multiple photos together to create a layered collage. Most of us have a phone camera with us at all times these days, so take advantage of it!
7. Do One Small Thing Outside Your Comfort Zone
It’s probably a good idea to do this from time to time just for personal growth, but I’ve found it to also be an effective method for relieving artist’s block. When we’re feeling uninspired, “blah”, or just down in the dumps, the easiest thing to do is to just keep repeating the patterns that probably put us there in the first place. Try doing something spontaneous. I’ll admit to being a little bit of a hermit, so for me this could be something as small as going for a long walk when I normally would have stuck around the house all day. Or maybe driving out to a spot I’ve never been before. Simple, but effective.
8. Keep a Clean and Organized Work Space
When in doubt, clean. It can’t hurt. I have trouble thinking clearly if my environment is too cluttered. Taking time to thoroughly clean and organize your work space can have multiple advantages. First, it gives you a task to focus on, which can help you snap out of a funk. It also reminds you what tools you have at your disposal, and where they are. My art supplies usually end up all over the place until I have no idea where anything actually is when I need it. Occasional organization is crucial, however unpleasant and tedious the idea might seem. Try combining the second idea on this list with this one and pump up the jams while you clean. 🙂
9. Look Back Through Your Older Work/Notes/Sketches
This one works wonder for me. I keep a sketchbook at all times, so they tend to pile up. Sometimes I’ll find an old one, flip through it, and think, “OH YEAH! I completely forgot about this awesome project that I wanted to do!” The idea was there the whole time, it just got lost in the shuffle. Maybe you were headed in a certain direction once, got distracted, and studying some of your older notes triggers that original thought process. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come and it will inspire you to keep pushing forward.
10. Take Care of Your Body
This is something that can be easy to slack off on when we’re not feeling great. Not sleeping enough and not eating well are guaranteed ways to keep your mind cloudy. Work through negativity by exercising and fueling your body with real food, and, possibly most importantly for artist’s block – SLEEP. Some days it just ain’t gonna happen, let’s be honest. It’s entirely possible that no matter how many methods we try, the creative juices remain stubbornly solidified. At this point just get a good night’s rest and give your brain a break. I’m continually amazed at how different a new day can feel. After a good sleep, and with that first cup of coffee the next morning, your next idea might just pop up out of nowhere.
Certainly these are not the only methods that can be used to help get rid of artist’s block, but these are what usually work for me. These practices not only apply to artists of all types, but really anybody looking to get back to a clear head space so they can get back to being productive. What ways have you found work to increase creativity? I would love to hear about them!