Has artist’s block ever stopped you dead in your tracks, leaving you staring at a blank canvas or empty sketchbook? If you struggle to know what to paint or draw, art no longer feels fun, or sitting at your easel and picking up a brush induces immediate decision fatigue, you’re not alone. Creative block is a phenomenon that affects all creatives, causing a lack of motivation or inspiration to create.
The good news is that overcoming a creative block is possible, and with the right strategies, you can rekindle your creativity and get back to producing the art you love.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the common causes of artist’s block and share effective techniques to reignite your creative spark. From cultivating a supportive environment to learning from the masters, you’ll discover practical tools and insights to help you blast through that creative barrier and unleash your artistic potential.
Common Causes of Artist's Block
The dreaded artist’s block, a puzzling phenomenon sometimes called “art block,” causes creatives to feel stuck because they lack inspiration. Understanding the root causes and common reasons behind it is essential to overcome it and rekindle artistic passion effectively.
The main causes of art block include stress, fear, and self-doubt (which often present themselves through perfectionism), boredom, and clutter. These can all be addressed through various strategies to help you overcome art block and continue creating confidently.
Higher levels of stress are linked to lower levels of creativity. Stress and feeling overwhelmed can impede creative thinking, blocking the mind from developing new ideas.
Effectively handling stress plays a significant role in conquering creative blocks and fostering a healthy creative process.
You can manage stress by:
Prioritizing self-care—take a break for rest or physical exercise
Establishing a regular routine and learning effective time management
Setting achievable goals
Limiting screen time and spending time outdoors in nature, breathing in the fresh air
Socializing and seeking support from friends, family, or fellow artists
Artists who handle stress proficiently can surmount a creative rut and pursue their artistic destiny.
Fear can lead to creative paralysis. Artists often fear failure (which sometimes presents itself as perfectionism). We also fear what others think. Fear of success, rejection, lack, abandonment, and fear of responsibility are common fears for those actively pursuing their destiny.
Fear can powerfully influence productivity by stopping us from taking risks and embracing imperfection. Elli Milan describes our fears as resistance: “a gargoyle at the gate of your destiny, and it will do anything to stop you from elevating your life and fulfilling your purpose".
Learn more about overcoming resistance in this inspiring conversation on the Milan Art Podcast: How to Overcome Resistance as an Artist.
Pursuing excellence and taking risks without fear of failure is essential to getting past artist's block. Remember, the beauty of art lies in its imperfections, and every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Self-doubt often comes from comparison to others. A well-known quote says that "comparison is the thief of joy.” When you feel like you’re incapable of creating something remarkable, that you’re not talented enough, or feel guilty about focusing on your passion, your creative potential is hindered.
Focusing on your own growth and progress can empower you to overcome this doubt. Concentrate on your unique strengths and talents instead of comparing yourself to others. Spend time reflecting on your artistic accomplishments. Be proud of every creative project you've completed and the experiences it has brought you. Be grateful for these lessons along your journey.
Feeling stuck in a creative rut often happens if you've been creating the same type of art repeatedly or if you've been working on one creative project for too long.
Avoid creativity-crushing boredom by stepping outside your comfort zone, trying new things, and making time for professional development. Consider participating in an art workshop to learn a new skill and expand your abilities.
When we think of clutter, we typically think of physical clutter like a messy house, disorganized belongings, or piles of laundry. Or we think of mental clutter, like negative mindsets or the fear and self-doubt we've already addressed.
These types of clutter can stifle your creative spark and suck your energy dry, but there are other types of clutter too. Relationship clutter occurs when we stay connected with people who hold us back or dishonor us. Time clutter happens when we spend too much time on unhealthy, unhelpful, or unproductive activities like social media gossip, excessive TV-watching, or obligations and activities we don't want to do.
For some people, all it takes to feel inspired again is a commitment to decluttering your life. Tackle your physical clutter by cleaning out the closet that drives you crazy. Take some time to journal about the thoughts weighing on your mind. Set healthy boundaries in your relationships and limit your time with people who don't help you move forward. Say no to an activity that doesn't nurture your passion.
Techniques to Reignite Your Creative Spark
Armed with a better understanding of what causes art block, we can now delve into practical strategies to reignite creativity. These techniques include cultivating a supportive environment, engaging in different art forms, and embracing imperfection and experimentation.
Applying these strategies can help you overcome artist’s block and liberate your creativity.
Cultivate a Supportive Environment
Creating a positive and inspiring atmosphere can help you find inspiration and breakthrough art block. Re-evaluate your environment to identify sources of stress or distraction that may hold back your creativity.
Eliminate clutter and organize your art supplies to create a more uplifting and peaceful creative space. Develop the habit of daily "resetting" the area where you create—cleaning your palette, throwing away old "booger-y" paint, and planning what you'll work on the next day.
Introducing fresh air and live plants into your workspace can create a more inspiring atmosphere. Add inspirational quotes or pictures and incorporate little trinkets that make you happy. Prioritize good lighting in your painting space.
You can also cultivate an environment that fosters creative work even when you're not in your studio. For example, always keep a sketchbook with you so you can capture ideas the instant they come to you.
Fill your life with people who provide positive feedback and support your artistic ambition. Encouragement is sometimes all it takes to kick-start your creativity, bolster your sense of competence, and leave you freshly inspired. A personal cheerleader in your world can motivate you to start creating again.
Engage in Different Art Forms
Exploring new art forms or mediums can shatter creative barriers and provide fresh inspiration and ideas. Incorporating variation into your practice can help you overcome art block and get your creative juices flowing.
For example, try:
Digital art can be an exciting new medium for traditional artists to reignite their creativity by blending animation, sculpture, photography, drawing, and painting into unique art forms.
Sculpting, on the other hand, can open up new artistic possibilities for painters by introducing them to three-dimensional forms and textures.
Embrace Imperfection and Experimentation
Perfectionism applies too much pressure, stifling your creativity. Instead, embrace imperfection by taking risks without the fear of failure. Enjoy the journey by experimenting without the pressure of striving for transcendent precision. A fun way to do this is by taking The 100-Painting Challenge. Find out more in this free workshop: How to Overcome Your Artist Block.
When you recognize that every mark you make has value, you can smile in the face of imperfection and embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Read stories from other artists that show it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. For example, Unemployable is Elli Milan's true story of becoming a successful artist. In this book, she shares the obstacles she overcame and her failures on her journey to achieving her dreams.
Establish a Consistent Routine
American painter Chuck Close said, "The advice I like to give young artists...is not to wait for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work... Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary..."
Inspiration does not happen to us—it comes while we are working. So establishing a routine and dedicating time to your art is crucial to preventing art block so you create consistently. Develop a strong work ethic and steady habits. Set deadlines, scrounge up some grit, and commit to finishing the work.
Take Advantage of External Resources
A screenshot of binnybun's idea generator
Use external resources like drawing prompts, art challenges, and tutorials to trigger the flow of your creative juices and conquer art block. These resources can suggest exciting new themes, subjects, or situations to draw.
You can find some really exciting art idea generators online, such as:
Take advantage of tools like this to ignite your creative engine and spark new ideas for your next project. There's no such thing as too many ideas!
Balance Work and Play
Striking a balance between work and play is key to keeping your creativity alive. Allow yourself to take a break regularly to avoid physical exhaustion or mental overwhelm.
Prioritizing play is actually productive because it can replenish your creative energy.
Nurture Mental and Physical Health
Maintaining mental and physical health is paramount in overcoming art block because poor health can negatively impact all aspects of your life, including creativity.
Exercise can be a powerful ally by improving your mood and sparking your creativity. Incorporate fun physical activity into your daily routine to improve your focus and physical health.
Proper nutrition can have a powerful impact on your creativity and productivity. Stock your creative space with a healthy snack to fuel your body and mind while you work.
You can maintain overall well-being and overcome creative blocks by nurturing your mental and physical health through self-care practices, regular exercise, and a balanced diet.
Collaborate with Others
Collaboration can inspire creativity in art by providing an opportunity to exchange ideas, skills, and perspectives. Collaboration introduces fresh viewpoints and offers the necessary accountability and support to overcome artistic hurdles and defeat art blocks.
Some inspiring collaborations between artists include:
Jean Basquiat and Andy Warhol
Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz
Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning
John Milan and Elli Milan
These collaborations have resulted in many captivating and impactful pieces of art.
Collaborating with others can grant you fresh perspectives, inspiration, and the support needed to conquer artist’s block.
Learn from the Masters
Master artists, known for pushing the boundaries of traditional art and forming their own visual language, created distinctive styles that set them apart from their contemporaries. Studying the works of master artists and learning from their techniques and styles can help artists overcome creative blocks.
Overcome Artist's Block and Become a Professional Artist
We've looked at nine strategies for overcoming artist's block. These techniques can help you break through creative barriers and unleash your artistic potential, but you can go one step further.
Our tenth strategy is to launch your art career as a professional artist with the Mastery Program. In just one year, you'll develop your skills, find your artistic voice and establish your style, build your brand as an artist, implement your marketing strategy to promote your artwork, and connect with a thriving community of over 2,500 other artists who have gone through the program.
Embrace the creative process, continue to learn and grow, and let your unique artistic voice shine. With persistence, dedication, and hard work, you can overcome artist’s block, achieve your creative dreams, and fulfill your destiny. Check out the Mastery Program today!