What Is Artistic Block (And 12 Ways To Overcome It!)

When you’re feeling stuck in a creative rut and can’t draw or do anything creative, you’re most likely suffering from Artistic Block.

Artistic Block or Creative Block is very real and affects all kinds of artists. From amateurs to professional artists, no one is an exception!

This block to an artist’s creative process can also be called an Art Block. But let’s go over what exactly an artist’s block is, what causes it and how to overcome art block (once and for all!)

What Is Art Block?

Art block (and creative block in general) is a sentence thrown around by many artists in today’s art world. But what exactly is art block?

Art block is a temporary condition that artists suffer, where they lack inspiration and productivity in their artistic work. You feel stuck and have no creative ideas.

This creative block can be very frustrating for artists, making them feel a lack of passion and creativity in their creative work.

Still, some people aren’t sure if this is a “real condition”.

Is art block real? Yes. This is a very real condition that can be treated and overcome by following some strategic tips (we’ll cover those below!).

But first, let’s talk about what causes art block, so you can know what to avoid doing as an artist/creative.

Causes Of Art Block

While art block can manifest in so many ways, why does it happen?

There are many causes of art block, from personal perfectionism to fear of failure, burnout, or even a mix of all of these!

So let’s go over some of the biggest causes of art block.

Negativism (Self-Talk)

cartoon drawing of negativism, with a character looking in the mirror
Don’t beat yourself down!

We are our own worst critics, and sometimes we overstate that. Negative self-talk and self-doubt can (and will) prevent you from completing your art projects successfully!

From self-criticism to a feeling of not being good enough, these negative thoughts will take a hit on your confidence and enjoyment of making art.

You should try your best to not only recognize when you have this negative self-talk, but also replace it with positive thoughts. For example, consider changing your “I don’t think I’m any good at drawing hands” to “I’m still learning, so mistakes are normal and part of the process!”.

Perfectionism

Artists tend to want to do everything perfectly, even if they’re just starting out! If you set unrealistic standards for your work, you probably feel guilty about this.

Perfectionists will delay their work over and over again, feeling that it’s not good enough to be presented. Or that there’s still something missing from it!

When most of the time, it’s just their perfectionism doing the talking.

One good way to stop perfectionism in its tracks is to set a timer for your work. This way, you’ll be constrained by the timer and just leave the work as is once the timer goes off.

Fear of Failure

cartoon drawing of Vacansopapurosophobia, the fear of a blank paper
Don’t be afraid, you’ve got this!

If you’re afraid to take risks or try new ideas because of the fear of it not working out, this is your cause for creative block.

Artists will feel stuck with new ideas but will never pursue them. Being afraid of messing things up or other artists criticizing their work.

Another added fear you can have is “Vacansopapurosophobia” (oof!) which is the fear of a blank paper.

No Inspiration

Even though this can also be considered a symptom of artist block, having no inspiration is also a cause! When you don’t feel inspired by anything, maybe you haven’t been looking in the right places.

We cover this further below on how to overcome art block. But in general, try to get inspiration from everyday things, and spend time doing hobbies that you like.

No Interest In The Subject You’re Working On

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you won’t like the entire concept of what you’re drawing. Maybe it’s just a bad couple of days, but other times the problem can be the subject itself.

Is it a new subject that you don’t know much about? Or perhaps you really like to draw fantasy and are stuck on a creative project about realism.

cartoon drawing of a character with elf ears
Maybe you’d rather draw some fantasy elf ears?

No matter the reason, remember that sometimes you’ll need to switch subjects (even if it’s just for a while!), so you can get your creative juices flowing again.

Outside Factors

Stress, anxiety, and depression, every professional artist will feel some of these in their art career. These are outside factors that can cause creative block and get you into a creative rut.

If you’re feeling any of these, consider taking a break or contacting a specialist. Professionals can help you get better much faster and keep your mind healthy.

12 Ways To Overcome Artist’s Block

How can an artist overcome artist’s block and get their creative juices flowing again? Well, it can be challenging, but many strategies can help kick start your inspiration.

From meditation, to trying new tools, and setting small and achievable goals, here are several different ways to overcome art block.

Set Small Goals

cartoon drawing of a character holding a sign with "goals" written on it
Set some (achievable) goals!

By setting small and achievable art goals(such as these ones), you’ll be able to improve your creative process and feel productive once again.

It will help you build momentum and confidence in your drawing skills, so you continue working on your project.

Sometimes, you just need to feel a sense of accomplishment of achieving a small goal, to “get the ball rolling” and move on to bigger art challenges.

Here are a few examples of small art goals:

  • Do one video lesson of an art class
  • Participate in a drawing prompts challenge
  • Experiment with a new tool for 15 minutes per day for a week

These are just a few goals you can chase, you can find a few more (with more info) on this article.

Take a Break

Taking a break from your creative projects and taking some fresh air can be a wonderful way to avoid burnout and artist’s block.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to stop drawing or creating in general. It simply means taking a break from your bigger, more demanding projects.

Work on one creative project that you enjoy, go for a walk, or start a new hobby.

The important thing is to do something you like that takes your mind away from your current work.

Take care of yourself and do something that brings you joy!

Try New Tools And Techniques!

cartoon drawing of different drawing tools
Try one of these tools!

Experimenting with new tools and techniques can be a wonderful way to stimulate your creativity!

Not only will it give you a new perspective, but it will also add some new tools to your art kit. Win-win!

For example, as a traditional artist working with charcoal, why not try a different art supply, such as oil paints? Or perhaps even go digital and work with a drawing tablet.

There are many different tools that you can use, so if you’re curious, do check out my article about the best drawing materials for artists.

Just one thing to keep in mind: experimenting with new tools and techniques means that you won’t be amazing at them at the beginning. This is normal!

Take your time and just have fun with the process of learning.

Set A Schedule

Setting a schedule has many benefits in overcoming artist’s block. Not only will it help you make substantial progress, but it will also keep you motivated and accountable.

Scheduling a specific time of the day or week to work on your art will allow you to stay focused. Funnel your energy into your artwork and allow you to see your progress time after time.

Remember to schedule rest as well, though!

A good amount of rest, as we mentioned before about taking a break, is fundamental.

Try Meditating

a cartoon drawing of a character meditating to overcome art block
Relax and meditate

While we’re on the subject of rest, let’s talk about meditation to overcome artist’s block!

This mindfulness practice makes you focus on the present moment and relaxes your body and mind to create better artwork.

Not only that, but it will also allow you to more easily find inner peace and decide what to do. (or at the very least, open up your mind for more options!)

You can meditate to overcome art block by just sitting in silence and focusing on your breath for a few minutes a day.

Here are two mediation exercises from Harvard that you might find helpful!

Brainstorm Without Fear

If your type of artist’s block is more of the “I have NO ideas, at all!” kind, this is a great exercise to overcome your creative block.

This will allow you to get a bunch of ideas out quickly that you can decide to follow up on later.

Here’s how you can brainstorm without fear:

  1. Set a specific topic or theme to explore. For example, “outer space” or “dark forest”.
  2. Write down ALL the ideas that come to mind. Don’t worry if they’re good or not, just keep on writing them down and don’t stop.
  3. Circle your favorite ones. From all those ideas, which ones are more tempting to draw? What’s good about them? Circle them out!

And now that you have a good selection of ideas, you can try drawing them! If you still don’t feel ready to draw them, you can develop them a bit more by brainstorming more on that theme.

For example, if you started with “outer space” and ended up with “planet with three moons”, brainstorm on the second prompt!

Maybe think of the planet’s color and what size the moons are. Is it a water world or maybe a plant-based world?

Keep going until you find drawing prompts that will get you drawing! And then, start sketching.

Rest, Get Some Sleep

photo of a puppy sleeping on the floor, needing to rest
Get some sleep, like this tired puppy!

Take a longer break than usual and get some sleep. This is one of the most common causes for artist’s block!

If you worry too much and are sleep deprived, it will affect your creativity. A lot!

In fact, according to a scientific study by William D.S. Killgore, “…more creative, divergent and innovative aspects of cognition do appear to be degraded by lack of sleep. “

This basically means that the less sleep you get, the worse your creative engine will run.

Trust me on this, you’ll create MUCH better artwork if you’re rested and ready to work.

Find Inspiration Around You

Find inspiration in objects surrounding you, art books, and famous artists. Just look for inspiration everywhere!

Try to think back to what made you want to start drawing in the first place. Who were the artists you’ve dreamt of being like? Go look at their work!

Have you bought art books before? Grab some of them and get inspired!

I find anatomy reference books pretty inspiring, so you might also want to check those out.

You can also just go somewhere you find cozy, like a bookshop or a garden, and get inspiration from real life!

Take A Course Or Workshop

cartoon drawing of a character drawing on a piece of paper, taking a drawing course
Work on a drawing course!

One of the big reasons for artist’s block is the fear of failure. And this fear can be overcome by learning and taking a course or workshop.

Learning a subject more in-depth will make you more confident and improve your creativity.

But what course or subject should you take? Well, you can take a course on a specific technique, such as sculpture or figure drawing.

Or you can take a general art course that covers many topics. Totally up to you!

Oh and a big plus of taking a course, is that most courses have a close community that you can take advantage of! Get and give feedback on artwork, ask questions to a mentor, and you’ll improve much faster.

This is something that we have in our own online courses, so take a look there if you’d like to join!

Change Your Environment

While on the topic of creativity, changing your environment is one of many alternative ways to get over creative block.

It will help you to see your artwork in a new light, literally! If you’re used to being cramped up in your dark office or bedroom, going to a well-lit space can do wonders for your morale and creativity.

Not only that, but going outside and getting some fresh air allows you to take a break from your usual routine, which is great for inspiration.

cartoon drawing of a person going on a walk through nature to overcome creative block
Go on a walk!

Here are a few places you can go to draw:

  • Cozy coffee shop
  • Quiet library
  • A park with nature
  • Mountain areas with a relaxing scenery
  • A warm beach

Oh, and if you don’t want to leave your room or office, rearrange your furniture and tools around! It will change your environment and still give you a creativity boost.

Get Some Exercise Into Your Routine

Exercise has many health benefits, and that includes mental health, which is what’s usually causing your creative block!

By introducing exercise into your routine, you’ll improve your focus and concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and even improve your motivation!

Here are a few examples of simple exercises you can add to your routine:

  • Go for a 15 min walk
  • Do 10 Jumping Jacks every morning
  • Stretch out your hands and wrists every day
  • Do some yoga poses (such as downward facing dog) at the end of the day

Exercise is proven to improve creative thinking and a healthier mind, so don’t ignore this way of overcoming art block.

Seek Help From Others

We can’t do everything on our own. Seek help from other artists, join art communities online or in person, and consider getting professional help from a therapist.

Mental and physical exhaustion can be cured, but it takes some work on your part.

Don’t be afraid to explain your problems and get help from others, it will get you past artist’s block much faster.

And if you’re looking for some exercises to help defeat artist’s block, here are 4 that you can do right now!

(feel free to subscribe and join our art community on Youtube!)

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over what’s art block and how you can overcome it, here are a few related questions that you might have!

Is Art Block A Permanent Condition?

No. Art block is not a permanent condition, it’s a momentary feeling that many artists go through. And it can be overcome by following some tips, like taking a break, setting boundaries, and experimenting with new simple styles and techniques.

Can Therapy Help With Artist’s Block?

Yes, therapy can help with artist’s block. In fact, according to goodtherapy.org, Cognitive behavioral therapy and Mindfulness-based approaches are very beneficial. And a solid way to give you a boost into overcoming creative block.

And if you need any more help to get back into drawing, here are 9 Quick and Easy Ways to Motivate Yourself To Draw!

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DonCorgi

Patricia Caldeira is the main writer here at Don Corgi. She's an art teacher with over 20.000 happy students across many platforms and courses!

Enjoy your stay and as always:
Keep on drawing!