Blog / 2022 / How To Get Over an Art Block

January 15, 2022

When your creativity abandons ship, it takes all the best parts of your inner world with it—everything from your sense of humor to your sense of purpose. The cascade effect on your brain is wildly discouraging, and it makes rediscovering your creativity that much harder. Here are seven tips for overcoming an art block:

  1. Give yourself permission to keep your art to yourself.
  2. The pressure to share your work on social media is intense. These apps have been purposefully designed to function optimally only when there’s a ton of content, and they have a way of making us feel like it’s our job to pour ourselves into the black hole that is the endless timeline. The problem is that, as social animals, humans tend to act at least a little differently when we know we’re being watched. In other words, even just the thought of posting our art can inhibit our creativity.

  3. Doodle.
  4. Never underestimate the power of having a little noodle with a ball point pen on the back of an envelope. Making a mark without an artistic goal in mind can help get things flowing again by circumventing your brain’s need to try to logic away the creative block.

  5. Join an effort.
  6. Find a cause you care about and design an image to communicate the aims of the cause. I’ve created both protest posters and silly memes along with establishing an effort that other artists have joined, and all of it has helped perk up my creativity in rough moments.

  7. Follow an assignment.
  8. This tip calls back to #3, since, when you’re making art for a cause, you end up creating within certain parameters in order to communicate well. That said, assignments can come in other forms as well. You might sign up for an art class specifically for the homework, or you could start making custom art so that you’re compelled to create about a subject or in a palette that you might not choose yourself.

  9. Make a gift.
  10. Creating with a particular friend in mind makes it easier to shed your own preferences—the very criteria that probably helped build your art block—and focus on what someone else might like in an artwork. This tip is related to #4 and #3 in that it, once again, gets you out of your own head, but the gift element adds a new emotional tenor to what you’re making.

  11. Publish a book.
  12. This is a bigger project obviously, but big blocks require big solutions! If your creativity has been faltering for a while, assigning yourself a book to make might be just the ticket. It certainly was for me in 2019 as I was starting to understand that censorship can have longterm effects on creativity. Baby Sees ABCs saved me, and I can’t recommend the alphabet book format enough. With 26 subjects already laid out for you, you need only figure out how to make the letters yours.

  13. Do something you’ve never done before.
  14. This tip applies both in the studio and outside of it. You might paint or draw a subject you’ve never painted or drawn before, or you might seek out a new experience. It could be something big like skydiving, but there are plenty of closer-to-home moments you still haven’t lived, like visiting a museum you’ve never been to before or checking out a new hiking trail.

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Last year, I combined a new experience—a COVID cross-country drive—with a new(ish) kind of painting—landscapes. I made ten paintings to commemorate my trip, and the majority of them represented the parks and monuments I visited, including this image of Bryce Canyon. In fact, this impressive rock wall was the biggest challenge of all for me to paint, because it’s not only a landscape, but also a very abstract sort of image. Its repetition of forms and subtle color variations gave me that extra bit of newness that’s so useful in keeping your creativity healthy.

fairy chimneys or hoodoos of Bryce Canyon in Utah, illustration by American artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Fairy Chimneys (Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah)
2021
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
11 x 7 inches

Fairy Chimneys is for sale for $140 plus shipping—see all currently available artworks. There are prints and pretty things here in my print shop!


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