Creative Slump: Help!

  • Hey everyone,

    This is my 1st time posting in about 5 months. I've been in the worst creative slump of my life since December and I just can't take it anymore. Typically, I eat, sleep and breathe drawing, but for the last 6 months, it's like I've completely lost the fire. I've forced myself to keep practicing every now and then, but I actually didn't draw at all for the first 4 months of the slump, which is the longest I've ever gone without drawing since I started 5 years ago.

    I really need some input on how to get out of this...I'm still learning, so I can't afford to waste all of this time. I'm willing to try any suggestions!!

    Has anyone else ever gone through this for this long? I know people go through it for a couple of weeks sometimes but this is ridiculous.

    Btw, this may sounds strange, but even though I don't feel like drawing, I still really want to draw, if that makes any sense. And the fact that I haven't been drawing has been making me feel really down - it's not like I'm having fun doing other things.

  • @amberwingart My longest creative block lasted ten years :p Even though I didn't realize it at the time, this was closely related to me having two children. The constant interruptions, the sleep deprivation, the busy work schedule - all of these things contributed to what became a decade without drawing. I also find that I need some time to actually be bored to get my creativity flowing. I'm also hugely inspired by other peoples art, and need to surround myself with this as well. Art is (at least for me) something that requires a lot of time and space in my life. Luckily, my children are now bigger and less dependent on me, and I can focus more. On anything I like, really. Art is one of those things 🙂 I still feel that my schedule is too busy (working full time and commuting), but there IS room to draw a little every day. Some days a lot.

    I won't presume to know what will help you over your art block, but freeing up time was what helped me. I need some time to do nothing, to be able to do something that is really worth while. I'm not a machine, and there is no "make art"-button to press. The hours spent not knowing what to do, made me want to create again (and seriously - it's been YEARS since I was last bored :p ).

    Another thing is to convey through art, what is important to you. If your art has a message that is meaningful to you, perhaps it will be more meaningful to make it. Just a thought - and I really hope you find (and shares) what works for you 🙂

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I am with @Camomilla with having taken a break for awhile when my kids were babies. Now they are 13, 12, 8, and 7 and they help fuel me with ideas. I have two projects I am working on, one that my son wrote in school and one that we came up with one night telling stories in the dark. I also tend to wrote down all the things that come to mind. Then if I am stuck on an idea or piece i would like to draw, i will pull from that. Since Illustration is more of a hobby for me, i do not draw or force myself to draw everyday. But I will set time aside from my day job and freelance work to just let it all go and draw. Best of luck and hope you can find your passion again.

  • SVS OG

    @amberwingart I don't know if this is the solution, but I've heard so many people tell me that Inktober got them drawing again. I've recieved emails saying that for years they hadn't really drawn, or drawn anything for themselves, but when they committed to inktober it got them out of the slump and back into drawing and being creative.

    I don't think that it's inktober that broke them out, but it's the doing of a limited, month long challenge that really helped to get them back into the groove.

    I think a challenge like this works because:

    Constraints: When limited to one medium or subject matter you eliminate your options and allow you to focus on the creation of something. More options can lead to more opportuniies to get frustrated and lose interest.

    Accountability: Once you start something with a specific end point (like 31 days) you have built in motivation to get to that endpoint. You become accountable to yourself for that.

    But you also have built in empathy for all your excuses, so you need to announce to friends, people on this forum, or your online followers that you're doing this challenge. Knowing that you told someone that you did something gives a little more gravitational pull to the project, and makes it harder for you to escape it.

    Physicality: The act of carving out 30-60 minutes EVERY day and physically doing something starts you on the path of forming a habit. It takes 30 days of doing something to form a habit, and stopping for just one day sets you back.

    Macro Goals and Micro quotas: Big goals really work. Envisioning yourself obtaining that thing you want to accomplish give your challenge more of gravitational mass to suck you into it. Being motivated to do things internally, not through punishments or rewards help to build habits that stick. Doing a daily challenge helps you to balance the big picture with your day-to-day activities; activities that don't often result in quick, dramatic changes.

    Your quotas are the daily things you do to accomplish the big thing. Instead of getting overwhelmed by doing 31 drawings, you just tell yourself you need to ONE drawing that day. This makes your big goal approachable, and ultimately achievable.

    Mentality: Doing a daily challenge forces you to think outside of the box. Every year I do Inktober, after about 10 days I think, "Oh crap, I'm out of ideas." It's usually around this time that I start doing really off the wall stuff that sparks a new flavor of creativity in me and sets me off in a new, more exciting direction. The first 10 days is all my old tricks, the last 21 days are exciting and invigorating because I'm covering new ground.

    Now, Inktober is still 3 months away, and it sound like you need to do something today. So I say start Inktober today....or start something today!

    Give yourself a 31 day challenge. Pick one medium: ink, watercolor, pencil, digital. Then tell us that you're going to create one piece a day for the next 31 days. And you'll be posting them in your challenge thread.

    The first 5 drawings (or 10, or 20, or all of them) might be bad. But this isn't about creating awesome art, this is about forming positive drawing habits and busting you out of a 5 month creative slump!

    Some tips:

    Create behavior chains: Make use of your current routine, don't fight it. There's a concept called: "If-Then planning." It is built around environmental triggers that we can use to let us know that it's time to act on the thing we are trying to accomplish. This involves picking a regular part of your schedule and then building another link in the chain by adding a new habit.

    For instance, instead of saying "I'm going to draw every day!" you could aim for "When I finish lunch, I'm going to do a drawing." Relying on contextual cues can beat willpower.

    Eliminate "Ahscrewits": Trying to form a postive habit can be a fragile undertaking. You need to eliminate any source of friction that may lead you to throw your pencil at the wall and say "Screw it, it's not worth the effort!" Audit yourself and figure out exactly where things start to break down.

    For example, I usually only give myself 1 hour to draw something personal before moving on with my day on projects with deadlines. One of the most frustrating things for me is getting 20 minutes into my hour and I'm cleaning my desk, finding my pens, and searching for ideas. Realizing I only have 40 minutes now to do a finished drawing I start to draw with whatever I have and it at the 30 minute mark I realize I'm not happy with any of it and just want to throw in the towel and try again tomorrow. Once I realized this, I cleaned my desk up at the end of the day. I got out and organized my drawing supplies so they were ready to go the next day. ANd I thought about what I wanted to draw before the moment. The result was this hour of drawing became one of the most productive and fulfilling hours of my day instead of a constant source of frustration.

    Ok, hope that helps! Keep us posted.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Jake is on the money here. Plan what you are going to do. I'd spend a week or so just gathering reference, getting your supplies together and making sure you are interested in what you are doing.

    What may have happened to you is something I've seen happen to many students. What I'm talking about is "over training". Over training happens when you feel pressure to "keep getting better" and think of it like doing push ups or sit ups. It becomes "work" and has an anxiety to it. There also could be a "I need to keep up with other people" type feeling too which will drain your energy really quick.

    The solution is to not give yourself too much pressure and find something to draw/paint that excites you. Don't worry if it's great or not, just enjoy the process and journey.

    Building your momentum, as Jake said, is a great way to keep it moving along. Remember to have FUN too! : )

    If you get really stuck, a weekly figure drawing session will work wonders. It gives you a definite time where you know you will be drawing and you don't have to think about setting it up or anything. Master copies are also great for keeping the pencil movin'.

    Good luck! : )

  • @amberwingart I completely understand how you feel , and have felt like that many times in fact right now! @Jake-Parker and @Lee-White that is some amazing advice . I too feel the pressure to make sure I draw every day to get better and try keep up with so many other talented artists that I think I am now a bit burnt out ! I think the idea of a personal challenge is great!!! 🙂

  • @Jake-Parker Holy cow, a thousand thank yous! I'd like to make a suggestion: it'd be great if you did a video on this, with all of these points - even if it's just you staring into the camera talking. I had so many bells go off for me as I was reading your comment - it felt like ropes being untied. I'm going to print out your comment so that I can re-read it.

    I have to say that it is SO good to hear you describe things that I thought were exclusive to me, like getting frustrated and wanting to throw in the towel & giving in to self doubt. Just that alone helped a lot. But I think you hit on the thing for me: I need to give myself something consistently to chip away at what's kept my stuck (I know it's self doubt).

    As I was reading, I decided I want to do 31 days of character sketches, because that's one of my two weakest spots, I'm terrified of it and I really really want to get better at it. I'm actually feeling excited now, which I haven't felt in months. Thank you so much, Jake!! Btw, last year I had a little mini-slump (a couple of weeks) and what broke me out of it was doing pieces for the Art Drop! Will you be doing that again this year? That was so fun...

  • @Lee-White Thank you so much! You hit on it for me - I hadn't thought to call it "over training," but it's this immense pressure to keep getting better and to prove myself, all while keeping up with other artists I admire... I'm riddled with self doubt because I think my work stinks and it creates this anxiety in me that makes me want to give up before I pick up my pencil. So the desire to draw is there, just not the desire to actually draw (I know, it makes no sense!).

    I really want to get better at characters, but haven't been practicing them because I'm awful at them, so I decided I'm going to do the 31 day challenge he suggested & I'm going to do a character a day. I'm feeling pretty excited about it right now, so I think I'll plan for tomorrow's character...

    I love the idea of doing master copies & figure drawing - I really want to improve at composition & the master copies have helped a lot (before I stopped drawing). I so appreciate your insight - it made me feel so much better to see you say that there are actually causes to this and it's not just some random thing that happened to me. I feel a little more in control now, after reading your & Jake's comments...So thank you!!

  • @Di07 Do you want to do the challenge together to keep each other motivated to keep going the entire 31 days?

  • @Camomilla Eek! 10 years without drawing would break my heart...Okay, I'm hopping on the 31 day challenge STAT! haha Seriously though, thank you...I agree that I need time and space to do my art also - if I have other burdens then I feel anxious and stuck. And luckily, my amazing husband, who is incredibly supportive, has made it possible for me to do this full time. I'm going to be working on my own skills and also teaching nature drawing to others to supplement our meager income, lol. I'm quitting the job that's kept me feeling stuck this week, so my time will be completely devoted to learning, creating & teaching art - I've been looking forward to this for a year!

  • @Chip-Valecek Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I definitely agree that I need to give myself a little break...I think I put so much pressure on myself to get better and to keep up with other artists that there was just no way that I could live up to all of my expectations. I've also decided to spend more time outside...Since I'm a fairytale artist whose emphasis is on wildlife, I really want to get outside more and draw from life - I think that will help loosen some of those too-tight ropes!

  • @amberwingart I would love that !!! not sure what it would be on, any ideas??

  • @Di07 Awesome! How about a character a day? (Or it could be more than one character interacting)

  • Great to see all the feedback and positivity here. @amberwingart you asked a question that I can relate too. @Jake-Parker spelled it out so well and lit my little fire, too. @Lee-White mentioning the "overtraining" totally clicked with me because I've devoted the last two months for building work for my portfolio, watching SVS videos, scouring the internets for awesome inspiring artwork and while I've been producing more work than I have in a while, I've never felt so awful about it. I think I felt better when I was only imagining the awesome ideas I had in my mind and how they'd look as finished pieces... I think you should definitely do the 31 characters in 31 days. Good luck and happy drawing! 🙂

  • @amberwingart sounds great! I m not very good at this but I guess that's the point : )

  • @Larissa-Brown-Marantz I totally understand how you feel! I feel so much better knowing I am not the only out there feeling that way 🙂

  • @Di07 Yep, that's the purpose! My finished drawings look okay, but my sketches look like a little kid did them (seriously), I'm terrible at clothing, I'm not so great at anatomy and I'm really bad at coming up with characters. So I REALLY need this! I did one the other night, but I didn't do one last night - I wanted to wait to see if you wanted to hop on. So let's go ahead and start tonight, if you want to. Then just start a page specifically for it called "31 day challenge: Jake's prescription for creative slump" so that we can find each other's. I'm so glad someone is doing this with me - it makes me feel more accountable.

  • @amberwingart me too, Yes I definitely want to do this as well, sorry just saw the message have you already created a thread?

    Maybe we should give ourselves couple days to set up and start with a fresh week on Sunday ? What do you think?

    p.s my anatomy is pretty bad too ! 🙂

  • I've come to the conclusion that I just can't draw clothing (especially on animals) and I've gotten myself so frustrated that I'm calling it a night. No sketch tonight. 😞

  • SVS OG

    @amberwingart I hope this is not too far off topic - drawing on the cintiq and now the iPad pro has been so helpful to me - the iPad allows me to use one of the few skill i have (which is patience) to improve my drawings - they would pretty much remain doodles if not for this - using layers is so helpful to me - i flatten as soon as i'm happy but it allows for so much correction and experimentation - i really recommend trying it if it appeals to you a even little bit - on my last two drawings i have used only one brush ( a pencil made by Nikko) so it is super easy really - anyways just wanted to share that - i know you can draw - your drawings are very good!

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