How do you get out of your own way?

  • Hi everyone! I'm experiencing a huge creative block right now and wondering how others handle such things. It's so hard to overcome all the negative thoughts and self-doubt that spew forth when one of these happens. Intellectually I know I should force myself to work through it but it's making me dread even going into the studio much less do any work. Does anyone else experience this and, if so, how do you handle it? Thanks in advance!!!

  • SVS OG

    @lidia-ull Your work is awesome! Reminds me of Hollie Hobby's Toot and Puddles books which are so great - .... do you have a project you are working on? You could have a go-to project for when you are a bit stuck...maybe your own interpretation of "The Three Little Pigs" - i would love to see your version of it 🙂

  • Yeah, those intrusive negative thoughts are pretty irritating. I feel your pain.

    Regarding the creative block:

    Short term? Either draw or don't. You may just have to say to yourself 'I don't feel like it right now'. Maybe you need a quick break from drawing. One of the worse things you could do is beat yourself up about it.

    Long term? Develop a habit of drawing a certain amount every day. No matter where you are. No matter what else is going on. Once you make a habit of busting out the pencil everyday for an hour you'll find it easier to overcome creative block.

    I used to stare at a blank page more often than not. The way I overcame it was starting a webcomic with a regular update schedule. In order to meet the deadline I have to essentially do some work on a page everyday. 400 pages in and it's a lot easier to get around creative block.

    Good luck!

  • SVS OG

    I feel ya! Like you said, in those times, its good to treat it like a job. Tell yourself it's not your responsibility to make good art. It's just your job to put the pencil on the paper. Harder said than done, but you have to find a way to take the pressure off. For me, creative challenges help. Having some one else give me a topic or list of topics to do, and a time frame to do them, and knowing that other people are working on the same things helps get me going.

    I would listen to the recent podcast about Creative Bank account. Make sure you are filling yours. Also, the video about creative block: See if you can identify the source of your block. For me, it is usually a stress unrelated to my art, like financial or being overwhelmed with clutter.

  • Pro SVS OG

    Circumstances are different and solutions are different depending on the origin of the problem. Sometimes you really need to force yourself through - finding some kind of trigger that makes you draw regardless of subject or outcome. Sometimes you need to re-focus - then having a project you need to work on, as suggested by @Art-of-B can pull you forward. Sometimes you need to re-kindle inspiration - by taking a trip to a museum or gallery or immersing yourself in visual material or treating yourself to a sketching session at the coffee shop or playground (that´s a reward for me!). Other times you just really need time off. That´s the most difficult for me to admit, but luckily I have my children. They are off-school right now and we normally split care duty in summer between me, my husband, holiday camp and 1-2 week of family holiday. Last week was my week, so I had to completely give up the idea of working during the day. We did day-trips, crafts-days, swimming-pool afternoons, baking, etc... To really and completely give up the idea of work without any sense of guilt - that is rare for me and it´s incredibly refreshing and energizing.

    It seems your issue here is self-doubt? You definitely are in good company. In these circumstances, just doing any work doesn’t help me. I need to do something that reminds me that art is a constant process of improvement and not a goal - something that definitely moves me forward. I normally revert to studies: draw 50 hands or learn all the muscles of the arm or learn how the ear is built. I normally study and forget all those things at least once a year, but the process of learning them is always rewarding and motivational for me.

    Another thing that helps me is doing master studies. I pick one of my go-to artists (I have 5-6 artists that I constantly study from) and just set out to copy 10 of their drawings. I don’t need to think, I don’t need to design, I can just „sit back“ and let my eye-hand coordination improve a fraction while I reflect on which aspect of the work is catching my attention. Sometimes is the way they shape a face, sometimes is how they design characters. After an hour of that, I invariably end up wanting to apply whatever I learnt to my own work, so the sketches start to be variations rather than copies and then my own sketches. This activity helps me always - comparing yourself to artists you admire is often the trigger for feelings of inadequacy. De-constructing their work makes them more accessible and makes the goal of doing work of comparable quality seem less daunting.

    I hope you find a way of getting over this phase - it´s always ugly and it´s always recurrent. I don’t thing there is any person doing creative work who is immune from that.

  • @lidia-ull I find that accepting the block is the easiest way to get through to the other side. Sometimes, just opening a sketchbook with no agenda and doodling helps. Try getting more playful -- use crayons or other media you don't normally use. These blocks happen when our inner critic gets too much attention.

  • I get this all the time! I'll be doing great and then BOOM! self-loathing.

    Sometimes I take a break and do something fun and relaxing. Sometimes I find a silly drawing theme on Twitter or Instagram or someplace (like Animaloon Collective by Animaloonies on Twitter) and do a drawing for that, and that makes me chuckle and helps me get encouraged again. I've found that when you tweet stuff like that it helps you get in touch with other artists, they comment on and retweet your work, and it turns out to be an encouraging experience over all.

  • Love what everyone else has been saying, and I agree with their points. I'm still trying to discover with what works for me, and honestly I go through periods where I drop off making art completely, but here's a few things that I've found personally helpful:

    1. Exercise- some intense stuff for getting your blood pumping and building muscles, coupled with more low impact stuff like yoga or going for walks to help clear the mind. It makes me feel better all around and makes me feel like a more confident person.
    2. Reminding myself it's just part of the cycle of being an artist.
    3. Cleaning up or changing up my "studio"
    4. Brushing up on art skills
    5. Watching youtube videos of other people doing art, looking through art process books
    6. Looking back at old work of mine.

  • Thank you so very very much @Kevin-Longueil @Laurel-Aylesworth @smceccarelli @stringfellowart @TessaW @TwiggyT @Art-of-B !!! I appreciate every single word! This is such a struggle and made worse by the fact that I have a project due. You'd think that extra pressure would push me out of this but it hasn't. I'll definitely be trying all of your tips. Right now I feel like a prisoner on a desert island whose only hope is spelling out SOS with coconut husks {and there hasn't been a ship or plane in sight for months].

    @Kevin-Longueil Thank you much for the comparison to Hollie Hobbie's work - love her! The Three Little Pigs sounds like a great idea for me. Thank you!

  • This is a difficult one because every case is different. Since already people tell you "the regular things" pack, I'll tell you a different thing you can try:

    Every morning 20 minutes: Sit in meditation position, concentrate on relaxing your body, in having a calm and steady breathing at first, and when you are calm and relax, imagine that you are drawing, try to feel it real, try to feel the strokes of the pen in the paper, imagine you are doing a fantastic work and you are very happy, try to visualize things, try to see things, faces, bodies, scenes, the more clearly possible in your mind, now try to imagine your personal world, the things in the way you see them. And last, imagine that you already did a fantastic work and do concentrate on the feeling of satisfaction, try to "be" that feeling, let it flow through you. Enjoy it.

    I just started trying these techniques and in my experience, they work, but not instantly, is like a learning, but I really notice improvements in all areal. This is no new, athletes use in your training for example.

    Well, have a nice day and don't stop making great pieces!!!!

  • @lidia-ull
    I absolutely love your work! When I’m stuck or especially when I’m not satisfied with my work, I listen to a book on my audible called Do The Work by Steven Pressfield. Great inspiration and helps explain the resistance you’re feeling.

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