Severe artists block! HELP! :(

  • Hello fellow artists,
    I'm currently struggling with severe artists block, so much so that I can't even sit down at my desk or with a sketchbook without wanting to tear my hair out! Finding this forum has really helped though, and listening to the podcast every few weeks, but I was wondering if anyone else is (or has) experienced this feeling? What did you do to get yourself out of it?
    I've recently left my agency as I felt like I'd hit a wall with my style and work in general, so I wanted to take a step back to try and find myself as an illustrator again (that sounds cheesy I know!). I seem to feel this constant pressure that every piece I produce has to be this amazing work of art, when in actual fact it doesn't need to be and it's all just practice. I just can't shake the feeling!

    I hope I'm not the only one out there who feels like this at time!

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @hannahmccaffery I havn't hit a block in a long time. But some things to try to help, challenge yourself. Do "100 Paintings" or "Draw 50 somethings in a piece". There are other challenges out there that will help you get over your block. If you can't come up with something to draw, there are the SVS prompts each month or there are some prompt generators out there that could help. On instagram there is the JimBob Drawing show, each week they give a prompt for you to work on. Best of luck with getting over your block!

  • @hannahmccaffery oh it's not just you. I struggle with it all the time. I don't think it's "cheesy" at ALL to want to find that voice again--and it seems totally reasonable that you would feel blocked in that situation! You've left your agency, you're free floating and you don't have the same limitations. But limitations facilitate creativity (many people think it's the opposite). You just need to impose your own limitations. @Chip-Valecek already mentioned challenges, which are great for that. I'm terrible at keeping up with them myself, but I find that when I DO, or am doing a class, etc., that by the time I have worked through the challenge project or assignment, I'm dying to do something else and get lots of ideas. Take it easy on yourself--it will happen and if you pressure yourself a ton it's not going to help. Honestly when I let go of the perfectionism and just doodle at my drawing table (or get out of your house or studio, go and doodle at the park or coffee shop), I'll come up with stuff to use in a project. I feel like some of my cooler stuff has happened like that. Anyway, those are just ideas that help me. I hope you feel better soon!

  • I completely understand what you mean and I feel in a similar boat at the moment. Whenever it happens though I try to go back to the fundamentals or learn through tutorials. We aren't machines and sometimes just need that extra bit of oil or solar energy πŸ™‚

  • @chip-valecek Thanks so much for the recommendations, I think i've heard the SVS guys mention the 100 paintings challenge so I will definitely try and give one of them a go, I can see the benefits of making yourself draw an amount like that, I bet it's quite hard though. I've just had a look on Instagram and I love the look of JimBob drawing, so that's another challenge i'll add to the list. Thanks again!

  • I think Jake Parker would tell you that you need to fill your "creative bank account." πŸ™‚ I work a full-time job as a designer and I am trying to develop myself as an illustrator outside of that so I can definitely relate to feeling creatively burnt out as well as feeling the pressure that everything I do spend my time on needs to be great and push me forward. One thing that's helped me is to draw regularly in my sketchbook without expectations. I commit to spending 15-20 minutes daily to sit down and draw something that I know isn't for a client or my portfolio or social media. It doesn't have to be good, it could be the worst thing I ever drew but at least I'm practicing - and no one's going to see it so it doesn't matter. I know some people that keep a separate, cheaper looking sketchbook for this practice that way there is even more mental reinforcement that the drawings inside aren't precious, they just exist. When I'm super drained, having a prompt list helps too. That way I don't have to waste any cognitive energy deciding what to draw, I just have to figure out how to draw it.

  • @eli Thank you for your kinds work, I do appreciate them and it had made me feel a lot better knowing that other artists suffer from it! As much as I don't want them to. You're right about limitations facilitating creativity, you really don't expect them to when you find that you don't have any limitations anymore! So yes, I think creating your own limitations is a great idea, thank you.
    I'm terrible at keeping up with prompts and challenges too, but that's really nice to hear how once you've done one you feel motivated to do another - I miss that feeling haha!
    Thank you again for your help and advice, i'll be heading to a coffee shop later on to see if a change in scenery helps!

  • SVS OG

    I agree with @Eli about the limitations. I am a minister and have to produce a sermon every week. If I didn't have to absolutely have something written by Sunday morning, I probably wouldn't have ever produced a single sermon let alone 35 years of them. I have gone through more writing slumps than I care to imagine and here is what works for me:

    1. Impose deadlines that you are publicly accountable for. (Self-imposed deadlines rarely work for me.)

    2. Develop a process (brainstorming ideas on Monday, thumbnails on Tuesday, etc.) and stick to the process no matter how you are feeling. (I may go through a period of not needing this but every time I hit a slump, I return to my routine.)

    3. Don't try to "fix" creative blocks. I have never fixed one but only slogged through them. And they will come back! I think a big part of coping with them is accepting that they are part of being creative. (And some people get them more than others. I get them all of the time in writing.)

    4. Remember that often it is the creative block that affects your judgment about the quality of your work . You may actually be doing fine even if your brain is telling you that everything you are producing stinks. Your brain is not to be trusted!

    5. As a last resort, (or maybe as a good way to begin to get out of the slump) deliberately decide to produce 50 BAD pieces that you will not keep or show anyone. Even force yourself to throw them away when they are done so they are not precious at all to you. I often will write 3 pages of garbage telling myself that I intend to write garbage and if nothing else, it gets me writing something. Quite often it turns out that there is something in the garbage that I can work with.

    I read a description of the life cycle of writing a sermon which I think can be adapted for all creative efforts:

    Birth (you get the idea)
    death (you struggle to create the piece )
    burial (it gets even worse!)
    resurrection (somehow life comes out of it)
    ascension (you let it go)... and move on to the next where it starts all over again!

    Hope this helps a little.

  • @gary-wilkinson I'm sorry to hear that you're also suffering from it at the moment, the work I've seen you post on this forum is fantastic though, so I hope it doesn't last long! You're right, we're not machines and I need to keep telling myself that!
    Thank you for your great advice πŸ™‚

  • @studiolooong Ah yes, the "creative bank account", I love that concept! I also work full time as a designer, so I'm the same when I get home at night, you feel creatively drained and dont even want to look at a computer or sketchbook. But thats a great idea about drawing something for you each day, I've gotten out of the habit of doing that, I think I just assume that even sketches and doodles are important, when like you say, it doesn't matter and no one will see them!
    Thank you so much for your great advice, i'll be trying the 20 minutes of doodling in my sketchbook today πŸ™‚

  • @demotlj Thank you so much for your great response and advice, that really is a massive help and has made me feel a lot better, I love your idea of developing a process (monday ideas, tuesday thumbnails etc), I've never thought of doing something like that and I will definitely be trying that this week to see if it helps - which I'm sure it will! I bet it helps to stick to one idea for the week too? Instead of starting 3 ideas in one go and then never finishing any of them! Like I'm doing at the moment.
    Your brain is definitely not to be trusted, totally agree with you on that! I'll quite like one of my pieces one night, then come the next morning I detest it haha!
    That life cycle is so true, thats a brilliant way to look at it and it definitely relates to all areas of creativity!
    Thank you again for your wonderful advice and help, I hope you don't struggle writing your sermon this week πŸ™‚

  • I'm just starting in this field of art (I'm currently a graphic and UX designer), but creative block is real. I actually just watched this video by Jake Parker and then saw your post. Might be worth watching/listening to!

  • If you just need some random prompts to draw I would suggest download the "Arty Games" app from art Youtuber Jazza. There are tons of interchangeable prompts and challenges that you can generate from it.

    Not sure if you are an Apple or Android user, but here is the link for the Google Play store to download it.

    Arty Games on Google Play

  • SVS OG

    @hannahmccaffery It’s Monday - I’m quite optimistic about my sermon right now! Just don’t talk to me on Saturday:)

  • @danielolmstead Brilliant thank you, I'll be watching that video today! πŸ™‚
    @Buddy-Skelton Thanks so much for the link and recommendation, I'll definitely have a look today!
    @demotlj Good luck with it πŸ˜ƒ

  • SVS OG

    Sounds like that "creative bank account" needs a deposit πŸ™‚
    Go to a museum or gallery and look at art. Buy a new "art of" book and spend time pouring over the pictures. Make something in a different medium (play-doh sculpture!) Make a flower arrangement. Take a walk in nature and notice light/shadow. Take a nap. Give yourself permission to relax a bit, then doodle. Fill a page with boxes stacked on top of each other, or flowering vines.

    I know when I get myself wound up with worry or anxiety, I can't come up with any ideas at all. You're not alone with this problem!

  • @kat Thank you for your lovely message, I've been listening to a lot of the SVS youtube videos and @Jake-Parker youtube today, so I will definitely take your advice of topping up my creative bank account, starting with a walk in the woods!
    Thanks again! It's nice to know I'm not alone!

  • One other thing for anyone who is struggling with this right now:
    I have found that feeling depressed is a huge creativity (and motivation) killer. it's super important that you find things that help you to feel truly fulfilled and happy, and do those things as often as needed. This will help to unlock your mind and allow you to relax internally so that you can perform well externally.

    Personally, I love being around people and working with people, but currently I work a remote job, so I'm alone a lot. I have had to make ways to communicate with my coworkers and spend more time with my family in order to keep from feeling too alone. Also, I try to take time each morning to meditate and deep breathe. This helps me a lot with feeling at peace with myself and my situation. So, whatever makes you truly happy, do more of that.

    In that link that I posted earlier (, Jake Parker says that you need to do a 30-day challenge, but that doesn't have to be a drawing/art challenge. It should be a challenge to do something that will lift you up and push you forward. So, if running is your thing, do a 30-day running challenge. If meeting someone new fills you up with warm fuzzies, do a 30-day-meet-new-people challenge. The point is that you are challenging yourself to do more of what makes you feel good about you.

    If you're stuck in a rut, don't be afraid to reach out. People care about you.

    I hope this is helpful to anyone struggling!

  • @danielolmstead You're absolutely right! I've noticed recently that a lot of illustrators/artists I follow on social media are opening up about how they struggle with mental illness (anxiety, depression etc), and I really admire them as they just keep going and produce so much fantastic work despite probably feeling like rubbish a lot of the time.
    I watched the link you sent, and also the Creative Block video, and what the guys suggest is really helpful and its good to know that even the most successful feel stuck sometimes.

    It's so great to hear that you've found ways to make yourself content and happy! Thanks for your lovely message, it's so comforting to know all artists stick together these days πŸ™‚

  • SVS OG

    Sometimes I just need to sit down and read some picture books to get some new info in my brain. I like to grab them randomly at the library and read and look at the images. It's fun and it helps me out of a rut I can get in when trying to do projects. I always do projects or I might not do anything. I have three or more going right now and I have been working on some of them for years (because I was raising kids and homeschooling them when I started-not much time). Now I am free to finish them πŸ™‚ I also don't have the stress of being perfect anymore. I had to retrain my brain for that one. I am also not trying to make it a career and earn money so I have no one to impress in that way. For me it is the pressure of doing it for someone else and getting payed which blocks me because I don't want to disappoint them. If I do it for fun, I don't have that pressure. Finished Not Perfect and Failing Forward are the two mantras I try to remember.

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