Saturday, 31 July 2010

6 Tips for overcoming 'Artists' Block'

'Artists' Block' and what causes it?
I'm fortunate in that I rarely suffer from 'artists' block' but I do experience occasional lapses in confidence, which probably amounts to the same thing. And when it happens, it can be devastating! Fear of not being able to achieve the desired result probably underlies all such lapses or blocks and it is possibly the  root of what we perceive as 'lack of inspiration' as well. So here are a few tips that I've found handy for getting myself past such situations.

Turning off the part of your brain that judges and criticises.
Common to all the following suggestions is finding and using the antidote to that fear - fostering the thought or feeling that the end result is unimportant. It's the fun of the process that matters. Once you can get yourself into that way of thinking, the pressure is off and 'flow' replaces it. I find that listening to music or even (sort of!) watching television helps  me to silence those undermining thoughts about success or failure, that are not really at all relevant but which are keeping you stuck.

Some practical tips and wrinkles
Sometimes the worry about wasting expensive art materials can be an obstacle to experimenting so get around that by using cheap paper - I do all my initial sketches with an ordinary non-stop pencil on the backs of sheets of used typing paper! Children's crayons and powder paints - especially when mixed with washing up liquid! - are relatively cheap and effective in the following 'free-ing-up' exercise.

1. Doodle. Yes, most of us doodle at some point, while talking on the phone or in a boring meeting. Remember the covers of those exercise books you happily covered in doodles at school? Some of our doodles will be abstract shapes but some of them will take on a recognisable form. Doodle whilst watching television and once you notice that your doodle is turning into a 'something', develop it, simply for the fun of it!

Yes, I know this is far from 'perfect'; for a start, the objects on the table need to be moved around instead of standing in a row! And you can see that when I draw curled up comfortably on the sofa, everything has a tendency to be lopsided!  But it's how the 'characters' in my greeting card designs invariably start out!

2. Try a different medium, the further removed from what you normally use the better. It may just be that you have become so comfortable with your familiar medium that you've become stale. Experiment, remembering that it doesn't matter if your first attempts are disappointing - you can't expect to handle a completely different medium perfectly immediately. For the moment, it's all about exploration and discovery. And the bonus is that you'll probably find your usual medium so easy to handle when you return to it!

3. Explore a different subject matter. If you normally paint landscapes, try a portrait. If your work so far has been confined to meticulous plant drawings, experiment with wild seascapes from your imagination. Don't think about it as important, just do it for the fun of trying something new! You are not wasting any more time than you would be if you just continued in your 'stuckness'.

4. Practise your drawing - just for the sake of improving it, rather than for a specific project. If you're stuck for ideas of what to draw, just open up a magazine or newspaper and draw whatever you find
there! This one was from a magazine -

You can see from the lightness of my drawing how uncharacteristically nervous and tentative I was at the time!

5. Copy another artist's painting. This may sound like a very strange idea and it's something I always wondered about when I saw art students copying the masterpieces in Norwich Castle Museum Gallery - until I had a go myself! Artists have always done it and it's a great way to improve both your skills and your confidence.

6. Use the power of your imagination to trick your judging mind. If you have a project that you really must get on with, but are feeling 'stuck' with, it may help to tap into your imagination and pretend that you are doing it for someone who never fails to be enthusiastic and encouraging about your work. (I've realised with hindsight that, at school, I used this technique to surprise everyone with exam results that were far better than my classwork!)

Next week, I'll post some demonstrations of 'free-ing-up exercises' that I've found helpful. But the most important thing to remember is that you need to let go of 'destination consciousness', ie thinking and worrying about the end result, and 'just DO it'!

If anyone has other suggestions they'd like to share, please leave them in the comments box.


Ulla Hennig said...

Here's something that helped me: look for an accountability partner!
Sometimes a bit of encouragement is important to send the inner perfectionist onto its proper place - right or left corner of the room.

maria said...

I have a "silly" question.

Is it possible for a person who has practically no talent in drawing to learn to make graphics with the computer programs?


JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Hi Maria - not a silly question at all but a difficult one for me to answer because I don't use a computer program for my graphics. But I do firmly believe that anyone who can write their name can draw - with practice (and self-belief!). I will see if I can find someone who makes graphics on the computer to give you a better reply.

Ulla Hennig said...

why not giving it a try? Look for inkscape with google and download it, it is free. There are some tutorials in the web for the program, you can have a look at them. And then try it out and play around.

Country Mouse Studio said...

I agree with you Judy, if you can write your name you can learn how to draw. It's not a natural thing to me. The only thing natural is that I keep returning to it in spite of the results. More persistence really.
Thanks for all these tips

Inkflo Chez Inkflo said...

Another really helpful post Judy.
I never thought of checking out a newspaper or magazine, and they're full of inspiration! Thank you.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you - glad you found it helpful. The newspaper idea originated from an art class I attended a long time ago and it must have hung around in the back of my mind, ready to help when I was needed it :)

Fliss said...

Great post as usual. I must admit I often try to copy other images but they always turn out totally different than the one I tried to copy as my own style seams to take over once I get started. Maria I can just about draw a stick man but can generate all sorts of graphics digitally so don't worry if you can't draw.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Fliss - thank for your comments. I think it's great that your own style takes over :)

In many ways, we don't need to be able to draw these days. But it's something that can bring immense satisfaction and I would encourage anyone to have a go. It's not so much a question of learning to draw - more of going back to basics, to the time before we started to believe we couldn't draw :D