As an online creative, I’m sure you’re all too familiar with the term ‘art block’ and how it plagues the mind once it seeps in and settles itself. It feels like you’ve hit a metaphorical wall and no matter how much you bang your head against it, it won’t budge. The ideas just won’t flow and anything you conceptualise just feels stale, overdone and not authentic to you.
Fear not, however, as it doesn’t last forever. It can feel like shifting a mountain, but there are always small steps you can take to revitalising your inner creator. Here are a few ways I try to reignite my creativity.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
— Steve Jobs
Creativity can spark from anything, even from the most seemingly insignificant interaction. Your art is a reflection of your own thoughts and perceptions of the world around you; it is what you choose to let into your life. So choose to stay curious and find deeper meaning in how life communicates with you. Observe the shapes of the leaves on the trees, watch how light reflects off of different objects or just go and watch a documentary about a topic you care about.
For example, my art piece called Deadheading purely emerged from a conversation I had with my mum. She spoke about how she ‘deadheads’ her plants in order for the flowers to revive and bloom even better than the first time. This little conversation made me think, ‘well you’re basically giving your plants a hair cut‘, and so the idea materialised into my mind.
Delve further and always wonder, it could lead you into beautiful things.
“I give myself permission to just make for the sake of making without any thought to the outcome, which can be surprisingly hard. … What I would tell my younger self is this: There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there — just get to work and make something.”
— Lisa Golightly
The thing about being an artist is that you’re always going to be learning no matter what, you’ll never reach a point where you think ‘this is it, I’ve made it’. So with that in mind, just keeping doing, even if you think it sucks. You’re undoubtedly going to have a lot of work you don’t like, which will never see the light of day but that is all part of the discovery of your own artistic self. Think of every new piece you create as a gateway into the next, better piece and keep up the traction.
Go with it
“If it is a bigger creative block, I try to ride it out and just let it happen. I will still draw, but most pieces will end up in the trash, and that’s OK. I think some of the biggest bursts of creativity and artistic growth I’ve had are usually preceded by a big creative block.”
— Ashley Goldberg
Sometimes you have to accept that your current state of inspiration is not your most vibrant. Life as a creative person can easily become a curve of peaks and troughs. When you reach a trough, hold on to knowing that the curve will start to go up again at any moment. Allow this acceptance to act as your fuel to chug along at a steady pace, making bits here and there. Use your trough to make more time for yourself; exercise, read a book or just binge a new series.
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun”
— Mary Lou Cook
Hitting a wall may be your mind’s way of telling you that you’re getting too comfortable in your surroundings and that you need to aim for bigger and better things. Get uncomfortable and change how you work and what you work with. Using your voice within your creations does not mean you should limit yourself to one medium. See how your sense of communication shifts and evolves once you change your tool. For instance, I’m stepping up from my static pieces and am starting to learn how to animate. It is opening me up to an entirely new world of expression in how I can translate what is in my mind to something visual for everyone to see.
“The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there’s a difference: Hoarders collect indiscriminately, artists collect selectively. They only collect things that they really love.”
— Austin Kleon
When I find something I love, I will collect it somewhere and save for a rainy day. Pinterest is my number one place for holding my chest of visual treasures. When your own mental creative banks are exhausted, sometimes you need to delve into your external ones for an extra kick. They can be the best reminder for what made you fall for a particular style or medium. Maybe you’ll see a colour palette or photograph that you were previously drawn to and it’ll suddenly trigger an idea, thank you past self!
Learn from the greats
“The idea of divine inspiration and an aha moment is largely a fantasy. Anything of value comes from hard work and unwavering dedication. If you want to be a good artist you need to look at other artists, make a lot of crappy art, and just keep working.”
— Sydney Pink
There is no such thing as complete originality. Even your greats have learnt from their greats. Find those people who you are deeply inspired by and latch onto them. Take what you love about their work and project it through your own eyes. Dissecting the work of your idols allows you to peek into their minds and see how they look at the world. By understanding what lies under the surface of their work, you aren’t just absorbing their style but their thinking behind the style. However, if you do replicate an existing piece of work as a study, make it part of your personal learning collection.