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  • Writer's pictureEly Jacob

5 Ways to Deal with Artist's Block

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Mother's Birthday by Ely Jacob (2020)

It’s been called “artist’s block”, it’s been called “lack of inspiration”, you name it. If you are an artist, you know the feeling: you want to draw, but your mind and your hand are against you. Sometimes, we have those great ideas, but we feel that we cannot make it happen with our skills. Sometimes, we feel our skills are good, but we don’t have any great ideas. The fluctuations and the gap created between our vision and our abilities create the lack of confidence which in turn leads to the infamous artists’ block.

Despite the gaps between your vision and your skills, you always improve. Ideas might come and go. Some days might be better than others. But overall, in time, your mind changes as well as your ability to see and judge art, along with the skills themselves - as long as you don’t give up - these all improve. Be more tolerant and kinder with yourself!

If we understand the mechanics behind the art block, then we know that we need to build up the confidence and maintain and improve our skills. But the most important is to never forget to draw from the heart. I’ll get back to this point, but let’s first tackle some more practical advices.

1. Take a break from drawing. Not a 10 years break, if possible. But give yourself a breather from the stress and pressure to create. Art should NEVER be forced. If your mind looks like Picasso’s “Guernica”, detach yourself for a few days, do something for yourself. Yoga, go out with friends, read, spend some quiet times, walk on the beach or visit a museum (even alone! give yourself some space). Mental stability is vital!

It’s also worth mentioning that a clean workspace contributes to that mental balance, as well as having a drawing schedule. Most of the artists (painters, writers, etc) I’ve met all had organised schedules. I know “chaos is a ladder” (as we know from Game of Thrones), but we also know how Game of Thrones ended…

2. Draw what you see! Give your brain a break from coming up with ideas, but don’t let your hand “on vacation” for too long. Skills come with practice. So, go to a park, the beach, an urban setting, whatever gives you joy, and draw sketches of what you see. You can even stay in your living room and draw your cat giving you the judging look! Landscape or people sketches always work for me! Remember to keep it a sketch! Observing nature, people and animals make our minds wander and you never know when a great idea could be born!   

3. Keep an idea journal! You know those great ideas you have at 3 AM, when you’re about to sleep, and you say to yourself “yeah, I’ll note it down tomorrow” and then you never do it? Idea journals are great! Whenever you are out of inspiration, you can always revisit ideas you even forgot you had - and some of those might lead to your next masterpiece!

4. Revisit old drawings or work in progress that you had shelved. Looking at an unfinished piece of art with new eyes always gives you a new perspective, be it an “A-HA” moment of how to make it work or a “this goes to trash” moment so you know not to waste your time on unfixable pieces (which reminds me: it is OK to sometimes feed your bin, don’t feel guilty, it needs to eat too!) When something isn’t working, revisit it later! My mom has always told me: “The night is a good counsellor; things always look clearer in the morning!”

5. Only ask opinions from qualified people on technical things. No matter how qualified they are, you should never let anyone tell you how to feel and what to express with your art. Technical advice is always needed and welcomed, but the art should represent you and your heart! Too many opinions will make you confused, and too much involvement from others make it less your work and more theirs.

Draw from the heart, draw what YOU want!

Lastly, I have this motto for art: “it’s not the skills that give you the feels”. Sometimes, I see a piece of art which is not technically perfect, but it has so much soul in it and creates so much emotion. It’s pure and it comes across as such. You don’t always need to draw what people want to see! You make THEM happy, but who makes you happy? Balance is key! I call it art detox! If you draw two commissions a week or something your followers want, or you draw what’s trending only to get said followers, draw at least one piece that YOU want to see! Balance it out! Something for them, something for you!

Remember to always draw from the heart. Share how beautiful your artist heart and mind are!

Ely Jacob (2019)

As a European 2D artist, Ely specialises in both traditional and digital art, and her favourite mediums are oils and watercolour, pencils and charcoal, and what holds a special place in her heart - Chinese and Japanese ink and watercolour paintings.

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