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10 Ways to Overcome Artistic / Creative Block

As most artists know, overcoming artistic block can be a frustrating hurdle - particularly when working on work towards a degree or A-Levels, in what can be an intense and demanding process. I myself have encountered artistic block several times throughout my work and studies - during my Fine Art degree, and mostly in the period ever since. Here are some ideas to help keep the creative block at bay and start making artwork again.

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1. Ignore the self doubt

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All of us begin to compare ourselves to other artists, or feel completely inadequate when viewing artwork by our peers. Ignore it - it's not helpful or productive, and actually demotivates your creative impulses. You don't want to be the same as another artist - your work should be your vision.

2. Don't compare everything to your previous work

This is a trap I've fallen down many times. I found I was comparing every new work I was making to work I'd done before, and wondering why it wasn't good enough. Telling myself I'd forgotten how to paint or draw, or even come up with new ideas. Stop that! Through the process of starting to create work again

3. Draw/paint anything

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Don't wait for inspiration to hit you. Just draw or paint anywhere. Start from whichever room you're in, and sketch something from there, or sketch someone you know. It doesn't matter however it comes out, the fact that you've actually taken some action and have started making work is the main thing. Repeatedly reintroducing your brain to your creative actions and making artwork should help to start reigniting your creative urges and start inspiring other ideas. Experiment with different mediums, start a collage, use colours or mediums you'd never normally use. Who knows what you might come up with?

4. Start a journal/sketchbook

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Start using a journal or sketchbook. Keep it with you wherever you go and use when any kind of inspiration hits you. If you see something interesting - sketch it. If you think of an idea, write it down. If you take an interesting photo, print it and stick it in. See something that's inspired you in a newspaper or a magazine? Rip it out and stick it in your journal. Want to try out a new medium? Try it out in your journal. Creating work and looking over inspiration regularly should help to start putting the creative block at bay.

5. Collect all your inspiration - start a mood board

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Start writing down and collecting down anything that inspires you. It could be something you've seen, a story you've heard, a photo or artwork you like, a person, an emotion you've felt. Write it all down - create a spider web. Start linking each part of inspiration to a medium or narrative artwork idea it could evoke. Make a mood board connected to these - stick loads of photos in, textures, experiment with mediums, stick bits of materials in. Your mood board should be bulging and overflowing. This should all help to start inspiring some ideas and "get the creative juices flowing".

6. Start working towards a theme or concept

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If you're like me, you'll probably prefer to have some sort of starting point. Whether it's a word or an idea, it might help to have a starting point to spring from. Refer to your spider diagram or mood board and pick something out that particularly inspires you. From this word or idea, start creating more diagrams. Look at artists who have dealt with that theme. Look up stories or histories associated with it. Think of any colours, mediums or textures which inspire you or could relate. Start experimenting and trying things out, whether it's recreating a section of another artwork which has particularly interesting use of medium or technique - applying these processes and trying things out should help you to inspire your own ideas, and collect all your inspirations together to form some cohesive works.

7. Experiment with scale

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Once you're feeling more at ease with your art and you have some more ideas, start experimenting with scale. Move out of your sketchbook and start working to a larger scale, whether it's just on larger paper, or on canvas or board. This will start to make your ideas come to life.

8. Look for open calls

Look online or in your local area for some open calls for exhibitions or commissions. Some of these will have a theme or starting point, and you may just have already made an appropriate work, or you could even make something appropriate for the open call. This is a great opportunity to get your work seen and write about your work. You may even end up having your work commissioned or even win a prize. Look around and see what's out there.

9. Make art every day

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It may sound difficult and demanding but sometimes it's necessary. A couple of years ago after a particularly bad creative drought, I set myself a mission from January 1st that I would create an artwork every day. Despite not having made work for months before, forcing myself to do something creative every day, whether it was a sketch, or a watercolour, photo, or video, it really helped to inspire some ideas as well as practise my technique. If you're serious about the project set a date and start a blog or post on social media to document your progress.

10. Collaborate with friends and other artists


If you have friends who are artists - fantastic! Speak to them to ignite some ideas or inspiration. They may be having a creative block too, or may inspire some ideas. Ask if they'd like to collaborate on a project together. Working with other artists is a fantastic experience where different ideas and inspiration bounce off of each contributor. You could work together on something small in scale, or in the research and application of a piece, whether it's audience participatory, an installation or a research project. If you're even more driven, why not arrange an exhibition with your artist friends? This is a fantastic way to encourage and inspire each other as well as have your work exhibited.

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