Tips for When You’re Not Inspired to Make Art

Are you not feeling like your usual creative self? Is your mind feeling foggy whenever you pick up your paintbrush? Does every line you begin drawing feel wrong? You’re not alone.

Everyone deals with art block more often than they want to admit! Art block can be a challenge to get out of, but you can do it. Once you’re out, it’s so easy to prevent. Here are some tips for getting out of art block, then staying motivated for a long time!
 
The first and most obvious tip is just to draw something. Don’t put any pressure on yourself for it to be good. It can even be a copy of someone else’s art (so long as you don’t post it or claim it as your own, of course).

By just getting started, you are jumping over the hurdle of blank page fear. Just put on your favourite music and zone out.
 
Speaking of your favourite music, one of my favourite things to do is draw from music. Listen to different pieces of music, and visualize colours and stories to go along with them.

Maybe the lyrics naturally create a scene, but it might be more interesting to focus on the sound of the music alone. After a bit of time disciplining your imagination like this, you will naturally start to think of settings and moods for each song you hear.

This is a piece I made while listening to Bob Dylan for several hours. Notice how it has literally nothing to do with any Bob Dylan lyrics. Instead, it was inspired by the cosy feeling I get out of listening to him.
 

 
Another thing that’s great for art block is to take the entire concept of “inspiration” out of the equation by drawing from life! You can make exciting compositions by observing what’s around you and arranging a still life or finding a cool angle from which to paint an outdoor scene.

If you choose the outdoor option, make a note of the colour palettes you see because those can inspire future pieces that you draw from imagination. I have used colour palettes from road trip photos for completely unrelated artwork, and it always turns out nicely because everything outdoors looks good together.

Observational drawing levels up your skills by increasing your mental library of colours, perspectives, and scenes. Never think you’re “too advanced” to benefit from observational drawing!
 
If you want to take your observational drawing to a more casual and creative place, a fun exercise is redrawing movie scenes but in your style. I like to draw landscapes from movies or reimagine stills of my favourite scenes to look like a book illustration.
 
One of my favourite ways to prevent art block is to have a long term project going. A long term project can be something like a comic, an illustrated deck of cards, a children’s book, an animated short, or anything else you think of.

Find a project that will take months or years of your life, and you’ll always have something to work on! Once you get past the planning stage, it’s pretty much just following the plan without having to generate many more ideas.
 
The main cause of art block in my life is whenever I fall out of the daily drawing habit. Whether that’s from procrastination or something outside my control, the result is the same.

I’m not in the creative headspace anymore, so I need to use one of the tips I provided to get back into art. Because daily drawing is the best way to prevent art block, here are some tips for staying in the habit.
 
A great way to keep the daily drawing habit is to have a friend with the same goal and keep each other accountable. Critique each other’s art! Set up a time to meet every week or month and see how you both are progressing!

Many people I know have a critique group that meets on a set schedule, so they always have to have something made to contribute. These people end up being very productive.
 
Another helpful trick for remembering to draw every day is carrying a little notebook and sketching in your downtime.

On a bus? Draw!

In a waiting room? Draw!

Staying at someone’s house, and you keep waking up earlier than the host? Draw!

These drawings don’t even have to be good. They’re just quick experiments. Have fun with them!
 
Finally, long term projects are also great for keeping yourself in the daily drawing habit. Before I finished my webcomic, I had to draw every day, no matter what, to maintain my strict upload schedule. I was prolific in those days, and it was so rewarding. I never had art block.
 
Finding inspiration when you feel stuck is one of the more daunting aspects of art, but the more experienced you are, the more tricks you learn for dealing with it. I hope these tips and tricks get you out of the uninspired mindset for good! 

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator and graphic novelist based in Minnesota. She specializes in all things cozy and calm, but adds humor where she can. When she isn’t drawing, she enjoys playing musical instruments, but you’re more likely to see her staring at some silly tree or something. 
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