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Side profile cartoon of Zephyer founder, James Joyce
Cartoon artist experiencing art block and crying.

Do You Have Art Block? Accepting This One Uncomfortable Truth Will Help You.

Art block is heavily misunderstood but there’s a simple solution to conquer it.

Art block is not the blanket term you think it is. It’s not that you can’t think of anything to draw, it’s not that you lost your inspiration or you’re in a funk, and it doesn’t happen because you’re creatively exhausted.


Every time you create something new, you worry about how you’re going to perform. Your fear manifests itself in so many ways, that you can easily confuse art block for something like a loss of motivation, when it’s only a symptom for a deeper issue.

Why art block doesn’t really exist

Artist’s like to use art block as a blanket term to describe their inability to create anything new. Defining art block like this is dangerous. It doesn’t identify or target the direct cause, meaning any solutions provided for you won’t work well.


If you diagnose a disease incorrectly, and start a treatment targeting the wrong disease, your solutions are useless. You need to identify if art block is truly the problem you’re having so you can execute the right solution to get back to creating.


When you do identify art block, you’ll come to find, it’s actually something else – something we’re already very familiar with – fear.


What art block is not

Before we get to your solution, we need to address what art block IS NOT in order to help you correctly identify art block when you have it. Hopefully, it will help you target and find effective solutions for problems that are not actually art block but something else.


1. Being mentally and/or physically drained – You’re just tired and you need to rest. If you still feel art block and you’re fully rested, then you know what it really is now. If you start drawing, then you were simply just tired. If you’re always tired from long, draining days you may need to reevaluate where you focus your energy throughout the day if you want to learn to draw.


2. You have creative fatigue – If you feel like you’ve run out of ideas and you're stuck, it can be one of two things. You either have anxiety around your ability to create anything new and exciting or you genuinely can’t think of ideas.  The former is art block, the latter is simply a problem in perspective. You have tons of amazing ideas! You just need help to access them.


When I was struggling to come up with ideas for a project with no prompt, my teacher told me “ you’re not struggling because you have no ideas, but because I you too many”. If you narrow the scope of your project from EVERYTHING to a specific topic, the ideas will start to flow.


And If you have good ideas but your lacking specifics, you may just need to search for some reference to serve as a source of inspiration and a catalog of new knowledge.


3. Lack of motivation – Just because drawing and being an artist can be fun, doesn’t mean it’s always easy. You have to make consistent effort if you want to improve.


You’re always going to have a lack of motivation until you create a drawing habit. Prove to yourself that you can show up through small wins and you can improve that habit over time.


Motivation will never be a factor.


4. Bad drawing day – Like you just read in the previous problem, art isn’t always easy. You’re going to have days where you feel like you’re nailing it with every drawing and some where your hand feels like it’s deliberately making the wrong choices.


Relax, breath, and remember that your mindset plays a big part on your ability to improve.


If you believe you’re going to have a bad drawing day and nothing you do can turn it around, that’s what will happen. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell yourself that you can overcome it. Be confident and push through and you will find a good drawing you're proud of on the other side.


These are four of the biggest problems associated with art block, that are not actually art block. Don’t confuse yourself! If you find that you're stuck, identify the cause first so you can determine the best solution to break free.


What art block really is and how to cure it

Art block is a manifestation of your fear and anxiety. It has nothing to do with you being in a funk.


Art block happens when you’re avoiding uncomfortable feelings. You adopt the art block mentality to avoid the stress of the unknown.You might fear that your drawings will come out bad or fear the way your studying won’t help you improve. Worse yet, art block makes you feel guilty for being stuck, causing even more stress and anxiety. It’s an artist’s nightmare.


Accept that art block is nothing but a manifestation of your fear. You can do that, and help yourself get past it, by practicing self-compassion.


Self-compassion is not as easy as it sounds. The quickest way I was able to practice self-compassion was when my friend gave me a tip.She asked me if I would ever treat a friend the way I treat myself. If you can forgive your friend for having fear and anxiety, you can forgive yourself.


If you want to start practicing self-compassion, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for being afraid, for having anxiety about the unknown, and for getting stuck. Only then will you be able to move forward with confidence.


Self-compassion is a journey

It would be irresponsible of me to let you assume that self-compassion can achieved by simply forgiving yourself. Forgiveness and – BAM – no more art block ever again! Many people resist self-compassion and find it difficult to love and accept themselves. If you judge your past self and your mistakes with too much intensity, it makes it difficult to practice self-love.


The way to start this journey of self-compassion is to celebrate how far you’ve come rather than judging yourself for where you could be. We tend to criticize ourselves frequently and pat ourselves on the back a lot less. Why is that? We congratulate our friends for great accomplishments, life events, or even for just trying something new. Can’t you do that for yourself?

Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend. Celebrate your highs and forgive yourself during the lows.


Art block stops you in your tracks because of your fear and you give it more power by criticizing yourself for the decisions that led you there. Take away it’s power by practicing self-compassion and art block will never bother you the same way again.



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