Kelsey Bass


The Dreaded Artist Block and How to Get Yourself Out of One

The face off by Kelsey Bass

So you’ve been very productive the last few days and you feel like your ideas are just spouting from your head. There are so many ideas… too many… that in an instant they’re gone. You try hard to come up with an idea for a new piece you want to work on and there’s nothing! For hours, days, and sometimes weeks it’ll take for you to get over this thing called an Artist Block. 

An Artist Block doesn’t only affect your ideas but also your ability to draw. It’s a painful state of mind and it feels like there’s no end in sight. It doesn’t matter if you’ve encountered one or multiple before, when you’re in the middle of an Art Block it’s the pits.

There are many ways an Art Block might start:

- When you look at amazing art and find yours not up to those standards 

- When you’ve got an overload of information

- When you’ve been very productive then suddenly it’s like a switch has been turned off 

- You need to complete work for a deadline

- When you’ve grown bored

- Or without any real explanation

I’m sure fellow artists can add to this list. Whatever the reason your Art Block has started it doesn’t matter you’re knee deep in it now!

So what to do? 

In college I had a great Professor who’d encourage us to draw through Art Blocks. It doesn’t matter if it looks like crap just draw, and it will all pass over like a bad dream. You are the one creating the block and it’s up to you to break through it. 

Here are some of my suggestions to power through an Artist Block. 

Draw through it

Like my professor said just draw through it. You keep your sketchbook for a reason it’s to unload ideas and just get the junk out. 

Stop treating your sketchbook like your portfolio!

Years back I’d constantly get art blocks because I drew in my sketchbooks for people who might want to look at it, and not for myself. When I finally threw that thinking out my artistic flow improved and it lessened the Art Blocks. 

Your best work should not be in your sketchbook knock it off! 

However if you want a sketchbook portfolio do so, but I suggest keeping another one to churn out bad ideas.

Change your environment

If you work from home or if you have studio sometimes sitting in the same place to work day after day can get stale. I suggest you get out and go do something different. While doing so you can be drawing or just observing it is up to you.

- I always love going to the Natural History Museum to draw the exhibits

- Some people might find going to an Art Museum helpful 

- Going to a cafe and surrounding yourself with other people might help lessen the Art Block

- Join a Meetup group or have a group of art friends to draw with during these times

- Take photographs of potential reference material

Work on your skills

Okay so real talk here, the best artists never stop learning. They are always hungry for ways to improve their art.

I used to think being talented excluded me from needing to learn, but guess what? That way of thinking is HARMFUL. So why not take this time to relearn or teach yourself something new?

Here’s a small list of what you can improve during your art block:

- Values

- B&W Rendering

- Color blending and harmony

- Figure drawing

- Composition

- Landscapes

- Characters

- Linework

- Lighting

Draw the opposite theme of what you’re drawing now

So you do a lot of horror artwork or you create heartwarming pieces of work, well try doing the opposite theme! This will not only help you out of your funk but will also help you to have a better range of themes that you work in. Who knows maybe you will find that you’re really good at something else?

Work in a different artistic media

Paint digitally all the time? Try:

- Watercolors

- Gouache

- Acrylic painting

- Sculpting

- Photography

- Oil painting

- Pen and ink

- Collage

- Hand lettering

Stop thinking so hard

You are in the middle of a very productive work week and you decide you want to create an “epic” piece of work, it has been on your mind all day and when you finally sit down and start to draw… your idea is not coming to the page. What the heck? 

My theory is whenever you want to create something so large in an idea sometimes you end up falling backwards. 

When this happens you should stop thinking so hard about what you want to draw and just start sketching to slowly build up to the idea. This takes practice, but in the end you won’t get stumped. If you are unable to draw this idea at the time write a note that describes what you would like to create or a rough sketch to keep for later.

Lastly you aren’t alone

We all go through Artist Blocks no matter what level of experience you have or age. I think it’s good to talk about it with other artists and get new ideas for how to work yourself out of a block. 

I wrote this list to be a good reference for you when you’re feeling stuck in an Art Block. Remember working through it is better than waiting for it to pass.


I plan to write more blog entries in the future that speak to artists. The purpose is to share ideas and resources to artists who are feeling stuck or need something to refer to.