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Jan 5, 2022

Messiness against Art Block

Testimony of a chronically blocked person

All artists know and fear it: the Art Block. The lack of inspiration. Dissatisfaction. Stress and anxiety. And so do I! That's why I'm sharing 10 of my tips for getting through this (terrible) stage.

  • How to
  • Creativity
  • Exercise
  • Commentary

The Art Block and I have had a long history. Not a love story, but a coming of age story nonetheless.

Even in high school, I was a student driven by excellence, boosted by good grades, propelled by learning with a capital L… I hesitated between medicine and engineering, without really wanting to be either a doctor or an engineer. I scribbled, just a little, on the side, for pleasure but mostly to decompress from the enormous pressure I was putting on myself.

The three years that followed, first in engineering school, then in primary education studies, I was unable to draw. It was there, already well established: the Art Block. I put so much pressure on myself to be good in class that I couldn’t accept being a “beginner” in art, making mistakes, being less talented than the others. I would rather do nothing than disappoint myself.

And then one day, at the beginning of the first lockdown, in February 2020, I picked up the pencils again. It was a tough time for me (and for most of the planet, for that matter): my balance was completely off between classes, the anxious climate, my own medical issues… I needed an escape, a way to reignite the flame of discovery, fun and imagination. I needed to get back to creating, but I didn’t have the tools yet.

Semi-realistic portrait of the Lobby Boy from The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson. (my favourite film!) [POSCA pen on canvas] Around: my jar with my prompt labels, my broken "pallet-sculpture project", macramé cord and lots of creativity boosting materials!

, Before I could fight this Art Block, I had to understand it, identify it and define it. Because this bugger expresses himself in different ways from one person to another, and from one period to another..

So how can “the mess” help me get through this huge black hole, you might ask? ⚡ Thanks to change!




Known for being messy at home and overly orderly in class, I have used this apparent chaos to move forward. I have grown my art practice through my “organized-mess”: shaking up my routine but imposing constraints on myself.

First thing to do: distance yourself and stop cogitating about the “big bad Art Block” to rest your creativity. ⭐

There’s nothing worse than staying fixated on the negativity of the situation, it’s a recipe for sinking deeper into the block. Sometimes putting down the pencils can be beneficial to better understand why you can’t use them.

  1. Don’t force it. Stop trying. Get out. Walk around. Let yourself be surprised. Take a breath of fresh air. Change the decor of your space, change your environment..

  2. Fill your bookshelves of inspirations, passively, in other areas. Doing lots of things, but not making art, only consuming it. Playing. Listening to music. Getting carried away and dancing. Going to a movie.

  1. Take a step back and reflect on your situation. Describe what an Art Block is for you. Compare it to previous blocks, review productions before and after. Take stock of what you want to achieve and where you are.

  2. Talk about it with other creatives. Admit your vulnerability and share techniques to overcome it in order to realize that all creatives, even those you admire, can be blocked.

Once you know what you’re up against, once you know that what you’re doing isn’t bad, but just not to your liking anymore… It’s time to break the need for perfection, to stop focusing on the frustrating details.

There is no better way to do this than to make yourself a little uncomfortable, voluntarily. A change of material is quite effective (I believe) for getting out of your comfort zone.

By leaving this zone, you can find new things that you like and others that you don’t like as much, but above all you learn to make mistakes and to be spontaneous in your art practice, again.

  1. Change the medium. Paper? Let’s try wood. Canvas. Glass. Denim. Skin.

  2. Change the tools. Fingers. Pencils. Watercolour pencils. Brushes. Another software… And why not Paint with the mouse?

  3. Try a new hobby. Be completely new to something, make mistakes, laugh at yourself, and try again! Embroidery. Crochet. Ceramics.

Now it’s time to gather all your experiences and not “go back to where you were before” but “create a new creative routine”.

At this stage, it can be difficult to face the blank page and the ocean of possibilities… So the best way to re-launch your creativity is to change your intentions and impose new constraints on yourself!

  1. Give priority to the functional aspect of a creation. Not to dwell (too much) on the form and to re-appropriate one’s tools. Why not labels? Cards? A calendar?

  1. Make creation fun by integrating a notion of chance. Draw themes at random, colours at random, size or material, even all at once! Challenge yourself. Give yourself a creative challenge and establish your own rules.

  2. Involve someone else. Draw a #drawthisinyourstyle. Create for a gift. Ask someone to draw. Engage with an someone else. Post on social media.

The Autumn-Winter period is not easy for all creators… Between the Inktober and its bombardment of quality content and the beginning of the year that puts the pressure on, not to mention the seasonal depression and the shortening days… So I hope this long article will help at least one person, it will have been worth aaaall the time spent writing it! After all, what’s the point of finding techniques if you keep them to yourself?

What does your Art Block look like and what are your preferred remedies? If you are currently stuck, my heart goes out to you. Remember that this is only temporary. I wish you well on this journey, and I can’t wait to see where it takes you! ❤️

Go and have a look at the two previous articles which may be useful for illustrators looking for inspiration:

AUGUST 2021 : Lucie et les Lucioles or there unofficial re-illustration of a published album

SEPT 2021 : The Souvenirs Shop or the creation (without pressure) of a fictional book

Tom Froese’s Skillshare Class, on Spot illustrations (EN)

@Stillherestilllife sur Instagram, for still life models

How To Overcome CREATIVE BLOCK, par Brave the Woods sur Youtube (EN)