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View Full Version : The "Help me break artist's block" thread



Fenn
01-18-2011, 08:45 PM
I'm making this for myself because I'm currently on a drawing drought but anyone else who needs motivation can jump in.

It's been literally months since my last piece of work. I feel two things are blocking me: the busyness of my daily life is draining me and sapping my creative drive, and I am at a loss as to what to draw. The first isn't really in my control, but the second is because I've exhausted my favorite original characters to draw and I don't find realism or practice exercises (which I admittedly need) fun at all. Since I'm not pursuing art as a career I find it takes a back seat to everything else.

Anyone have techniques to refill an empty inspiration tank?

PWhit
01-19-2011, 12:56 PM
You could always just doodle during class, just make sure it is a class you don't need to take seriously. I find that I make some pretty crazy ideas during my Marketing class.

Sekator
01-19-2011, 01:28 PM
It is worse when you don't know what to doodle... or EVEN WORSE when even your doodles look ugly.

Rio
01-19-2011, 01:58 PM
If you're really at a loss as to what to draw, why not enter a challenge or contest? They're usually specific as to what you should draw and enter. That may help you get a direction into what to draw and maybe even get your creativity going again.

Sekator
01-19-2011, 04:04 PM
Well... a challenge or contest sounds good, unless you're a newbie. To me it sounds like participating in olympic obstacle race without ever running before. Maybe it's not the best comparison, as not all participants of such contest have to be Da Vincis, and you don't necessarily have to win, but it still sounds kinda weird, and some guts to show your not-so-awesome-beginner's work are needed.

nisaren
01-19-2011, 04:32 PM
I agree with Rio. Enter a contest, ask friends or anyone for a request. Another alternative is to go look at all sorts of art, good and bad. I find just looking at art inspirational and motivational. The worst thing is to just stop drawing all together. I find it's sort of like working out, if you keep it up and maintain some sort of momentum it's easier than waiting for inspiration to hit. When I've been artblocked in the past, I think the main reason is because I was dissatisfied with the art that I was producing. I had all these great ideas but since my execution was poor I wasn't willing to sacrifice them by drawing them out.

Your options are limitless in what you can draw. I'm sure you can think of at least ten cool ideas for scenes if you take a moment to sit down and write a little about them or maybe even make a thumbnail sketch or two. It may be painful at first but after a little while the ideas will come. After turning it on I find it hard to turn off. Don't save anything for later when you'll be able to do it justice because when you get to that point you'll have even more amazing ideas.

Art block by nature is something that is completely in your mind. Professional artists are able to turn their creativity on and off at will and this is because they have practiced creating it regardless of their mental state. While you may not have any aspirations to be a professional artist, you can still train yourself to push through apathy and boredom. A well executed piece of art will look good regardless of whether the artist was inspired or not.

If you are delaying because you are dissatisfied with the art you are producing, you are definitely not going to improve by waiting for the muse to come. If art is important to you then you should be able to find time for it regardless of what your career is. People can always make time for the things that are important to them.

Fenn
01-19-2011, 05:06 PM
I agree with Rio. Enter a contest, ask friends or anyone for a request. Another alternative is to go look at all sorts of art, good and bad. I find just looking at art inspirational and motivational. The worst thing is to just stop drawing all together. I find it's sort of like working out, if you keep it up and maintain some sort of momentum it's easier than waiting for inspiration to hit. When I've been artblocked in the past, I think the main reason is because I was dissatisfied with the art that I was producing. I had all these great ideas but since my execution was poor I wasn't willing to sacrifice them by drawing them out.

Your options are limitless in what you can draw. I'm sure you can think of at least ten cool ideas for scenes if you take a moment to sit down and write a little about them or maybe even make a thumbnail sketch or two. It may be painful at first but after a little while the ideas will come. After turning it on I find it hard to turn off. Don't save anything for later when you'll be able to do it justice because when you get to that point you'll have even more amazing ideas.

Art block by nature is something that is completely in your mind. Professional artists are able to turn their creativity on and off at will and this is because they have practiced creating it regardless of their mental state. While you may not have any aspirations to be a professional artist, you can still train yourself to push through apathy and boredom. A well executed piece of art will look good regardless of whether the artist was inspired or not.

If you are delaying because you are dissatisfied with the art you are producing, you are definitely not going to improve by waiting for the muse to come. If art is important to you then you should be able to find time for it regardless of what your career is. People can always make time for the things that are important to them.

This is exactly what I am feeling like! Thank you! (and everyone else as well)

Ironically, this thread helped me right away. After I posted it I said "well, I guess I'll go draw now..." so I did. Here is the breakdown:

- Drew the head shape. Didn't like it. Erase, try again.
- Finally get the head (shape) done. Tell myself I am going to roughly sketch the body.
- Draw too meticulously and still don't like my design. Legs too long. Redo legs. Head too large, redo head.
- Ta da! 1 hour later I have nothing but an incredibly basic body structure (which isn't too bad to be honest) and a face that is too young.

This sort of thing frustrates me. I have trouble letting go, and try to get each line perfect before moving on. My art becomes more about trying to draw individual strait, clean lines of the right size than actual art. It's weird. When I started doing manga, even though I wasn't good, I had a lot of fun drawing. Also, even though the art was amateur and poorly done, I felt like I was getting exactly what was in my head on paper. Now, even though I feel more talented, my art is looking less and less like, well, my art!

Oh, and what are thumbnails?

Matt
01-19-2011, 05:46 PM
I found a thread on ConceptArt a few days ago that was all about "breaking artblock" and "staying motivated." (which are exactly the same thing)

One user's method was this: "I look into the future. I see a cubicle. That scares the s--- out of me enough to start drawing."
Another's: "I know that there are thousands of prodigies and geniuses who are really good at art, and they're practicing all the time. Unfortunately, they want the same jobs as I do. The only chance I have is to practice more, and better than they do."

Sorry I can't find a direct link, but if you poke around ConceptArt for awhile, you'll definitely find something to motivate you.

http://www.conceptart.org/forums/

The most accepted method is just to let go of all your constraints: anatomy, line weight, first-time perfection, etc. and just draw whatever the heck comes to mind. It won't look good, usually, but it has a weird effect on your mind. USUALLY chases those pesky art blocks away.

nisaren
01-19-2011, 06:41 PM
I'm glad you found something worthwhile in this thread.

Thumbnails are just small loose drawings that you can do quickly to get an overall sense for how a piece of art will look. In my past art classes we were required to have at least three thumbnail sketches (named their small size - like a thumbnail) before we started on the final piece. Keeping it small forces you to focus on the overall scene and not details and it also allows you to do them quickly so you can explore different ideas, views, poses. But I find myself really able to visualize scenes better if I take some time to write a small description.

Fenn
01-24-2011, 06:58 PM
I'm glad you found something worthwhile in this thread.

Thumbnails are just small loose drawings that you can do quickly to get an overall sense for how a piece of art will look. In my past art classes we were required to have at least three thumbnail sketches (named their small size - like a thumbnail) before we started on the final piece. Keeping it small forces you to focus on the overall scene and not details and it also allows you to do them quickly so you can explore different ideas, views, poses. But I find myself really able to visual scenes better if I take some time to write a small description.

Wow thumbnails sound fantastic. They're quicker and simpler so maybe they'll help me cure my perfectionist obsessiveness with every single line. Are they usually actually thumbnail size or just small?

nisaren
01-24-2011, 07:13 PM
They're just small. I usually don't make them much bigger than a 3"x3" box.

GunZet
01-25-2011, 02:37 PM
Best advice I can give is to not fight art block, just let it pass and do something else to keep yourself busy...maybe something physical to keep your mind off drawing. If you try and force it you'll just stress yourself out and that's no good. Trust me I've tried fighting it just like the rest, and always thought that was the best move, but recently I discover it's not.

This may not work for all cases though.

Fenn
01-26-2011, 09:39 PM
Best advice I can give is to not fight art block, just let it pass and do something else to keep yourself busy...maybe something physical to keep your mind off drawing. If you try and force it you'll just stress yourself out and that's no good. Trust me I've tried fighting it just like the rest, and always thought that was the best move, but recently I discover it's not.

This may not work for all cases though.

Hm, well I tried this for a while, months actually. But I keep coming here so I start wanting to draw again.

nisaren
01-26-2011, 11:07 PM
I agree with Gunz in the sense that you shouldn't force yourself too much if you've been drawing a lot. It can help to take a break for a day or two to refresh the creative juices. But you shouldn't take too much time off or you risk getting out of the habit of drawing. For now, I would say force yourself to draw and get into the habit. Yeah the picture you're working on at the moment may be horrible in your opinion, but get it out of your system and move on to the next one.

Lucifer
01-27-2011, 04:58 PM
I find that just practising and looking at other work works the best.

After a long period of despair, I asked Gunz what I could do and he recommended I just started practising drawing again. So I did. I started to do gesture drawings which, although they may seem pointless, do help get the juices flowing again IMHO (perhaps because drawing the actual character will come more natural to you so you can spend more of your time/brain activity on the creation of the character). As for the looking at other people's art, it generally should just stimulate you to draw. Use elements from other people's work and create yourself a massive inspiration folder to look for inspiration at any time (hence the name).

Rio
01-27-2011, 05:15 PM
Use elements from other people's work and create yourself a massive inspiration folder to look for inspiration at any time (hence the name).That's what I do. I save any images that inspire me whether it's the drawing style, the colors, composition, or anything else. I've got stores of them. It's good stuff to learn from too if you want to go for a certain look or feel.

Silent_Sovereign
01-29-2011, 12:30 AM
Use elements from other people's work and create yourself a massive inspiration folder to look for inspiration at any time (hence the name).

I never thought about that. Wow. That is actually a pretty cool idea. That is a perfect way to get back into the drawing spirit. I might try it. :D:o

Lucifer
01-29-2011, 09:33 AM
That's what I do. I save any images that inspire me whether it's the drawing style, the colors, composition, or anything else. I've got stores of them. It's good stuff to learn from too if you want to go for a certain look or feel.

I'm actually currently sorting all my DA favourites into subfolders, so when I need inspiration, I'll only receive it in the field I require (Instead of a manga picture popping up every two concepts :/ )

M3S1H
01-30-2011, 08:14 AM
If it's still not unblocked, try reading manga. I know this sounds like the most obvious method, but when you just need a sketch or plot, you can read manga to try and unblock it. However, you have to pick out the genre you want to write in first. As an example, let's say you want to write a battle/action manga. The manga books you should be looking through are something like these:
Bleach
Naruto
Full Metal Alchemist
If you want to get a manga with a good variety of mixes, or just a manga with a "fresh" feel, try reading two different genres of manga titles. So let's say you want something like a semi-romantic adventure. Try skimming through titles as such:
Ranma 1/2
Satan 666
Just try picking out stuff you liked, and decide why you liked it. Then, give it your own twist, add more interesting stuff, and repeat until you can't find anything else that you like in the manga books. Usually, if this doesn't work for me, I read my favorite ongoing manga. So good luck on shattering that artist's block!

(I just checked, and Lucifer beat me to the concept TT_TT)

Fenn
02-01-2011, 04:56 PM
More good ideas. With all this snow, I see drawing time in my future...

Fenn
02-19-2011, 10:20 AM
Hope its been long enough that I won't get in trouble for a double post.

I broke it! Thanks to this site and the new sketchbook I got, I've been able to shake my block. The sketchbook means I can sit anywhere now and draw easily. I also started picking objects around my house to draw, which really helps if I'm unsure of a topic. Thank everyone!

If anyone else is stuck in a block feel free to post and we'll try to help.

Hamachi
02-19-2011, 08:21 PM
Check out the sketchbook ethics section of this university link (http://www.ecuad.ca/~vsager/downlo%20DRAWINGfundc.html).

EDIT: Fixed.

Fenn
02-20-2011, 12:17 PM
Check out the sketchbook ethics section of this university link (www.ecuad.ca/~vsager/downlo%2520DRAWINGfundc.html).

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Apache/2.2.3 (CentOS) Server at www.ecuad.ca Port 80

Hamachi
02-20-2011, 12:49 PM
Fixed it. Also, my favorite Random Art Prompt Generator (http://www.magatsu.net/art/index.php).

Fenn
02-21-2011, 10:20 AM
Check out the sketchbook ethics section of this university link (http://www.ecuad.ca/~vsager/downlo%20DRAWINGfundc.html).

EDIT: Fixed.

Bookmarked for unsefulness. And the art prompt is nice too.

Matt
02-22-2011, 10:29 AM
Both links bookmarked. They're both awesome.

For some reason, I started doing pixel art because of the prompt site.

Sekator
03-03-2011, 11:14 AM
My turn to complain.

So yeah... I'm blocked. I'm still a beginner at drawing, and learning doesn't go too well for me. I failed many times, and right now, whenever I try to force myself to finally take a sketchbook, some voice in the back of my head laughs "haha you wanna draw? You saw some skilled artists and wanna be like them? Guess what, ain't happening! You can't draw".

Not all of my drawings are bad. Those drawn from a reference turn out (usually) pretty good. Once I've drawn a character from my favorite anime using a picture from an official artbook as a reference, and except a little proportional glitch with hands, the picture turned out nice, in my opinion (no copy-drawing involved; just a reference). There's also a sketch of a ship from a game which turned out nigh perfectly and several weapons.

When I try to draw something from my own imagination however, it's completely another story. Everything I've drawn completely original is garbage. Ability to translate my imagination into drawings is crucial for the reason I want to learn drawing. I am good at writing stories in my opinion, and opinion of several people I've shown my creations to. I just like fantasizing and I know a bit about mechanisms and cliches used in storytelling. Right now I got quite a cool story prepared, and there's enough planned plot to lead a webcomic for years. Only waiting for me to learn drawing...

But I'm afraid I'll fail again if I try to draw, and I am simply wasting time trying. And so I cannot even resume drawing drill.

Hamachi
03-03-2011, 01:20 PM
I really was like how you described a whiles back, Sekator. (Sometimes I still am haha!) I'm no drawing master but I'll try to help.

You have to realize that artistic skill isn't as technical as a physical skill you practice or a subject you memorize, although those factors are involved. Although I don't agree with Betty Edwards on brain hemisphere functions, I do think she had gotten something when she mentioned that art is a spontaneous skill. You can try to pressure yourself to make something creative, but the end result won't be as good as learning how to be creative in the first place. Stressing yourself too much over mistakes is definitely the worst art-killer because (1) It slows down your thought processes, (2) it makes you focus too much on correcting rather than creating, and (3) it makes you tense up your muscles, making your drawing come out extremely ragged.

The fact that you're doing fine with reference means that your perception is fine. If you're not drawing well from imagination, it means you need to work on remembering key aspects of what you perceive and committing it to memory. Never underestimate the phase right before you put your utensil to the surface - theoretically, a perfect mental image would be like tracing a picture! Unfortunately most of us aren't that well-endowed, but we can practice to make up. To paraphrase Chinese calligrapher Li Gongquan: "Before setting brush on scroll to paint bamboo, the painter must have the shape of the bamboo in his mind, in the same way a calligrapher sets his mind on the shape of characters before he actually writes them. This approach is common to both painting and calligraphy."

In other words, the limits set on your picture will be set by how good of a mental image you develop before you draw it. There are stages to drawing that help decrease the visualization requirements in your mind, but ultimately this the skill to work on. Do that while not being too hard on yourself and you can't go wrong.

**Edited for clarity of meaning. xD

Sekator
03-04-2011, 11:18 AM
One thing I like in all those posts is "I remember being like you are". It really proves anyone (almost) has or had to pass through those hard stages of learning.

This reply taught me something, but on the other hand it reminded me of another problem. Before I begin drawing a picture, I usually have a very good mental image in my head. Since I like fantasizing, it's not really that much of a hassle. But things start annoying when I advance a bit. A slightest mistake makes me abandon visualizing the project, and instead work on correcting the mistake over and over. I no longer work on copying the imagination into the paper - I attempt to make what's already on the paper look good, and it usually results in failure since looking at what I've drawn so far makes me forget how it was supposed to look. I just lay lines blindly, hoping that "it will work".

Rio
03-04-2011, 02:15 PM
The problem with visualization is that more often than not, what we imagine is in better detail than what we can draw at the moment. Like your skill does not match up to the visuals you dreamt up. Maybe you should try working on not having as high as an expectation of your visual versus the result so you won't be setting yourself up for heartache when something doesn't turn out the way you want.

Personally, from the times that I did try to draw what I visualized, I ended up not liking the result too. Nowadays, I just think about the basics I want to achieve like hair type (long, short, etc), features, type of clothes, etc that I'm going for BUT not visualize to the extent that I know every little detail; just an impression; and I draw from there. This has pretty much worked for me since and that's what I do now. It also allows me to be more flexible about things so I can change the clothes or hairstyle or whatever because I'm not as invested in the image I initially thought of in my head.

Sekator
03-04-2011, 02:45 PM
The problem with visualization is that more often than not, what we imagine is in better detail than what we can draw at the moment. Like your skill does not match up to the visuals you dreamt up. Maybe you should try working on not having as high as an expectation of your visual versus the result so you won't be setting yourself up for heartache when something doesn't turn out the way you want.
I was thinking the same thing.

Personally, from the times that I did try to draw what I visualized, I ended up not liking the result too. Nowadays, I just think about the basics I want to achieve like hair type (long, short, etc), features, type of clothes, etc that I'm going for BUT not visualize to the extent that I know every little detail; just an impression; and I draw from there. This has pretty much worked for me since and that's what I do now. It also allows me to be more flexible about things so I can change the clothes or hairstyle or whatever because I'm not as invested in the image I initially thought of in my head.
That surprised me. Honestly I thought I should go the OPPOSITE way, trying to think up as much of details as possible.

Well, I think I'll try again. Maybe with those tips I'll gather enough courage to face the sketchbook.

Fenn
03-06-2011, 03:08 PM
My turn to complain.

So yeah... I'm blocked. I'm still a beginner at drawing, and learning doesn't go too well for me. I failed many times, and right now, whenever I try to force myself to finally take a sketchbook, some voice in the back of my head laughs "haha you wanna draw? You saw some skilled artists and wanna be like them? Guess what, ain't happening! You can't draw".

Not all of my drawings are bad. Those drawn from a reference turn out (usually) pretty good. Once I've drawn a character from my favorite anime using a picture from an official artbook as a reference, and except a little proportional glitch with hands, the picture turned out nice, in my opinion (no copy-drawing involved; just a reference). There's also a sketch of a ship from a game which turned out nigh perfectly and several weapons.

When I try to draw something from my own imagination however, it's completely another story. Everything I've drawn completely original is garbage. Ability to translate my imagination into drawings is crucial for the reason I want to learn drawing. I am good at writing stories in my opinion, and opinion of several people I've shown my creations to. I just like fantasizing and I know a bit about mechanisms and cliches used in storytelling. Right now I got quite a cool story prepared, and there's enough planned plot to lead a webcomic for years. Only waiting for me to learn drawing...

But I'm afraid I'll fail again if I try to draw, and I am simply wasting time trying. And so I cannot even resume drawing drill.

HAHA YOU WANT TO DRAW? LOLOLOLOLOLOL!...jk of course. Honestly this is the exact reason that I made this topic, and your feelings are EXACTLY what I was feeling before I broke my block. So hopefully I can help you.

Some things that have helped me, some of which I just discovered after breaking my block:
- force yourself not to care too much when you begin. Draw very light, and trace over lines multiple times until you get it right instead of erasing. Don't get caught up in one thing until you have your WHOLE basic shape outlined.

- get to know what you are drawing. If you are drawing a sword for example, don't just imagine it in the view you are going for; imagine what it looks like from the side, top, bottom, etc.

- If you are tired of making mistakes, pick a fool-proof subject like creatures or sci-fy. I did this when I was tired of doing the same original human character over and over, and it was a great way to let my mind explore. It will also challenge your technical skills, since you will be more prone to try out different shapes, perspectives without fear.

- cool music. i cannot stress enough the importance of music that fits your mood (for me). There's a thread in General Discussion with suggestions *cough-epicscore-cough*

GunZet
03-07-2011, 04:32 PM
Sometimes breaking art block is as simple as ignoring school work and doodling on the edges of your papers. Assuming you go to school...it's not the best idea, but it worked a few times for me lol.

Fenn
03-07-2011, 05:16 PM
Sometimes breaking art block is as simple as ignoring school work and doodling on the edges of your papers. Assuming you go to school...it's not the best idea, but it worked a few times for me lol.

As someone who finds school work actually valuable, I'd agrue against this. But really it depends on your lifestlye and priorities I guess...

butternut
03-07-2011, 05:21 PM
As someone who finds school work actually valuable, I'd agrue against this. But really it depends on your lifestlye and priorities I guess...

Also on what course and what class. There may be classes that are actually boring, and you might be fine studying on your own in which case you can afford to use that time for doodling. So it depends on you...

Sekator
03-09-2011, 03:22 PM
If one cares about school work, there are always breaks to doodle on ^^

Thx for the tips Fenn. Still... breaking this block is not easy. The biggest problem is that I'm still afraid of failure :/

GunZet
03-09-2011, 04:17 PM
As someone who finds school work actually valuable, I'd agrue against this. But really it depends on your lifestlye and priorities I guess...

I value art more than anything. It's top priority in my life. I did almost fail because of that nasty habit though.
Balance it delicately if you wanna do that stuff lol.

Fenn
03-09-2011, 05:21 PM
If one cares about school work, there are always breaks to doodle on ^^

Thx for the tips Fenn. Still... breaking this block is not easy. The biggest problem is that I'm still afraid of failure :/

Hm...I have that problem still to. Like, I'll feel embarrassed if it doesn't come out good, especially if someone else happens to see it. If that's the case start small. Small simple drawings are harder to make big mistakes on.

I know what you mean though. It actually feels painful for me to mess up a character. I even feel guilty towards that character for messing them up!


I value art more than anything. It's top priority in my life. I did almost fail because of that nasty habit though.
Balance it delicately if you wanna do that stuff lol.

If it's top priority than power to you. Balance is best for me but art is merely a hobby so it doesn't get a lot of my attention.

Fenn
05-10-2011, 09:57 PM
Oh no! As soon as I was getting into it, life got busy and "BAM!" artists block hit me again.

My drawing have no life. I can't even get past the fleshing out stage on my characters, and on the odd chance I do, I botch the face. I'm terrible at perspectives that aren't front or side view.

The_shaman
05-11-2011, 11:44 AM
How I break my art blocks and frustrations, go a whole day without drawing. Drawing is crack to me, I wake up drawing, draw throughout the day, and draw before I sleep, so when I hit frustration or blocks......... I... never forgot the joke i was about to make.

Fenn
05-11-2011, 10:05 PM
How I break my art blocks and frustrations, go a whole day without drawing. Drawing is crack to me, I wake up drawing, draw throughout the day, and draw before I sleep, so when I hit frustration or blocks......... I... never forgot the joke i was about to make.

I tried that...for two weeks. :) Life is about to slow up though, then I think I'll get back on my feet. Thanks!

The_shaman
05-11-2011, 10:27 PM
WEll, I am not implying anything, but you know there is this naturally grown plant that causes people to not worry about things and even get them to do things more naturally without them knowing, one of those things is express their artistic side with a small side affect of being hungry, sleepy, or happy.

Fenn
05-15-2011, 12:40 PM
WEll, I am not implying anything, but you know there is this naturally grown plant that causes people to not worry about things and even get them to do things more naturally without them knowing, one of those things is express their artistic side with a small side affect of being hungry, sleepy, or happy.

:cat_yeahright:

I think I've heard of that plant. I wonder though; if I stop worrying about things, won't those things just keep growing until I can't ignore them?

I think i figured out the problem anyway; I wasn't using my sketchbook! It makes drawing much more confortable. I used it today and after a while I got some ideas on paper. I was happy with the result.