No More Fear of the Dreaded Blank Canvas!

Creative block. The bane of all artists. Kick it in the shins with 11 ideas for overcoming creative blocks and set your inner artist free once again!

Creative blocks can start with a blank canvas.
A blank canvas stays blank only as long as you let it. Getty Images

1. Do you find a blank canvas or page intimidating? Apply a wash of color across it right away. It doesn’t matter what color — just load your brush and make a stroke. Now you’ve got movement and color. You can always cover it up later, but staring at a canvas striped with color is a lot more inspirational than looking at glaring white and not knowing where to start. (Even if the place to start is covering up that stripe of color!)

2. Get organized. Go through your studio and put everything in its place — and find a place for everything. Open every cabinet and every drawer. Most artists have more painting supplies than they use. That box you find in the back of the closet might be just the thing to inspire you to try something new.

One stroke gets rid of a blank canvas

3. Try a new medium. If you generally work in oil paints, try watercolor. If you usually do collage, try rubber-stamping. Most arts have crossover techniques and information, such as color theory, that can help you to see your own art in a new way.

4. Take a class. There are few things more inspiring than someone who is passionate about what they do. Taking a class with a good teacher will remind you why you love your art.

Creative blocks stop when you take a class!
Take a class. You’ll find a teacher that inspires and fellow creatives who could become friends and confidantes. Getty Images

The bonus is that you will also be socializing with fellow creative beings and that is also almost always a catalyst for inspiration. Plus, who knows? Maybe your next creative project won’t be a solo one. Draw inspiration from working together with like-minded artists on a community project, painting meet-up or fundraiser for a common cause.

Unblocking your creative blocks. Photo by Lauren Roberts on Unsplash
When in doubt, play with color. Explore and discover in every shade. Photo by Lauren Roberts on Unsplash

5. Make it about one color, black and white. Take a color and just play. It could be a single stick of charcoal or pastel or one tube of paint that you use to create marks with brush or palette knife or finger. Add white and black to put the color through its paces. As you reveal one color story, you will find more to tell.

Socialize yourself into inspiration

6. Create an idea journal. Every time you see a picture in a magazine that appeals to you, rip it out. Don’t ask yourself why. Put your clippings together in a sketchbook grouped by color theme, shape or any other common denominator.

Creative blocks can be toppled with an idea journal.
An idea journal is fun to make and can be a battery for recharging your creativity. Getty Images

When you’re feeling blocked, work from the journal by, for example, to:

+Create a painting to go in a room featured in a home decor magazine that you have cut out.

+Do a quick rendition of the first image that catches your eye, on the supplies you have on hand.

+Paint a flower inspired by a photo from a food magazine or garden catalog.

+Sketch half-formed ideas, or make notes about things you might want to do. If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget.

When you’re blocked, it’s the perfect time to flip through your idea journal and make one those ideas a reality. You can also make a digital idea journal. Just create a folder on your computer or phone and store screenshots and images as you surf the web.

Jot down your creative wishlist

7. Get out. Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to work. Go see a movie, read a book, visit a garden or spend time with a friend. Just keep your mind open for ideas. When you beat yourself up you’re too busy … beating yourself up … to notice all the inspiration that surrounds you.

Photo by corina ardeleanu on Unsplash
Your environment can be your muse every time, if you let it. Photo by corina ardeleanu on Unsplash

8. Make a list of projects that you’ve always wanted to try. Remind yourself of the art, both big and small, that you have always wanted to make. Get excited about these creative projects all over again. Then close your eyes, twirl your finger and pick one.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Make a wish list of creative projects you want to do. Then pick one! Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

9. Keep a block journal. Every time you feel blocked, write about it. Put all of your feelings out on paper. Sometimes it is scary to admit what you are feeling and why you are feeling it, but putting your thoughts down in this way is a safe way to let it all out.

Then, once you’re back on track, write down how you got there. What ignited your spark again and had you ready to create once more? This record, written for your eyes only, will give you the keys to your own inspiration and creativity. You might be surprised to look back and find all the things that work to help you topple your creative blocks!

Track what makes you tick — and what doesn’t

10. Kick your inner critic in the shins. Your inner critic is always looking over your shoulder or urging you to act a certain way or do certain things to be validated and accepted. Don’t play the compare game with yourself.

Creative blocks stop when you stop the comparing game.
Don’t play the comparing game. Please yourself. The rest will take care of itself. Getty Images

You can’t do your best work with one eye on the applause meter. The truth is that you need to work to please one person in the room — yourself.

When you feel those doubts creeping in, remember, you are the most important person here. If you don’t like the art you are making, don’t show it to anyone. Paint over it, burn the evidence. If you want to try something new, do it. No one is watching and judging you.

When you work to please yourself, the rest will take care of itself.

From The Art of Creative Watercolor by Danielle Donaldson
From The Art of Creative Watercolor by Danielle Donaldson

11. Discover your spontaneity with quick and fun watercolor illustrating. From all the things that are your favorite color to every type of chair you see to all the art supplies your eye spy’s, Danielle Donaldson shows you the ways to make them your muse in The Art of Creative Watercolor.


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