Here’s the truth about beating an art block: Drawing really is the best cure for it. Or whatever your medium is: writing, sculpting, music-making, baking…whatever your art is. If you’re blocked, do the thing you can’t do.
When I first read that, I was really annoyed. “BUT…ALL THESE THINGS!” I would broadly point to all the mind-clutter that was accumulating in my head. “I can’t create anything under this mindset!”
I almost didn’t write this post. I thought that sharing about having art blocks would damage my brand as an illustrator. Life is not always easy as “Just sit down and draw!” The truth is, I dealt with a lot this summer in my personal life, and it’s really hard to give yourself a pep talk about drawing every day when you’re really sad about things that are sad. I’m not alone; many writers and illustrators wrote about their struggles to reach their creative brains because they were dealing with major life events. It’s not all sunsets on the porch with glasses of raspberry lemonade while drawing butterflies. That truth seems important to share.
This is how I overcame my artist’s block: I made a commitment to draw every day. And then I got a migraine that lasted for four days. So I slept a lot. I recommitted to drawing everyday, and ate some ice cream. Then I sat down to draw and my computer decided to take THREE HOURS to update. But I had pencils, pens, and paper. And finally…after a really long time of staring at my wall, I started to draw.
“This is awful.” I grumbled to myself. “This is going to be the worst drawing ever. Why am I even doing this?”
About halfway through drawing this cat, my brain finally became quiet. I was focused on drawing and felt this relaxation in my body as my hands became more comfortable and my shoulders loosened up.
“That cat’s okay, I guess.” I muttered and then posted it on Instagram. I ate more ice cream and then sat down to draw again.
The next day I sat down and said to myself “Oh geez, this again.” and the pencil felt stiff in my hands as I started drawing bunnies. “Stupid bunnies. Stupid drawing.. Hey…this bunny kinda looks worried. Hmmmm. Maybe this bunny looks grumpy” and I stopped criticizing my drawing and started thinking “Then this bunny said “What’s going on? And the other bunny frowns and says “I don’t know but I don’t like it!”” Or “Get off my lawn!” or “MAYBE THEY’RE LOOKING FOR THEIR LOST BABY BUNNY!!” and I forgot to be so critical of myself. Once again, I got lost in the drawing, and lost in the story of the bunnies. I posted this to instagram and ate some ice cream.
Then a day or two after that I sat down to draw baby goats. “I like goats.” I thought, found my reference and decided these two were silly friends who never took anything seriously. “Kids these days…” and I giggled as I drew their silly expressions, happy to see some personality coming through. After I posted these on Instagram, I realized that I didn’t experience any dread or critical thoughts.
Today I woke up and thought “What will I draw today?” and I thought about all the different things I could draw. I ate some ice cream and thought “PIGS!” I felt impatient to get to work and draw this row of piggies. Are they nice pigs? Are they mean pigs? Are they excited pigs? ALL these piggies and I thought of them saying “Me first! No I’m first” You’re squishing me!”
These piggies were fun to draw. I had more fun giving them expressions and thinking about their personalities. I think I could’ve pushed it more, and I think “What if I…” and I know I’m ready to go back to work.
I knew that drawing would break a block, but I never thought about how not drawing can create the block in the first place. If you’re an artist, make art. That’s the lesson I learned this summer. I’m going to continue these daily drawings to share with you, in addition to sneak peeks at some larger projects I’m working on. Thank you for letting me share my journey through an art block with you. I hope if you are stuck in one too, this helps you. It took a few days, and a lot of bad sketching, and a lot of ice cream, but I’m ready to make art!
I talked a lot about instagram. I post a lot there. Here’s a link to follow me!