So this is something I’m pretty sure every artist and creative person has experienced at some point in their life. No matter what’s going on at your life, sometimes the inspiration and motivation is flowing and other times…it’s not.

This past summer was the most creative I’ve been in recent memory. I was picking up skills and finding my style in a new medium (ceramics), and participating in daily illustration challenges (#doggust), and on the whole feeling very creatively refreshed and energized. As September rolled around, I had managed to share new artwork on my instagram account a staggering 53 days in a row. And then all of a sudden, it just stopped. Ideas weren’t flowing with the ease they had been. When I drew, I wasn’t excited about what I was working on and not as pleased as usual with the final result. I felt a little lost on things like composition and color that usually come easily to me. I stopped drawing for a few days, hoping just focusing on living life would inspire me out of this slump. When a week or two went by and I wasn’t feeling much better, I resolved to power through. Art block is frustrating, especially when there’s no obvious cause, one day you were cruising and the next you just don’t feel like your full artistic self any more. I honestly am still struggling with this today, but wanted to share some of the strategies I’m using to try and jumpstart my way out of this funk.

Do a redraw

There is a fun little challenge that can be found throughout Instagram, known as #drawthisinyourstyle. This challenge is basically a prompt by an artist who creates an image and invites other artists to create and share their own interpretation of that image. I think these are really helpful when you’re struggling to come up with ideas of your own. It allows you to not stress about big decisions, like the actual subject of the piece, and still implement your own style to create something new. You can change colours, details, and composition as much as you want to, or keep them the same. I think this can be a great exercise when struggling with art block. Here are a few redraw challenges I’ve participated in!

You don’t have to find another artist’s work to replicate to do a redraw; you can redraw work of your own. I’ve used illustrations from the previous year or even more recently and re-drawn them to see how they turn out a second time. This can be an interesting experiment in itself, just to see how far you’ve grown as an artist. Here’s an example of one of the first drawings I ever made on my iPad, that I re-drew this past fall. Obviously the growth here was dramatic, since I understand the tools I was using much more now, but it’s still cool to look back and consider.

Try a new medium

This can really help get creativity flowing again when you just aren’t feeling like creating new things. If you’re like me, there’s about a million different art forms and medias you’d like to try if you only had the time. This past summer I took up pottery again, after not having done it since high school. After learning the basics needed to create something, I started thinking about how I could apply my style from digital illustration to what I was creating with ceramics. A whole new problem presented itself for me to work on, which focused my thinking and helped direct my creative thoughts. Here are some examples of sketching I did to plan ceramic pieces, and some photos of the final products.

Draw something just for you

My husband helped me with this one - and also Gemma Correll, who I did an art workshop with a few years ago and taught me this exercise. Basically, you find an image of something. It can be anything, just pull it up on your phone. Give yourself 30 seconds to draw that thing. Then draw it again, but give yourself a minute. Then, draw it one more time, but give yourself 2-3 minutes. My husband and I made this into a little game by drawing the same thing and then revealing our handiwork to each other once the time ran out (disclaimer: he would tell you he’s not an artist, even though I love what he creates). This exercise helps take the away the time you might spend hemming and hawing about certain details in your drawing; you have to make a decision and commit to it, because there’s no time to go back and forth. A little pressure can be a good thing - and not everything you create has to be a perfect, shareable product. It’s okay to draw things no one will ever see, or share things you wouldn’t normally just because they aren’t a “finalized” version. People are interested to see all sides of artistic process.

A photograph of an italian greyhound puppy, taken by Rachel Savage

Original image, by Rachel Savage

A photograph of a weasel, photographed by Mark Hamblin
Quick sketches of a weasel

Hopefully those can be helpful to somebody, including ME. I’m gonna go take my own advice and work through some of these strategies, because I am le tired of feeling blocked these days. See you on the other side!