Overcome Creative Block With These Art Trends and Tips

Practical Ways to Overcome Artists Block

overcome creative block with these art trends and tips

Each week I write a brand new article to support members of our three wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take another look at overcoming the dreaded artists block! 
We also take a look at some recent art trends which seem to be sticking around. I’ve been scouring the web, visiting galleries, and looking through my own sales to capture some of the trends happening right now and I’ve listed them for you too! That should give you a little inspiration to get through any creative blanks you are facing!

Before we begin!

Before we begin I would just like to say to those who have reached out to me wondering why I haven’t been on Facebook or responding to messages quite so much or very quickly over the past few weeks that I’m okay, thanks for getting in touch, and normal service will shortly resume! Sorry for not responding quickly to those Messenger beeps and I’m slowly getting through the backlog of emails!

After visiting my gastro consultant we both thought it would be good to try out a lower dose of treatment for my Crohn’s disease. I was feeling pretty nauseous on the full dose so we gave the smaller dose a try. 

Unfortunately it didn’t work out and I ended up back in a flare. It then took another couple of weeks to get the original dose reorganised and delivered but now I’m seeing an improvement again and I’m happy to say that I am starting to manage it much better, not feeling quite so nauseous and not quite so many side effects. This week I’ve taken a week away from the day job too and hopefully in a few more weeks I’ll be back in remission from my Crohn’s. 

In between I ended up going back to see my renal specialist! Crohn’s disease can affect people in all sorts of ways and for me along with multiple aches (sometimes what don’t ache don’t work) I seem to be a bit more susceptible to kidney stones. I’ve had a CT scan this week and now I’m waiting for the results. Hopefully it will be small enough to deal with without too much fuss unlike the previous half a dozen, maybe more I’ve lost count. 

I passed the last stone of 9mm naturally, but in a hotel room whilst working away from home. In hindsight looking back I really should have claimed on the hotels perfect nights sleep guarantee because it wasn’t a perfect nights sleep! The receptionist thought I had a hangover when I checked out but I still managed to get to a 9am meeting before heading 120 miles back to my local hospital! 

Not sure if that was commitment or raw shock or just me being plain stupid but it was the only time I didn’t even attempt the hotel breakfast! The consultant was in awe when I turned up nearly 12 hours later still sweating, and he said it really should have been surgically removed. I didn’t disagree because at one point I had seriously contemplated seeking out a local drug dealer to give me something to take the edge off. I didn’t, I wouldn’t have known what to ask for or what to do with it so I went to the bar like a man and weeped pitifully into a glass of lime juice which was supposed to help. It didn’t. 

The stone which is now known amongst the medical team as the Covent Garden stone (which sounds quite regal and jewel like) is currently being used as a training aid for junior doctors. Nice to know that I can advance medical science in a small way I guess!

Anyway, fingers crossed I’ll be posting random stuff on Facebook more frequently very soon so in the meantime let’s overcome that creative block!

Picking up the brush...

When you have stepped away from art for longer than a few hours it often seems difficult to get back into the ‘art zone’ and start creating. If you have stepped away from creating for longer it can feel impossible to get your artistic mojo back. 

You look around for inspiration and the harder you look the more it seems to fade away from you. Shall I paint this, no, shall I paint that, no, oh my life, what shall I paint? It becomes a battle. You know you want to paint something but you just don’t know what or you have trepidations about approaching a new work, not quite knowing what you want to do.

I know this feeling all too well. Whenever I am working on a series of works I tend to step back from time to time and look around for inspiration for my next series. Other times ideas just pop into my head often while I am working on something and I frantically start scribbling down notes. Then there are those times when I get so absorbed in a series of works that I forget to think about what I want to do next. 

I had a forced period of being totally uncreative recently when one of my cherished pressure sensitive styluses failed me and I had to organise a replacement. Spending an entire day not being able to complete a piece that was almost ready meant I had to find other things to do like, Netflix and coffee. It wasn’t so bad but surprising just how much you miss “arting” when you can’t. Sure I could have busted out Photoshop and worked on something else, but I just couldn’t focus once Netflix had taken hold. 

All artists feel the effects of artistic dry-spells from time to time. Times when they are particularly feeling uncreative and it can be even worse immediately after creating a piece of work that has been well received by the art world. You would think that positive comments would push your creativity and drive further but the reality is that sometimes those positive comments can just add to the pressure that you absolutely need to create something even better next time you pick up a brush.

I have known great artists create a masterpiece and then they have felt the pangs of un-creativeness immediately after finishing it. This has not only happened to the very best artists throughout history it happens to most of us at some point or other.  We finish a piece and know that expectations will be bestowed upon us and it pushes us harder and harder to just produce something that is better. This isn’t always a bad thing but it’s not always a good thing either. Occasionally you have to create what you want to create and not worry about the before or after. 

Of course we should strive to create something better each time we paint, but non-artists don’t always understand the pressures an artist can put themselves under to create anything in the first place. I really believe that trying too hard is counter productive, just do something weird if you want. 

I know that this lack of inspiration and creativity is only ever a temporary impasse and it’s part of the ‘journey’ (oh how I detest using that word sometimes!). I know that every other artist in the history of ever has been through similar, but that doesn’t make it any easier when it strikes.

Artistic block happens for all sorts of reasons, stress, work not selling, lots of artwork selling, it doesn’t mind how it gets you. 

I have written many times about overcoming artists block but realised when reading through my past articles that most of the tips and tricks for getting past it were about becoming more positive about life in general and I didn’t really touch on the practical things that you can do that physically put a pencil or a brush in your hand. I have never come across a motivational speaker who can put a pencil in your hand immediately and start getting you back to drawing and painting without going through the psychology of why you feel like you do in the first place. Whilst that’s probably an important thing to know, the here and now requires you to just get back into the artistic zone and pick up a brush or a pencil.  

When you are out of that zone you start panicking that your mojo will never return and you start to look everywhere for inspiration, but in this state it always seems much harder to find that inspiration. Don’t worry if I have just described you, I think it’s quite normal!

inspirational quotes for artists

Break out the brushes!

So this week I am sharing some of the techniques that I often use to get back into the artistic swing of things whenever I hit the dreaded block!

The first thing I tend to do is start to scribble anything at all. Just something that warms up my skills and gets me back into using a pen or a brush. Often the scribbles never really mean anything, just a bunch of random shapes and swirls which I might add to during the day.

I tend to use the most basic of tools, perhaps a Post-It notepad and a pen, and if I use a pencil then I won’t use an eraser. This helps me to work out how to get around any problems I do encounter and refines my thinking and problem solving abilities for when I do get to work on the final piece. 

Much of my work is produced digitally these days but every work I do produce always starts off with me using traditional methods of creativity as well as non-traditional methods of coming up with ideas. I sketch what I have in mind out very roughly, add lots of notes, and sometimes create a concept piece using watercolour or pencil before going anywhere near a graphics tablet or stylus. 

Sometimes I don’t draw anything, I’ll just mind-map a few words and see what happens. You can also take a look at one of my recent articles on developing original ideas right here https://www.beechhousemedia.co.uk/2018/03/the-art-of-developing-original-art-ideas.html where I covered using mind maps. 

Usually when I am working on commissions I might have to use reference photos and if you’re not in the zone, figuring out where to start can often be the first hurdle. I like to start with the most complex parts of the artwork first and get those out of the way so the first thing I do is start breaking down the work ahead into manageable chunks. 

Initially I make a couple of copies of the photo and enlarge the areas with the most detail in them. Then when I print them off, I only print the area containing the detail which allows me to focus on getting that part of the work right before moving on to other areas of the painting. 

Occasionally I get presented with a large format work which is difficult to replicate so when this happens I block out every part of the picture that I’m not working on by getting a piece of paper the same size of the work and then cutting out a hole which essentially frames the area I need to work on and leaves everything else out of sight. 

It’s a useful trick because you can isolate specific areas and you don’t then have to be too concerned about the rest of the piece. 

Whenever I hit a creative block I use a similar trick. I take lots of photos so I always have a library of them to select from whenever I want to find inspiration, but I don’t always use everything that is within the photo. Sometimes I just put random photos together and then use my paper frame to isolate areas of each picture. Sometimes the real art is hidden away in a specific area of a picture so using a frame allows you to scan across it to pick out the most interesting areas.

Just by creating a window in the paper I can move it around a picture and see if any particular parts of it would stand out as artworks in their own right. It might be an eye of a face as it was with my Cry Me a River artwork. Originally that piece had been commissioned without the river, that element came when looking through other photos for inspiration and then creating a juxtaposition of multiple images in my mind. 

Now whenever I need to find a new subject to draw or paint I have a number of random snippets that I can call upon and it is amazing how quickly you can come up with something very cool indeed by placing the most random things together or just by selecting a specific and limited area of an image.

Define Limits…

Another trick I often use is to reduce the scope of my thinking. I am an over-thinker at the best of times to the point that if I don’t get an answer to a question immediately I’ll start thinking of my own answers! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by endless choices and this just makes the creative block even worse. You can quite easily become lost in the myriad of possibilities that come to mind, so narrowing down those possibilities makes things a little easier.

Sometimes I will create a shape many times over and then alter the shape. This is great because you can completely switch off entirely and just do whatever springs to mind, there are no boundaries, and you are just using repeated forms to come up with enough new ideas. 

When one idea becomes more dominant than the others you can start to think about turning that into a finished piece of work. This method does give you a lot of creative freedom without having to think too hard. Ideal for those artistic dry-spells!

inspirational quote for artists

Stretch your creative muscle…

If you are in the dry-zone then taking yourself on a visit to the artistic gymnasium is what you might want to do. Don’t worry, there are no exercise bikes and weights in this gym, it just involves you stretching your artistic muscles a little.

Every artist is unique and there will be methods of creating that you always use which ultimately become part of your signature style. Whilst an individual style and uniqueness is a very good thing to have, it means that every piece of work you produce will always be limited to the skills you have.

Your creative muscle becomes stronger with each new work so often you will tend to produce broadly similar pieces of work each time and then you will enhance them over time. To differentiate between works it’s useful to add a touch of something else into the mix occasionally.  Your creative muscle will still make the work recognisable as yours but stretching out and adding the occasional new technique will strengthen your creative muscle in new ways and will give you more freedom to work with moving forward and it will bring something new to the easel.

Exercising that creative muscle often means setting time aside just to experiment with new techniques until you feel comfortable enough to use them alongside your old methods and then gradually introduce those techniques into your new artworks as you build up the confidence to use them.

So what do my own gym sessions consist of? Well, I can tell you that there is no physical exertion involved. I used to be a member of a gym, I never went but my money did, and when I purchased a treadmill, the most exercise I ever got from it was when I disassembled it to take it to the recycling centre.

Now my gym sessions are restricted purely to exercising my creative muscle. I try to set aside a couple of hours each week as a minimum to just experiment and figure out new techniques. Often I will browse YouTube for walk-through videos or I will visit a local gallery and come back and have a go at something new that I have seen, but sometimes I just grab a blank canvas and play around. 

The great thing about these types of gym sessions is that they don’t have to take out huge chunks of time, just ten or fifteen minutes every now and then to watch videos or read books, throw in a half hour or so of practice and you will be amazed at what you can learn and what you will be able to achieve. It’s great when you are out and about too, these are things that you can do on a train journey or when you’re waiting in line or just walking through your local town centre. 

The Scare Factor…

I admit I can get quite scared approaching a new work and especially when it is a commission. There is an expectation from the client that you will be able to accomplish whatever challenge they have thrown your way, but there is also an expectation within yourself that pushes you to tackle the things that you find difficult. Commissions can be really stressful no matter how often you take them on. 

I like to prepare for the difficult projects I am more likely to get tasked with so from time to time in between commissions I will write a list of things that I need to understand better and then whenever I can I will spend some time working out how to do those things how to get the best results. 

Sometimes though it is simply a case of sitting down and facing the challenge head on. Other times it could mean carrying out some research and taking a look at how other artists have overcome similar obstacles. There are times though when you just never quite know what will turn up in way of commissions or what challenges each of those commissions will bring so when this happens all you can really do is to tackle the obstacles head on, and know where to go for advice if you really are struggling to figure something out. Somewhere at some point somebody will have overcome that very same obstacle, you just have to figure out how they did it so never be afraid to ask for help. 

inspiration to create art

Nothing needs to make sense…

Some of my best works have come out of going through those moments when my mind has been blank and more often out of things that just don’t make any sense. I do a lot of doodling and I don’t think any of my doodles ever make any sense. Some are totally on the weird side others just turn out as a mess. I become totally absorbed in creating nothing much. I’m certain that if someone were to analyse my doodles I would be committed to some institution or other.

Anything you can do to bring back your creativity you should do and you should do it without worrying that something has to make sense, it really doesn’t.

Sometimes it’s about time…

The exact moment I tend to get creative block is often the exact same moment I realise I just don’t have enough time to do what I have to do, let alone what I want to do. My commission diary last year was packed to the brim at times which meant that the type of stuff I really wanted to work on had to take a back seat. 

This year I made a conscious decision not to take on anywhere near as many commissions and I have said the word ‘no’ more frequently than I have ever done before. Sure the money from commissions comes in handy but sometimes you have to put you, your family, and your own art front and centre. That’s when you know you are taking yourself seriously as an artist, and if you take yourself seriously as an artist then others will too.

Ready to break that creative block?

We artists excel at something other than art, and that is procrastination. We’re brilliant at it but it serves us no value. Often we feel overwhelmed, nervous, frightened, scared, confused, or our minds are just blank for no seemingly apparent reason so we procrastinate. 

Getting started on something is the very first barrier we need to overcome and when you are at a standstill it is the getting started bit that is the most difficult thing to do. If your creativity has stopped even for a moment you have to give it a little nudge and as it slowly starts rolling forward, the momentum will eventually pick up and creativity starts rolling a little faster. 

Pick something small and achievable to get things started and by finishing a small manageable challenge and meeting your own expectations and deadlines, the path to bigger works and challenges becomes easier. Gentle pushes are often all that is needed. Focussing on making the work manageable by breaking it down into shorter chunks of time will really help give that missing momentum a little nudge.

Tiny steps really are the best way to get back into the artistic swing of things, and it is surprising just how few tiny steps you need to break the rut. 

inspiration for artists beechhouse Media

Some inspiration for the month ahead...

If you are still stuck for inspiration then I have pulled together a quick list of things that might get you back to the easel along with plenty of ideas about what seems to be trending right now. 
  • Create some floral designs - Spring is in the air, summer isn’t far away and right now some of the best selling works seem to be of florals and the bolder the better!
  • I have noticed in many of the galleries I have visited recently that there is a current focus on art that depicts summer, and evokes nostalgic memories from our past. The works all tend to be simple with plenty of negative space being used to build up the creation. Check out themes and trends in your local gallery. 
  • Whimsical and fun works have been featured in a couple of the galleries too. Light strokes, pastel shades, again it’s definitely worth finding out what’s going on in your local market. 
  • Purples also seem to be very popular right now. No surprise really as Pantone predicted this at the back end of last year. 
  • Landscapes are always a staple and right now that’s what I seem to be selling more frequently. 
  • Creations using simple shapes to form the picture and that tell a story seem to also be popular. Combine these with the summer theme!
  • Abstract palettes - these often change but purple and blues are definitely in. Take a look at online galleries and you should see similar results. 
  • Pop art - this could be more to do with the recent news of Damien Hirst’s Circles so definitely worth exploring
  • Typography is trending on Etsy it seems.
  • Personalised artwork is popular. If you can figure out how to create bespoke prints more and more people seem to be looking for something a little more personal. Print on demand services such as Zazzle might be a good place to start looking at. 

That should at least keep you a little busier and give you plenty of ideas on where to start looking for inspirational ideas!

Happy Creating!

Let me know if you want me to pull together more frequent updates on where the markets seem to be at and what is currently trending. I will be visiting a few new galleries this year and I will be armed with a notebook!

If you ever hit a creative dead end then leave a comment and let us know how you got through it! I’m sure there are hundreds if not thousands of artists going through this temporary phase right now and I’m also sure they would appreciate knowing they’re not alone!

Above everything, stay positive, stay creative, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

About Mark…

Mark is an artist and blogger who specialises in abstracts, landscapes, and seascapes but also carries out a limited number of commissions for book covers, posters, and personal commissions too. 

His work is sold in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada including The Great Frame Up, Framing and Art Centre, and Deck the Walls and you can also buy from Fine Art America or his Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com 

All artwork and art collectibles sold through Fine Art America and Pixels also come with a 30-day money back guarantee. Any proceeds from the sale of art through Fine Art America and Pixels go back towards maintaining this site for the benefit of other independent visual artists and art buyers. You can also follow Mark on Facebook at: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia 


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