What do I Even Paint?! My 3 Steps to Beating Art Block

My simple tactic to go from demotivated to firing with a buttload of creativity

Art block is super real. And it sucks the absolute wind out of your creative sails.

how to stop art block and get new ideas for painting

I recently found myself wallowing in the pits of art block despair, finding excuses to not paint that day and instead stare blankly at my canvas- racking my tired brain for that special kiss of inspiration. And yet nothing would come.

Setting aside the time to paint is a big step, and that is something I mention quite a bit on this blog. But, once you sit your butt down and have your brush ready, all you can do is see a puff of smoke where your ideas once were and the word “train” popping in your head a dozen times for no reason.

I know this has happened to you. Trust me, it’s happened to all of us.

So, I want to share a stupid simple tactic that I use to switch my brain and hands from heavy, dull cement to a living machine of stupid good ideas.

And it starts with inspiration.

Continue reading or watch my helpful video on how to defeat that nasty ol’ art block and free your creativity from its mental prison.

Step 1: Draw inspiration from the things around you

So before you rip my head off with the biggest “DUH” in the world, let me explain.

Oftentimes, when you are in that mode of searching for the right thing to paint, you’re not always looking at something as your inspiration.

Many times, you try to find that special thing lodged deep in that goldfish brain. And guess what? Our inner troll critics are so good at stopping change that before you even CONSIDER what you want to even attempt to paint, you’ve already made up your mind that the thing you were probably thinking is dumb and a waste of your time. Repeat this for 300 times and you got the classic case of “art-block-itis”.

Instead of staying in your head, turn to outside resources.

A. Pinterest – the almighty mecca of ideas

Ah, Pinterest. It is probably the one place I turn to in my desperate hours of need and I always find ways to garner at least 4-7 ideas whenever I do. It literally is the scrapbook of the internet, and it is a great place to find ideas.

So the first step is to create a board called “inspiration”.

From there, pick a random category (like landscapes, animals, trees, birds, unicorn butts, etc.)

Then, without much thought, simply pin every single thing that DRAWS YOUR EYE. That’s it.

Whatever grabs your attention, pin that sucker to your inspiration board. Repeat this until you begin feeling the little belly of inspiration fire right back up for you.

how to stop art block and get new ideas for painting look at magazine covers

B. Grab magazines, print articles, or anything with pictures

This is very similar to the idea with Pinterest, except with physical media (especially if you love doing it old-school), and its one of my favorite ways to find ideas. I look through magazine covers and pages and set aside the graphics that draw my eye.

In fact, I defeated my recent art block when I leafed through Cook’s Country magazine and found their issue on apple cider donuts. My hungry brain could not stop thinking about those dang donuts, so I decided to break the block and paint powdered donuts.

And it was worth every second.

Step 2: Once you have your ideas, pick the winner

When you are done, pick just one thing and paint it or a version of it (gotta remember to stay cool with copyright).

Don’t think about the how or the why. Just do it.

And if you can’t decide between two ideas, paint them both. That is two more ideas that you never would have had the courage to try without resorting to this step. Take that win and run with it.

how to stop art block and get new ideas for painting start putting paint to canvas

Step 3: Pick up a brush and start painting

Pick up that brush and paints and GO.

Now listen, this is super important to remember. Give yourself very little expectations on the turnout; you are simply trying to punch out that annoying art block and get yourself revved up again.

You’re not making a masterpiece.

You’re not making this to show anybody.

You’re doing this to help yourself out of a rut.

Set. Little. Expectations.

And an extra little tip, try limiting your palette of colors to just 4-6 paint colors (if not less!). Limiting your resources in this way can get you to really think outside the box.

Step 4: Take your time and learn

As you are painting and slapping brush to canvas, think about your strokes, your technique, how a certain color looks. What is interesting about it? What are you learning from your color combos?

Asking questions is the most important part of any painting process- because it promotes learning.

So, take this time to reflect and be present with your process (notice how I say process and not how your painting looks). Because, more often than not, you’ll start finding sparks of ideas shooting out of your ears from this painting session.

I like to call this entering the land of “what ifs”…

What if I make a painting using just 3 colors next time?

What if I use just a toothbrush and detail liner to create that effect?

What if I try stippling with a larger brush instead of a detail brush?

This is the beauty of learning.

It’s becoming curious and interested in experimenting. It’s being OK with the process and not entirely the outcome. It’s learning to be a kid again and let go of the perfectionist that likes to rain on parades and instead embracing the mistakes.

This is the process I recently used to get out of my creative block and I hope it’s something you can find useful for your artistic ventures too.

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What do I Even Paint?! My 3 Steps to Beating Art Block

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