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5 Counterintuitive Ways to Beat Artist’s Block

As an artist, I would love for creativity to have an on and off switch. As soon as I need to sit down and create some art, I turn on the creativity switch and new ideas suddenly appear.

Yeah, right.

In reality, I spend more time staring at my art supplies wondering what to do with them. I can have so many great ideas, but once I sit down to actually make some art, I have no idea where all of those ideas went.

Artist’s block can be rough. 

I have tried any number of things to beat artist’s block. Some of them worked, and some of them didn’t.

Eventually, I learned that I needed to be as creative with my management of artist’s block as I did with my art itself. Today, I want to share my counterintuitive techniques with you for beating artist block.

1. Do Reverse Brainstorming

Whenever I sit down to create some art, I fall into artist’s block thinking about anything and everything I could create. With too many options, I get overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and then suddenly feel like I don’t want to create anything at all. 


In these moments, I do a little reverse brainstorming. What DON’T I want to create? 

Landscape? Nah

Portrait? Not today

Symmetrical pattern? No thanks

procreate symmetry guide with assisted drawing on

You get the picture! Think through the things you don’t want to create as a means for narrowing down the things you do want to create.

Personally, I get bogged down by too many options. Limiting my options by thinking through the things I don’t want to draw can be a big help in figuring out what I do want to create today.

2. Set Some Creative Limits

Like I mentioned in the previous tip, I get overwhelmed by too many options. So many colors. So many subject matters. So many ideas.

It’s overwhelming.

That’s why I set some creative constraints so that I’m not overwhelmed with options. I pick just one color palette and stick to it. Sometimes, I choose to use only one set of Procreate brushes to use. 

This forces me to get creative within the rules I set for myself, while helping me get to work faster because I’m not trying to sift through every single brush, color palette, and medium in my messy art cabinet (or disorganized iPad).

What if you typically stick to one medium? Try switching it up! If you’re usually a digital artist, try some traditional colored pencils. Try paints.

Switching mediums can help you think differently about your art and spark some creativity.

well used collection of paint brushes

Don’t think of these constraints as ways to limit your art. Instead, they are ways to reduce the overwhelm so you can rid yourself of your creative rut and start creating some art.

When you have fewer choices, you can focus more quickly on the work you want to create without overthinking it for too long.

So, set those limits and see what ideas pop up.

3. Set a Time Limit

I know the words “deadline” and “creativity” don’t seem to go together, but setting a deadline can actually be helpful when you’re stuck in a creative rut. It is for me! 

Personally, when I know there’s a deadline, it helps me focus. I have no choice but to let go of the idea that everything has to be perfect, which is super hard for me. 

Choose a time frame, and stick to it. 30 minutes to sketch. One hour to paint.

During this time, be intentional about going with your artistic instincts. Don’t overthink every little detail. Instead, just go with what you’re feeling.

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Try to have fun with it. You can even turn it into a game and see what you can create within your time limit. Whenever I do this exercise, I don’t create the most amazing artwork.

It’s not about that though. It’s about trying to keep moving, keep creating, and avoid getting stuck.

When I’m done, I feel like I’ve brushed away the cob webs.

4. Focus on One Theme

Choosing a theme can also be overwhelming. How many times can I say overwhelming in this post?

When choosing a theme, there are so many possibilities. Even if you already have a consistent style for your art, it can take time to figure out exactly what you want to draw.

If you’re struggling to pick a direction, here’s a tip: make a list of themes ahead of time that you can choose from.

Write down whatever comes to mind. It could be simple things like “trees,” “circles,” or “waves.” Or, it could be abstract concepts like “hope,” “chaos,” or “nostalgia.”

themes ideas for art

Now, pick a theme from that list randomly. Or, choose the one that looks the most appealing to you. It doesn’t matter how you pick the theme. All that matters is that you choose one, and don’t overthink it in the process.

This is great way to limit the time you spend deciding what to create, while also giving you a direction to move in.

When I pick a theme at random, it clears out all of the endless possibilities in my brain. 

It also gives me an opportunity to explore. Now that I have a theme, are there creative ways to express it? Are there new techniques I can try?

Who knows, maybe limiting your theme could actually spark new ideas. It’s like having a map to keep you on track. You have the freedom to explore, but with a clear direction to move towards. No more staring at a blank canvas wondering where to start.

Give it a try. Make a list, pick a theme, and go from there. You’ll find that a little limitation can lead to a lot of creativity.

5. Switch Mediums

If you’re still feeling stuck and overwhelmed by all of the artistic possibilities, try switching mediums. If you usually paint, try drawing. If you’re into digital art, pick up some pencils. Sometimes, changing your art tools can give you new ideas.

Similar to the themes suggestion above, make a list of mediums you’d want to create art with. Then, when you sit down to create art, choose a medium randomly. Or, choose the one that looks the most appealing to you. It doesn’t matter how you pick the medium. All that matters is that you choose one, and don’t overthink it in the process.

art mediums to try

And, don’t worry. Switching mediums doesn’t have to be a big deal. Again, you are looking to break up your artist’s block, not create the best piece of art ever.

Also, remember that it’s not just about the materials. Whenever I switch to a different medium, I find myself naturally practicing different techniques and ways of doing things. It forces me to think about my art in a new way, which can give my creativity a jumpstart. 

Plus, it can be fun to grab some of my old art supplies that I haven’t used in a while. It feels like a nice chance to experiment, make mistakes, and learn as I go. And sometimes, those “mistakes” turn into new ideas for my future art.

So, when you’re in a creative rut and stuck in artist’s block, think about changing it up. Try new themes, new tools, and new time limits. It could be just what you need to get out of your artist’s block and back into the flow of creating.

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