It’s something I think everyone has had to deal with at some point -- artist’s block. Some call it lack of inspiration, or even burnout; but the idea is the same. You’re sitting at your desk, staring at a blank page or a half-finished sketch, and you have no idea what to do next.
So what can be done to unblock the flow of inspiration? Everyone has their own methods of dealing with artist’s block, but I’d like to share a few things that have worked for me in the past! If you’d like to share some of your own ideas on how to get over artist’s black, please do feel free!
One of my favorite ways to get the creative juices flowing is to create stories. I’m going to give a few examples of how this can be done to get artist’s block out of the way, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer or storyteller.
Coming up with an idea
If your problem stems from the fact that you have too much freedom and you’re not really sure what to draw, start with a word. It can be any word at all. If this is a personal project, it can be absolutely anything. If it’s a themed project, pick a word related to that theme.
Once you’ve settled on a word as your subject, think about how you could make it unusual.
For example, let’s say you’ve chosen ‘apple’ as your word. Start brainstorming ways you could make an apple unusual. What if the apple was purple? Giant? Sentient? Glowing? Now think about why this could have happened -- why is your subject unusual? Nuclear fallout? Magic? Go a step further. What caused the nuclear fallout? War? A total accident? Alien invasion?
Working backwards like this, you can easily create a world and a story to work with.
The end result could have absolutely nothing to do with what you start with. You might not feel inspired to draw an apple, but maybe now you have an idea to draw a world ravished by nuclear fallout, and what a character living in this situation might be dealing with.
The basic idea is to take something -- anything -- and create a web of ideas that stems out of it. You can start with really anything at all. Create as many branches as you can think of. Soon you’ll find that you have a huge wealth of ideas to choose from.
Already have an idea?
Maybe you already know what you want to draw, you just aren’t sure how to go about it. Narrative can help with this too. Take the basic premise of what you’d like to draw, and describe it in as much detail as possible. Create a timeline by thinking about what happens right before and right after the moment you want to illustrate. Think about the emotions that might be associated with the story. Don’t overthink it -- sad, angry, happy, etc are all valid descriptive words!
For example: Let’s say you want to draw two lovers embracing, but that’s really all you know. Ask yourself, what leads up to this moment? What will happen after? Create a narrative about the characters involved, and the scene they will be in. Where will they be? Why will they be there? Are they meeting in secret in the middle of the woods, or are they meeting for the first time before their arranged marriage ceremony?
Sometimes you will be given the exact specifications of an image, but you still find yourself lacking in inspiration. You won’t be as free in your ability to create a narrative, but the above technique can still work! As long as you start somewhere -- whether it’s from a randomly chosen theme word, or whether you’ve been given all the details you could possibly need -- you can ask questions about the situation and stitch together a story in your mind.
Hopefully this has given you a few ideas to get you started on breaking down that artist’s block -- but if not, I have a few more ideas I’d like to share in later articles!