How to overcome artists block (creative block)

Blank page. Blank canvas. Blank mind. There’s hundreds of reasons we get stuck. Here’s how to get out of a creative funk.

Go for a walk.

Sometimes we’re trying too hard and it won’t come out.

As a kid, I thought a poo was called a ‘tryhard’. It wasn’t until school when I asked to be excused and the teacher asked me what I needed to do. The other kids laughed and laughed and laughed when I said tryhard.

If we try and force creativity, it won’t come. No matter how hard we try. The key is to take a break. Go for a walk. Take a different route. Stand on your head. Get out of your regular spaces and let your head get distracted. Ride the subway to the end. You’re not actively doing anything, you’re just giving your head a break. Coming back into your studio, you’ll have triggered something loose.

Me and Pops, 2019, Aaron Fowler, Mixed media, 97 × 74 × 6 1/2 in., General Acquisition Fund, 2020.25, ©️ Artist or Artist’s Estate.

Go to a museum.

My art studio in Pioneer Square is just down the road from the Seattle Art Museum. I visit my favourite paintings. They’re my friends. I like to look at their form and composition, delve into their story. Me and Pops by Aaron Fowler is one of my current favourites, it’s crazy and intimate.

Seeing what other artists are doing unlocks something in your head. A technique, a reference point, a style. Francis Bacon had reams of photographic references that he used as a basis for his works.

Take something and turn it into something else. Use other’s works as the flint to spark something new.

Artist Ray Monde in his studio with an experimental papier-mache moon jar.

Go fuck around.

You need time to do stuff that means nothing, that’s not going anywhere, that is just fucking around. Fridays are my fucking around day in the studio. I create little salty scenes of Seattle. I play around with papier-mache. I cut up board and stick it together then slather it with wheat paste.

You need to do stuff that’s not you to discover stuff that is you. I was fucking around last week when I discovered a new way for me to cut paper to create the effect of water. It’s transformed my art practice, but it wouldn’t have happened without time for experimentation.

The Monolith, Shoalhaven River series by Ray Monde 2022.

Go eat.

Last Thursday one of my studio mates, Jane Richlovsky, asked me if I wanted to lunch at Cafe Paloma. We walk in and bump into Ben Zamora, an artist buddy of Jane’s, and we sit down together. It’s unplanned, unprompted and we launch into an hour-and-a-half of unleashed banter. I haven’t felt that euphoric surge of conversation for years.

It gave my head something new to feed on, something energising. Sometimes it’s a chat over the best felafel in Seattle, that leads us to a new discovery.

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