Tuesday, May 24, 2011

There's no such thing as "Art Block"

“How do you deal with art block?” is a question I’m asked and I see other people are asked quite a lot. People go through periods of not being productive, recover, then later get stuck back in a rut again, and it’s something they never completely break free of. I experienced this when I was younger as well. I want to let you know though that it’s entirely possible to get rid of “art block” FOREVER! You should never have an art block ever again. I don’t get art block, because art block is stupid.

The 1st step to eliminating art block is to realize there is no such thing. Nor is there writer’s block, or any other block for creatives. There’s only self-doubt and/or laziness. When the two combine people say they’re “uninspired”. You’re your own obstacle, so get over yourself.

Other artists will give advice like “look at art you like” or “look through some magazines” or “listen to music”, etc etc. While they are well-intentioned, I personally would never give someone this type of advice, because all it does is reinforce the idea in your mind that in order for you to create you need something else external to get you in the mood. By all means, do look at art you like, and magazines, and listen to music and etc, if you need ideas, but not because you’re sitting there looking for somethings that’s going to make you want to draw. Even if it occasionally works it’s always only temporary, you’ll get stuck in a rut again and go on a search for something that’s going to magically get you out of it.

I don’t understand what artists want from me when they ask me for tips on overcoming artists block. Just… do it. Draw! There’s really nothing stopping you. If it sucks, oh well. If you’re not “inspired”, oh well. Just start doing it, it will pass. If you’re frustrated that your drawings aren’t looking the way you want them to, drawing less is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. In the history of the world nobody’s ever got better at anything by sitting on their ass and doing nothing, unless you count World Sittin On Ass Champion Gregory Vance (that’s not a real guy, don’t google it).

You really have to get out of the mindset that everything you make has to be great. Do you think an athlete shows up to basketball practice expecting to make every basket he shoots? Do you think they even expect that during an actual game? Sometimes you miss, but the more you practice the more consistent you’ll get at making those shots. Sorry, I just had to throw one sports analogy in here. It’s okay for some of your work to suck. It’s okay for the majority of it to suck. Just keep on making it, and it will gradually start sucking less. It always perturbs me how often I hear people talk about how crappy their work is when they barely ever do any. Of COURSE it’s crappy, do something about it.

This is the most important part to ending art block though: draw something every day. Not most days, not every other day, not weekdays. Every day. If you’re healthy and able bodied and none of your immediate family, friends or pets have died recently, there’s no excuse not to. You have the time, I know this because you’re sitting on tumblr right now reading a blog post, you HAVE time. I don’t care if you go to school, have 3 kids, and 2 jobs, there’s time in there somewhere to draw something. Do it while you take a dump or something, whatever, just do it. Don’t make excuses for yourself either, once you talk yourself out of drawing one day, you’ll just keep doing it. I’m not going to act like I’m the most productive person in the world, I’m prone to spend copious amounts of time just scrolling through tumblr, or watching a whole season of Mad Men, or just staring blankly at the wall… but if I’m about to go to sleep and I haven’t drawn anything that day I will force myself to at least bust out a sketch of something. I usually feel guilty about that and dedicate a few proper hours to practicing the next day (which ideally should be what you’re doing every day). Don’t let yourself NOT draw something in a day, that is so key to the effectiveness of this plan.

This not only helps you improve, but it also helps with that ol “inspiration” problem of yours. If you’re in the habit of drawing every day you’re constantly going to be thinking of things to draw.

I recommend keeping a record of ideas, it could be a word document or you could use your phone, or jot them down in your sketchbook. Personally I like to keep little notebooks that I keep in my back pocket at all times no matter where I go. Whenever I get an idea I take it out and write it down. Being in the habit of documenting my ideas naturally makes me think of ideas more frequently. Everything I see or hear inspires an idea. I have stacks of tiny notebooks filled with things I want to draw, ideas for characters, stories, comics, cartoons, movies, books, etc etc. I don’t worry about inspiration, I worry about not being able to get around to doing all this stuff before I die.

So go draw, and please, don’t sit there and stare at a blank piece of paper pretending you have no idea what to draw. You are not an idiot, you can think of at least one thing. Draw it. Whatever pops into your head. Draw it. Your favorite character. A self portrait. An object in your room. Something out of your imagination. Whatever. Draw something. If you’re a beginner I’d recommend doing less stuff from your imagination and more focus life drawing, anatomy, still life, perspective and etc. I’ll probably do a whole other blog post in the future about focusing on fundamentals before style.

If your issue is you’re frustrated with the quality of your work, I’d recommend you dedicate a whole sketchbook to things you are the worst at. The worst thing you can do is avoid drawing something you suck at. Nothing looks worse than a gallery of a work where every single picture has the feet cropped off or obscured, it doesn’t fool anyone. Buy a sketchbook just for drawings of feet, draw your own feet, draw pictures of feet, draw anatomical pictures of the bones and muscles under feet, draw the feet of your friends and family (sure, they might start suspecting you have a foot fetish, but hey there’s nothing wrong with people with foot fetishes, we’re they're perfectly relatively normal people!), go out to a park or mall and draw the feet of strangers. Draw feet from every angle imaginable. Unless someone is kicking at you don’t fear feet! Feet is just an example obviously, whatever you have the most trouble with, focus on with the most zeal.

Hey if you’re a writer, just take “draw” and “artist” out of what I’ve just said and replace them with “write” and “writer”. There are tons of writing prompts and exercises you can find online or in books at the library. There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

To recap:

-There’s no such thing as a “block”, only self-doubt and/or laziness.

-Not everything you draw has to be great. You have to draw a lot of sucky drawings before you get to the non-sucky drawing.

-Draw EVERY day, without exception, and document your ideas, you’ll be perpetually inspired.

-Focus on your weaknesses instead of avoiding them.

-You can send your donations of $20 or more to my paypal account kiss_myaesthetic@yahoo.com to show your gratitude for me totally saving you.

You’re set. Seriously, if you take my advice, and you try it out for a while, and it doesn’t work for you, drop me a line, we’ll talk, we’ll figure out together what’s holding you up.

Honestly, I’m tired of seeing artists be so self-doubting. Everything I’ve said should be common sense, but I can’t go a day without seeing someone bad mouth themselves. We start out as kids who draw because we love it and it’s fun and we’re proud of everything we do, and somewhere along the way we acquire standards and are exposed to peers who are way better than us, and forget to just have fun with it. Be patient, it’s not a race, you’ll get there. I PROMISE you anyone who’s better than you, even if they’re some 18yr old kid and you’re 30, is only better because they’ve practiced way more than you.

That’s all. Go draw.

No comments: