Updated: Apr 20
Art is a funny thing in that the way we all produce is so different. Production varies from artist to artist, some people pump out work that’s of consistent quality and creativity, some people take years between pieces, and anything in between. The art making process is different for every artist that’s out there and that diversity in process creates diversity in artwork, if every process was the same then art itself would eventually start to blend into one stale entity. However, one thing that I believe every artist has gone through in their creative exploits is the block. Just being stuck and not knowing what to create. It sucks, it’s the bane of all of our existences as artists.
So why do we get stuck? That’s a tough question, and like our processes I think it varies from person to person. A common factor that I’m sure a lot of us experience is just trying to stay relevant, there’s always going to be art and if you’re not producing then you might quickly be forgotten. So, sometimes as artists just the raw pressure to create is astounding and that’s not always productive to our work. It’s a tough thing to be stuck, as artists we tend to be very self-critical and when we’re stuck we usually don’t let up but instead get exponentially harder on ourselves. I’m stuck right now, I’ll admit it, that’s what inspired this article.
So what can we do to break ourselves out of the mental trap that is being stuck? I don’t have a definite answer, art is never that easy unfortunately, but I’ve put together a few ideas that have worked for me and that might work for you. The first is to seek inspiration, be it new or old. Sometimes we drift away from what inspires us, especially during periods where we’re creating a lot, but when that creativity ends we forget what it’s like to be inspired. So, go back into the world and find those key things that make you function as an artist. Revist what has inspired you and see if it can bring back that spark. If not, maybe it’s time to find new inspiration and there’s a lot of easy ways to do that. Art shows are a great thing and I think we all find inspiration from them to some extent but if you get in that safe mode where you’re going and seeing the same artists or styles, go out and see something new. You never know what you might find in a gallery or publication, there’s a lot of REALLY inspiring art out there just waiting to be found. Or maybe you’re just inspired by life and while you’re making your art you get reclusive and forget to live your life. Well now you’re stuck in your studio, not sure what to create so what’s the solution? Go out and live. Find that new inspiration or experience. Go find what drives your work because sometimes we lose it when we create something, so before the next piece can happen we have to go find that wonder again.
Another thing can help you break out of your funk is trying something new. In my experience the best time to try a new medium or process is when you’re stuck on what you’ve been doing. Something clearly isn’t working like it used to in your usual process so what’s the harm in trying something new? Not like you can’t go back to what you were doing before. In all likelihood, if and when you go back to your former process you’ll be going back totally reviatalized. Personally, I got into sculpture at a time when my illustration and painting was in a bit of a rut, I didn’t know where I was headed so trying something new and going into that experience open I took a lot out of that. From there, I really fell in love with sculpture and when I went back to my painting I had a whole slew of new ideas inspired by my sculpture and eventually I started merging the two mediums that I worked in. Sometimes when you’re stuck in what you usually do you go into a new experience totally open and not holding onto what your safety is because that isn’t working right now.
The last thing is for if you don’t want to abandon your usual media and that’s just to throw some shit at the wall and see what sticks. I’m a big preacher of experimentation and I think we too often get stuck on just trying to be the perfect artist we envision ourselves as and don’t want to experiment for fear of failure. But sometimes when you’re stuck on what to create you just have to go head first into a projet, no plan whatsoever, just do it and see what happens. If you’re a painter, splash some paint on the canvas and see where it goes. If you’re a sculptor, weld some loose pieces of steel together, bend a wooden strip. Whatever you do, throw some clay on the wheel and let it ride, pour ink on a plate and see how it prints, whatever you do, JUST DO! Sometimes we get stuck in the planning zone and that’s what hurts our creative process, we can’t plan anything out so we think we can’t make anything but in actuality sometimes we just have to go in without a plan and see what happens. You never know, you might just get the creative juices flowing or you might find something totally new within your process that makes some awesome work.
I really hope these methods help you break your funk and I’m interested in what you all do to break your own if these don’t work. But one of the biggest things I want you to take from reading this is that if you’re stuck it’s not just you. We all go through it, don’t beat yourself up, you’ll get through it. The best thing we can do when we’re stuck is learn from it, find out why we got stuck or find a new method that helps you break out of it, whatever it is, make this funk a learning experience for yourself. That way next time you hit a rut in your creative process you’ve got a more tools in your arsenal to help you get out of it. We’re always going to be learning as artists, so take something from all of your experiences.