“Kill Your Artist Block” Series – Lesson 7 – 10 Ways To Clear A Creative Block


Hello artist friends,

Welcome back to this series about how to unblock your artist blocks when they show up.

Today I’m going to give you a break from the posts I’ve done lately about supplies. I know they get a bit dry and tedious, as well as probably making you feel as if we’re never getting to the part where you actually get to “do art.” You’ll get to do a little bit today, if you so choose.

Every creative person I’ve met gets blocked from time to time. I can explain my reasons for getting them, and I’m sure you’ll have lots of reasons yourself.

The biggest mistake I’ve made in the past was using excuses for why I couldn’t create, instead of real reasons. Excuses are in the thousands.

Reasons make more sense and come from something inside creative people that happens because we get ourselves stuck.

I’ve gotten stuck when:

  1. I was sick or hospitalized and spent a lot of time on pain pills or recovering for days or weeks. When I got well, my creativity seemed dull and kind of listless. It took awhile to get unstuck from that.
  2. Someone criticized my work, hurting me either intentionally or unintentionally. I have never taken criticism of my art very well, although I’ve taken some brutal training like “Art Instruction Schools,” where the instructors are tough. (Yes, they truly are)
  3. I just finished a very tough project that required a lot of focus and took a large chunk of time. After it’s finished, I always felt kind of lost without a rudder to guide me. It’s like I emptied all my creative juices into one bucket until I feel empty.

These are just a few reasons I’ve gotten stuck in the past. These are not to be confused with excuses.

Reasons make good sense. Excuses are things like “I’m too busy” or “I’m too lazy” or “My family/friends say I’m not good enough.”

Reasons can’t always be overcome immediately, but excuses can.

Here are 10 things I do to get unstuck:

1) Take out my “Drawing For Dummies,” book by Brenda Hoddinott and Jamie Combs and do some drawing exercises in there. Have a sketchbook(nothing fancy) that you call your “unblocking sketchbook” to do these exercises in. Brenda has written some of the best art instruction I’ve seen.

2) Read a book like “Drawing On The Left Side Of Your Brain.” This book has been around for years and taught me so much in the very beginning. Start doing some of the exercises in it. Draw them into your “unblocking sketchbook.”

3) Take a very small sketchbook with you everywhere. (Or a cellphone/tablet you can sketch on) There is another iPhone artist who started sketching around the same time I did my 365 Day iPhone & iPad challenge. He does them on the subway on his way to work. They’re done with an iPhone and the Sketchbook App. Try sketching wherever you go. People. Objects. Animals. Fenceposts. Anything.

4. Try sketching one thing each day in your “unblocking sketchbook” or digitally. Your brain is going to try to give you all kinds of excuses every single day. It’s like exercise. You do it until you CAN’T NOT do it. Many writers like John Grisham and Stephen King have become successful by writing each day this way. They don’t think about it too much. They just do it.

5. I learned a technique years ago by the author of a book called, “The Artist’s Way.” She invented a method called Morning Pages. You sit down and write 4 pages of pretty much anything. Even if you write about nothing, it seems to clear your brain for creativity. This technique has worked very well for me.

6. Read the very excellent book “Art and Fear” to find out more about artist blocks. They’re usually about fear, and they won’t last forever.

7. Listen to the excellent audiobook called “The War of Art.” You will learn so much from this!

8. Go to an art museum or zoo or aquarium with a sketchbook. Sit down on a comfortable bench and just sketch. Even if you’re a cartoonist, you will feel better afterwards.

9. Check out a book or two at the library about drawing techniques. I love going to thrift stores and looking for art instruction books, craft books or big coffee table books full of beautiful reference photos. Start sketching some of the lessons or use the photos as references for drawing.

10. Try sketching things around the house or outside without allowing the logical side of your brain to name them. Don’t name them tree, chair, dog or whatever you know them to be called. When your brain tries to name something, it then tries to sketch it based on memories of what that object is.

“Just Draw What You See. “

That’s all for today. I hope this post helps you get started sketching daily.

See you here again tomorrow.


Here are the sources I mentioned in this blog post, in case you want to research them:

Strathmore Series 400 Sketch Pads 9 in. x 12 in. – pad of 100

365 Day “Kill Your Artist Block” Exercise Series Begins January 15, 2018


I mentioned in my previous post that in 2011 and 2012 I performed a 365 Day Challenge to draw something every single day on the iPhone or iPad to cure a terrible case of artist block I had at the time. What developed from that was my Amazing Dragons series of books, cards, and art prints for children.

I’ve decided to start a “Kill Your Artist Block” Exercise series here for anyone going through the same thing I went through for many years. It happens to everyone – I promise. I’ve never met an artist/writer or other creative who didn’t have the same issue once in awhile or for long periods of time.

Beginning on Jan 15th, 2018, I’ll be teaching one lesson I’ve learned about how to get rid of artist’s block. I’ll start out talking about supplies that are available so you can choose your favorite. Then I’ll talk a little about my favorite techniques for jump-starting my creativity. After that, each lesson will contain one, simple sketch you can practice yourself to jumpstart your inner artist. Included will be a simple technique for how to cure your case of artist’s block if you have it or if you ever experience it in the future.

I hope you’ll join me starting tomorrow for Lesson 1. Let’s do it! It’ll be fun, frustrating, scary, and many other things you won’t expect. But it will help you, if you stick with it. Let’s discover how much better we can become together.

If you joined us later in the year, you can always start with Day One whenever you meet up with us. We’ll be waiting for you.

Note: You don’t have to have an iPhone or iPad or other digital drawing device to do this because I’ll be presenting each day as a conventional art sketch. If you wish to draw digitally, that’s totally up to you.

See you soon!