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Artist's Block

by Peta Tranquille

It would be fair to assume that all artists have experienced Artist’s Block, just like writers and many creative people do. Before I begin to dive deeper into this issue and give suggestions on how to overcome it, I want to remind you about the blog on Aphantasia. It is common for people with this condition, like myself, to live in a constant state of Artist’s Block. This reason alone is why I have devised my ways to deal with it, and I thought it was important to share it with you.


Strategically place materials so you always see them or think about them. My family will confirm that I tend to leave items all over the house, but there is some method to my untidiness. I like to have small sketchpads, pencils, knitting projects, my iPad, or perhaps a few canvases sitting against a wall, away from my usual creative space, to keep my mind in a creative mode. Continuing to build on my art book collection is also a great source of inspiration. Currently, I have a sketch pad and pencil case sitting on the couch, a half-finished painting against the piano stool, a book of my aerial photos sitting on the coffee table and instructions for an upcoming art project on the dining table. While they could all be put in the studio, I use them as visual reminders to keep myself surrounded with creative thoughts.


For those of you who paint on canvas, I have one suggestion that has helped me quite a lot. Many artists talk about how they fear the white canvas, so the easiest way to solve that problem is to change its colour. Remove the white, and it immediately has an identity and is no longer associated with the stigma of a blank canvas. The easiest solution was to add some coloured paint to my gesso. As soon as you start to paint your first layer, it feels like creating a new painting. Any colour can be selected, and you don’t need much to remove the white. It is also helpful because you can visually see where you still need to paint. Painting white gesso on a white canvas has you looking for the shine to see what parts have been overlooked. This method could be adjusted to whatever your medium is, and if you already have ideas, please share them in the comments.


There are various visual prompts, and it is up to you to find which ones work for you, however, this doesn’t guarantee that they will. I have used everything from flicking through a magazine, watching art documentaries, visiting an art gallery, art oracle cards or random word generators. Over time the visual prompts I use have changed, and depending on what level of blockage you have might depend on the amount of help you need. The Art Oracle cards, available at Booktopia and many local bookstores, have not only given me some valuable Art History lessons but are one of my favourite remedies. Another helpful tool is using a random word generator. It is surprisingly fun when you are not familiar with a word, and this is when I look into its meaning, explore it and see how it can be helpful.

The following video will explain the power of words.


While this is easier said than done, it is the best way to get you “doing”. But for some, motivation is key and an external source is helpful. For example, when it comes to gym workouts I push myself more when encouraged loudly by a Personal Trainer, or simply put, being yelled at! Because of that I was excited to discover the following video. In the first week of my new study term, I was introduced to this dramatic letter reading, by Benedict Cumberbatch. It was written by, conceptual and minimalist artist, Sol LeWitt, to a fellow artist and Sculptor, Eva Hesse. If this doesn't get you doing something creative it might at least get you doing something useful. And if not, appreciate the acting skills of a talented creative.

Note: language warning

I hope that this blog will help you overcome your Artist's Block or at the very least give you some ideas to work with. If you have some ideas please leave them in the comments below.


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1 Comment

Jun 03, 2022

Two great videos! and some food for thought, thanks Peta. My thoughts re ‘starting’, especially on a blank page etc, is that as soon as you put a mark or a brushstroke of any kind on to the page you have something to respond to, and I find responding is easier and more fun than thinking about starting :-) I picked up this tip by watching Nicolas Wilton @art2life short videos, very helpful.

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