Surviving and Thriving during Artist’s Block:

Things I have tried to do to get creative again

I have been struggling with artist’s block this fall and winter, and though I know I should draw more often, it’s been a struggle to get motivated. During this journey, I’ve tried various things to break out of it, such as: copying art demonstrations from art technique books, participating in Inktober, re-touching/re-working old paintings, and in December, working on a daily drawing challenge, featuring portraits and figures with just pencil and paper as a medium to keep things simple. The later project has been the most successful because it is simple to do a pencil and paper line drawing, in which I limit myself to 30 minutes.

Occasionally, I vary the medium and incorporate colored pencils or pastels into the figure and portrait drawings. To make the project flow more easily, I pre-select my images for portraits and figure drawings by doing Google image searches, either for figure drawing construction demonstrations or black and white photos from silent films, or even, famous authors I admire, such as Agatha Christie or Jane Eyre. At times, more current movies can also serve as inspiration, such as the movie, Swing Kids, (1993), which was a great resource for finding more dynamic action poses. Another method that has worked well has been to follow along with art tutorials on YouTube to learn how to draw figures, especially gesture drawings. My two favorite channels for art tutorials on YouTube are, The Virtual Instructor and Rapid Fire Art, which are free of charge and narrated in real-time, to facilitate instruction.

Some insights I have gained about my artist’s block

Maybe it’s the big changes I have been facing lately, such as leaving my receptionist job of 15 years and exploring other options for careers, such as Activity Assistant or Art Therapist that have kept me from being motivated to consistently make art. I’m not even sure who I am anymore if I am not working as a Receptionist, after 15 years of working in the Customer Service field. Or, could it be guilt, which could be genuine or otherwise, about abandoning household chores to make time for art), or something else entirely, that’s causing me to feel stuck in my art practice? Whatever the cause, I want to come up with some solutions, so I can move forward and make more art, and hopefully, at least some of the pieces will turn out the way I envision or will be at least good enough to post on social media. This year, there’s been a mix of both good paintings and some not-so-good paintings. The paintings I’m not happy with might get thrown out, or sanded and re-worked, depending on the state of the canvases. I feel dry and uninspired, and I feel I have reached the limit of my skill set in art. In fact, I feel I need more fuel for my creativity and knowledge base.

Tips for breaking through a creative block

While I am pondering these thoughts, I’d like to share some tips I picked up from an article, “How to Survive a Creative Slump,” by Our Daily Craft, on A few suggestions that the author offers to include: 1.) starting with a small creative project, 2.) “doing something fast,” 3.) reading a book that inspires you, and 4.) organizing or cleaning something in your home.  For instance, the author suggested a few small projects to help jumpstart your creativity such as 1.) “sewing a cloth napkin,” 2.) “knitting a headband,” 3.) Paint on a 4 x 4-inch surface, or “writing a haiku.” Since I am not particularly good at crafts or anything DIY, which I learned after re-finishing some furniture and all of my kitchen cabinets in my new home, I have settled on painting a 4 x 4-inch canvas of Canada Geese, which I re-worked in oil paints about a week ago. Another suggestion that the author makes is to re-visit old projects that you had left unfinished. I certainly have a pile of unfinished works-such as unfinished drawings, pastels, and pages in my sketchbook where things just didn’t come together. Perhaps it would be a good problem-solving exercise to utilize my creativity, in coming up with new solutions to problems with composition, color, drawing, etc.

In addition, the author also talked about making something quickly-which I’m not sure I would do, since most of the problems I have had with my art have been poor planning. Another problem which doing things fast leads to is unsatisfactory art for me, when I don’t spend enough time checking the accuracy of the drawing. Maybe if I were an abstract painter I could get away with a more intuitive approach to painting, than a more structured one with specific steps, but I am not, so I am sticking with what works for me.

However, one thing I do want to try is to read a novel, article, or poem, to try and get some new ideas flowing. Some of my best works have been inspired by the poetry of Dickinson and Frost, which I made in to a portfolio of works during the worst parts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Maybe reading literature will also help me to become a better writer and get me out of this writer’s block I seem to be assailed with lately. How about you? Do you have any suggestions for breaking out of a creative rut? I’d love to hear! Just post in the comments section of this blog. Thanks for stopping by!  

Childhood Memory Loss, Pastel on Illustration board, 16 x 20 inches, 2020, Jodie Schmidt.
Time Waits for No One, Mixed Media, 12 x 12 inches, 2020, Jodie Schmidt.
Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, Oil on masonite board, 16 x 24, 2020, Jodie Schmidt.
Dorothy Sayers Figure Drawing, Pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, 2021, Jodie Schmidt.
Dorothy Sayers Reading a book, Pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, 2021, Jodie Schmidt.
Gene Kelly Dancing, Pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, 2021, Jodie Schmidt.
The Inspector Lynley BBC Series: Barbara Havers and Inspector Lynley, Pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, 2022, Jodie Schmidt.