Artists creative blocks unblocked: 6 Top Tips


"The world doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do" - Pablo Picasso

According to 99U there are 7 types of creative block which us creative types experience on a regular basis. I can tell you that I am certainly no exception to that rule. In the last 2 weeks alone I have experienced this probably 5-10 times with varying severity and it is frankly...annoying. All you want to do is create that new painting you've been looking forward too or create that awesome sculpture for an upcoming exhibition but, you can’t! There is a wall, a creative block.

99U reckon that you can put all these experiences into 7 distinct categories:

  1. Mental Blocks

  2. Personal Blocks

  3. Financial Blocks

  4. Emotional Blocks

  5. Overwhelm

  6. Communication Blocks

  7. Habits that do not work!

You may have not experienced all of these things but, considering that you are reading this post you probably have experienced one of these at some point! Probably you are experiencing it right now and are out of ideas?!

This blog will give you the top 6 tips that I have gathered over the years to battle through the frustration and get back to that sweet spot where you feel like you are riding the wave.

Tip 1: Give back to you

Tip 2: Step away

Tip 3: Reflect

Tip 4: Be prepared; inspiration comes at weird times!

Tip 5: Remove the fear

Tip 6: Focus Forwards

Creativity flowing!

Tip 1: Give back to you

We have all been there, those moments where we put so much pressure on ourselves to create these wonderful things. But, never step back and ask ourselves whether that pressure is doing any good for our flow.

When that retched barrier starts to creep in, its late at night or close to that show deadline, give yourself some slack. Go over to your speakers/phone etc and turn up that song that ALWAYS gets you dancing. Turn that song up as loud as your neighbours can put up with and fill that serious studio with some fun energy. Dance around, be your true self…nobody is looking!

By doing this you will probably loosen up, smile, laugh and more than likely forget about that pressure you have been putting so much of on yourself.

Tip 2: Step away

One of the biggest limiters for creativity is routine. It is something which is so easy to fall into. We are taught routines from pretty much the moment we arrive into this world. But, what I have found is that if you stick to a routine and regularly end up with creative blocks it is time to break that routine!

I like to get out into nature! My other love in my life besides painting is that I like to go hiking. Book trips to get out of your normal environment (London). It gives your mind some space to breath and well…you some time to breath as well. You may feel this is counterintuitive because you have that deadline right? Wrong! By doing this your brain will switch mode and by the time you come back into your workspace you will feel 100 times better and ready to get that work done.

Tip 3: Reflect

I LOVE starting a new piece but, struggle to get it finished (seem familiar!?). I have 10’s of paintings ‘in progress’. I get 80% of the way there and then feel that something is missing and cannot work out what. If this feel like you...well this tip is for you!!

Take that “unfinished” painting and put it up in your home. Preferably put it somewhere you have to walk passed every day, somewhere that you will subconsciously be acknowledging it whenever you walk about your daily life.

Why you should do this:

  1. The reason it is “unfinished” may actually disappear. We are all our worst critic in the moment.

  2. What is missing will start really bugging you and becomes incredibly obvious (this is usually what happens to me and I cannot believe I didn't see it before). This is what usually happens to me!

  3. Friends and family will see the piece and may give you some insight from a different perspective you had not considered before.

All of the above will either lead to you finishing the piece, or will help you come to the conclusion that it is pretty awesome already!

Tip 4: Be prepared; inspiration comes at weird times!

You have probably heard before to keep a notepad on you at ALL times. This is 100% true and is something I do as it is impossible to be inspired on demand.

It is very common to be walking through a supermarket doing your weekly shop and suddenly you have the best vision for a new piece of work. Or you wake up first thing in the morning and a dream has given you an amazing idea. The common theme between these two random things is that they are not when you would usually be thinking about being creative. This is perfectly normal because when you are relaxed i.e. not trying to force yourself to create your brain has the space to think freely without stress.

Therefore, by having a note pad on you at all times you will never be stuck again, you can write that idea down!! As soon as that idea is committed to paper you do not run the risk of forgetting it (It has happened to the best of us) ! Simple :)

Or if writing is not your thing, take a photo! Most of us now are stuck to our smart phones. Take a photo which will trigger the memory that lead to the idea. After all... a picture says a thousand words right?

Tip 5: Remove the fear

How many times at school did you sit in front of a blank computer screen and panic when writing a paper/doing homework etc. It is the SAME for a blank canvas.

For me my top tip for this type block is to just put down some rough paint onto the canvas. If you are anything like me, chances are that bottom layer will not even feature at all in the final product. It is purely there to get you over that initial hurdle of the scary white space looking at you. Many artist like to block a colour, either a beige or an off-white to remove this fear without committing any strong colours to the canvas.

If you are still feeling the fear then go read a great blog post by Michaela Schreiter where she talks about ways to combat that anxiety we all feel when starting a new piece of work. She helps with tips about how to get yourself prepared before even turning to that blank canvas! The key tips from her I liked were:

  • Do Your Research

  • Gather Everything You Need

  • Create a Mock-up

Tip 6: Focus Forwards

One of our biggest limiters in life is that we always look backwards into the past for comfort and confidence about how we will approach the future. This is a human trait and so we cannot avoid doing that. What we can shift is our thoughts towards the past when we are stuck in our creative rut. By focussing forward i.e. not looking back at the past, we allow ourselves to take risks, not be constrained by previous success or failure and allow our creativity to flow without judgement.

I promise you that as soon as you stop worrying about whether the work will be as good as your last piece and purely focus on taking those personal creative risks, the rewards will PAY OFF.


If you are struggling with creative block, try one or all of the above to combat it! Creativity comes and goes, by using these tips you will get yourself right back into it in no time!

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