Several nights a week, I stream art live from my studio on Twitch (www.twitch.tv/kohseart). There’s a chat room where viewers can interact with moderators and other viewers, talk smack, tell jokes, stories, or ask questions. A lot of artists tune in and ask questions about art, inspiration, how to stay motivated, how to improve, or post their own work on my Discord Channel to get critiques. I love teaching and I love passing on what I’ve learned over the years to other artists. I especially love seeing what those artists do with that knowledge. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to start writing down some of the more frequently asked questions and their answers here so anyone can find it.
Today’s topic: How to Break Creative Block.
The idea of creative block is foreign to me. Not because I have some gland overfilled with creative hormones oozing out of every pore (although that would give me something to blame if I suddenly discover I’m in need of a shower. “Oh, don’t mind the smell. Inspiration just hit!”). Creative block is a foreign concept because I never stop creating. If I’m not drawing, I’m painting. If I’m not painting, I’m writing. If I can’t do any of that, I’m thinking about doing those things. If you want to be a creator, you need to create, and you need to keep creating. If you’ve ever hit a creative wall, you probably just made a snorting noise.
So let’s start at the beginning. You suck. You’re looking at a blank sheet of paper or canvas and it’s just laughing at you. You need to smack it. The idea is to get something on that surface. Smack it with something. Think of it as looking at the clouds to see what shapes they make. Smudge some paint on it. Splatter some inks. Make a mess. Then see what you can make out of it. This is a great exercise in firing up the creative engine. For me, I like to make dragons. I take those smudges and splatters and create fantastic mythological creatures. I’ll take a sketchbook page where the ink from the previous drawing has bled through and try to make something out of it.
Another exercise. Stop trying to be creative. Not every image needs to be a masterpiece. If you’re having troubles thinking of something awesome, focus on fundamentals. Go to the a zoo or local park and bring a sketchbook. Most importantly, don’t bring an eraser. Find a bench and start drawing the people walking by or the animals. I like to take the bus tours at the zoo. The bus pulls up to the animal enclosure, you have about 15-30 seconds to draw that rhino before the bus moves on to the next exhibit. You can’t draw an amazing piece in 15-30 seconds but you can get the gesture and forms down. You’ll find that this helps you increase the speed of your drawing and add energy and life to your art. If you can’t get to the zoo or park, you can use photo reference. Google Images or DeviantArt photos to the rescue.
If you really want to challenge yourself, you can use art resource websites like Quickposes.com or SketchDaily.net. These sites have images of people you can set to slideshow and timers. You can also set options such as Male or Female, static or action, nude or clothed (oh yeah, btw, these sites have images of naked people presented for academic purposes. If that offends you, get over it.). You can also set the slideshows to only show things like hands or faces if you wanted to focus a particular body part.
When I do these quick sketch exercises, I like to use toned paper. This helps with the blank page laughing at you problem mentioned above. Now the entire page is gray so all you need to do is add shadows and highlights. Think of paper this way, If you are using white paper, you are at 0 value. To get black you have to add up to 100 value. If you’re using toned paper, (50 value) the most you have to add or remove in either direction is 50. A quick stroke of a Molotow white pen and you have an amazing highlight. Scratch in with a little Polychromos black, and you have an instant shadow.
Strathmore Spiral Toned Sketch Book 5.5″X8.5″-Tan 50 Sheets
Strathmore Spiral Toned Sketch Book 5.5″X8.5″-Gray 50 Sheets
Palomino Blackwing 602 – 12 Count
Molotow M127211 One4All Acrylic Paint Marker with 2mm Round Tip, White
Faber-Castell Polychromos Artist Colored Pencils black 199