20 Tips to Overcome Artist's Block

by Stampington & Company

Photo by Anna Kern featured in In Her Studio Summer 2020

Creative block rears its head in many different ways, and sometimes taking the first step is the hardest part. For mixed-media artists, this struggle is exemplified by the blank page — be it a stark white art journal page, a blank canvas, or any substrate that has yet to become art. Whether the culprit is emotional obstacles, time constraints, or supply limitations, sometimes we all need a little push in the right direction to get going. To help you get past the blank page and start creating, we have collected some helpful advice from mixed-media artists whose artwork has appeared on the pages of our magazines.

20 Tips for Moving Past the “Blank Page”

1. The white of a blank art journal page can be intimidating sometimes, so I add a light wash of watercolor first. (Jacqueline Newbold)

2. I meditate and breathe. I will take a deep breath and listen inwardly to what my soul is craving. A vision of a color or a technique will come into focus, and I will go with it and get started. (Cynthia Cole Russell)

3. I add collage and gesso to bring in some texture. (Carrie Todd)

4. Going into my studio and looking at my selection of favorite supplies always jump-starts me. (Hope Wallace)

5. I glue something down and add writing with a pencil. I may journal what I want to express or just write a one-word intention. Getting rid of that white space is key! (Cheryl Sosnowski)

6. I often get artist’s block, and sometimes my motivation just disappears; when that happens, I take a step back, stop pressuring myself, and just let things happen naturally. I browse the Web (mainly Pinterest and Instagram) and check out what other people are doing. Sometimes I just flick through a magazine and find some words or a picture that inspires me. (Tanyalee Kahler)

7. I usually decide on a key image to use and then start pulling out papers and embellishments that match. From there, I arrange and re-arrange, adding and discard things (without glue) until it starts coming together. (Sheri Beeler)

8. Paint without the end in mind. If you’re planning on putting the finished piece in a frame behind the sofa, you’re doomed. Paint with the process in mind, enjoy the journey, and don’t worry about the finished product — it may end up in the bin, but you’ll learn something from every brushstroke. (Maria Wigge)

9. Blank pages can be intimidating, so for many of my art journals I will pre-paint the pages before I add my images. (Leslie Wood)

10. If I’m feeling uninspired, I flip through my notebook where I jot-down ideas, quotes, haiku, song lyrics, etc. I’ll also flip through magazines to look for an image or word to make the wheels start turning. (Marit Barentsen)

11. By placing leftover paint or spray ink onto journal pages ahead of time, I really don’t struggle with how to start. (Angela Zajac-Bruch)

12. I don’t think you can force creativity. If I’m feeling stuck, I’ll walk away and do something entirely different but creative: arrange some flowers, cook something new, or take photos of my neighborhood. It’s always surprising to see where fresh inspiration comes from. (Valerie Teele)

13. I like to group my supplies together by color palette or style so I can grab a grouping and begin easily, rather than having to see if items match and dig through boxes of supplies. (Sarah Donawerth)

14. I either look at my favorite blogs and Pinterest, or I go to the craft store for some new paper and supplies. A new magazine or catalog is also inspiring. (Jennifer Bomgardner)

15. Get out of your studio — a change of scenery can spark inspiration. Take your project and a limited number of supplies with you. Having limited supplies can also get you to create differently. I am always surprised by what I create when I am limited to only a few supplies, and it usually sparks other ideas. (Mary Brack)

16. I go through phases when I just can’t do anything artistic; that’s when I read copiously, and force myself to go into the studio and do one thing for a few minutes. I repeat that routine (sometimes for days), and eventually my creative block passes and I’m back. Sometimes you just have to show up. (Brigid Gallagher Davies)

17. Trying out new supplies really gets me in the mood to create. If you have supplies coming out your eyeballs, choose one and challenge yourself to use the entire container/package. (Heather Kindt)

18. I prefer an art journal page that has some marks on it. If the page is blank, I always start by gluing down torn pieces of paper. I have started my creative process this way for so long now that this simple step tells my brain it is time stop thinking about other things and time to get creative! (Dianne Fago)

19. Never paint just one piece at the time — do five … or 10! That way, your brain won’t get stuck on getting it just right. Nine of them might be disappointments, but you may be left with one you like! (Maria Wigge)

20. Make lists of ideas when you have them, and reference it later when a creative block happens. (Lindsay Campbell)

For more resources to overcome artist's block, browse our library filled with creative inspiration!