I'm among the many artist's that would describe 'flow state' as a necessary ingredient to truly enjoy the creation of art. And on the other end of the creative journey is the dreaded "artist block". We all try to avoid it, but it comes with the territory of creation, diminishing the blissfulness and possibly multiplying pressure if time is of the essence - which it often is. Essentially, we can all relate to encountering this while attempting to create something. So I wanted to contribute a visual tool to help artists unblock themselves. Like a hero's journey map - a visual checklist - because although it can be frustrating and confusing - artist-block also leaves a pattern to recognize, which is unique to each individual, and yet relatable to all.
In theory, if we are progressing as artists, we will ALL run into this problem at some point and I love exploring and demystifying patterns like this in service of bridging that gap!
Let me help you unlock your artist block.
When Conrad, founder of MattePaint, asked me to write an article about overcoming artist block, I immediately surged with a creative passion for the task at hand, assuming the passion would be there when I finally had the time to write this golden article. When I finally found the time for the task, well, I hit writer's block. The irony eh?
So I committed to resolving my block first. This process is sourced from my visual pattern exploration at Hanuman 11, but I'm confident that it will give you the wide-lens view so you can customize it to your journey. I aim to demystify this problem for you and simultaneously spark your curiosity for self-discovery and ownership of your unconscious wiring at the source of your unique "artist block".
ONE big problem divided into FOUR smaller puzzles
In my experience, there are four parts that makeup artist block. And the great news is that you don't need to solve all four parts of the puzzle to make progress. We just need to unblock one to build momentum, and the others lighten up...
I want you to imagine a quadrant of blocks: 2 rows, 2 columns. They all form a larger canvas together. When we are in the Flow State, these blocks light up and exude the best of our creative energy. When we experience "artist block", one or more of these blocks are...well....blocked.
What is important to know is that these 4 blocks are inter-related, and the hidden dynamics between them can produce both our most satisfying artistic or our most frustrating experiences of creative-blocks.
Let's start by taking a self-assessment of each block.
- Make sure you are well hydrated, can breathe deeply and are well rested to do this. You need to feel energized for this process!
- Grab a piece of paper, or digital page in the software of choice.
- Bullet down 1 to 4.
- Next to them, leave space to write down four YES's or four NO's on each line.
- Now switch your pen to your NON-dominant hand. You will write YES or NO, with this hand.
- There are 4 questions for each block. Each question should take you 11 seconds - 44 seconds in total for each Block. I recommend you use a timer.
- Go comfortably fast, aim at flow state ;)
- Ask yourself each question directly, without thinking or analyzing too much.
- The faster you answer, the better.
It is a gauntlet of honest questions, so just answer YES or NO while staying connected to your heart and focused in your mind.
- Are you creative?
- Are you connected to the joy and freedom of creating art?
- Are you well hydrated?
Is your answer No? - drink WATER! Then try again. Sometimes - a block is just a dehydrated brain.
- Are you passionate about your idea?
- Can you see how you and your audience will feel when they see your creation?
- Can you see the final image in your mind's eye (imagination)?
- Can you breathe deeply right now?
Is your answer No? - Get outside and breathe some clean air, then try this again later.
- Can you see different strategies to creating your idea?
Is your answer No? - Brainstorm with others or meditate on it for 10-20 min. Then proceed to the next block.
- Do you have enough willpower to create your vision?
- Do you have enough skill to create your vision?
- Do you have enough physical energy to do the actual work?
Is your answer No? - Nourish yourself, get rest, note when your energy is the highest during the day. Try this again.
- Do you have enough commitment to finish your task?
- Do you have the right community support to do the task?
Is your answer No? - Find allies online like the MattePaint Discord Community and get involved in the activities! Communities foster support!
- Do you have enough time set aside to do the task?
- Do you have the right resources/equipment to do the task?
- Do you have a satisfying reward at the end of the task?
Once you answer these questions, take a look at the section with the most NO's. This is your main artist block! Start here, and keep it simple; resolve the NO, to a YES.
Take a look at your main block section and you'll see that you are under-resourced in this area, so it is normal that you have artist block. Do yourself a favor and own your NO's and now get to ACTION. If you're lacking sleep; get more sleep! If you're lacking the willpower; look inside and ask yourself why!
The goal here is to build momentum and to have a spark that moves us into creativity.
I personally did this gauntlet of questions before this article and I was missing patience with myself (BLOCK3, question 3). I had to book several sessions and spend the time I needed to write this with my own flare.
I hope this process unblocks your next breakdown, and if you have difficulty answering honestly, ask someone you trust, or ask on the Academy boards and in Discord. Go inwards or outwards, just don't freeze and do nothing. Time waits for no-one and artistic minds are important, now more than ever...
We are in the age of artists and magicians.
Sending you my best.
Jeevan - Creative Director @ Hanuman11 // Fractal Think Tank