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How to Clear Creative Block and Start Creating with Confidence!

Updated: 22 hours ago

Today I am going to show you my favourite way to clear creative block when it arises, and how it helps me to get moving again.

A hand holding up a sketchbook with a drawing of Stanage Edge with the view of Stanage Edge in the background

We all get creative block from time to time, artists and illustrators of every level. Some people are able to manage it better than others, some have go-to tricks to keep them on track and some of us need a little helping hand.

In this blog post I am going to talk to you about one of my favourite ways to help when I am in a creative funk and also talk about a few good habits to help along the way.

So let's get to it and help clear that creative block of yours and get you creating with confidence again!

Pack your sketchbook, grab a friend and take them on an adventure!

If I have lost all motivation to draw, THIS is the one thing that really helps me get back on track. Going outside somewhere with my family or a friend for an explore and taking my sketchbook with me and taking in new sights and inspirations!

I always have a small sketchbook and at least one pencil in my bag to draw with, though admittedly I don't always use it! When I do, I like to see how fast I can draw things in little pockets of time. I find starting with a small or quick drawing helps get me started and then I start to feel like I want to draw more.

My partner and daughter will usually shake their head at me when I get my sketchbook out of my bag for a super quick drawing! And for the most part, it usually is super quick.

Drawing quickly allows you to focus on the one thing you want to draw and just capture the details you want. It doesn't matter if it's not very good, because it's just the act of mark making sometimes that is all you need to get you going!

If you really don't feel like drawing, try with just a 10 or 20 second sketch and won't feel like too much of a chore. Like with most things too, you just need to get started and then it spurs you on to draw a bit more! Before you know it, you've got a few pages covered with fresh sketches!

Taking opportunities to draw

Good opportunities to draw for me are when my partner has gone to buy a coffee while we're exploring a castle, while someone I'm with has gone off to the toilet, while I'm waiting for people to finish lunch when we're out walking, my daughter and I will sit and draw while my partner is exploring wherever we are visiting. sat in a café while having a drink and snack, sat in the car getting ready to go out exploring, on a beach while my daughter fills her bucket with sea water!

A copper beach tree drawn on paper with splashes of watercolour is green, blue and orange
A super quick sketch of the Copper Beach tree at Bolsover Castle

To have a chance to spend a bit longer drawing, I get my young daughter involved too! She can get bored easily if we're in a café and instead of resorting to electronic devices (though they have their place too!) we pack her own little sketchbook so she can draw too - it really makes a change from hearing 'what can I do now I've eaten!'.

The promise of a snack and a sketch to encourage her on a climb up a steep hill to one of our favourite places, always works well. Once we are there, she will sit with me for quite a while drawing. She gets really excited to draw with me and use whatever materials I've brought and it's really lovely to spend that time with her too.

What would make a good opportunity for you to draw? Can you draw with a your child or a friend? You don't have to go out purposely to draw, it can just be something you squeeze into your adventure without thinking about it too much!

Pick some fun materials

Pick a few of your favourite materials; like pens, colouring pencils, oil pastels or watercolours. Pick them in a few of your favourite colours or ones that suit where you are going to visit - don't over think it, just make sure they're easy to transport!

I take a few Caran D'ache neocolor pastels and a small tray of watercolours, along with a pencil as my basic set and this covers most things that I like to draw. Sometimes I just scribble a tree in pencil and sometimes I have a bit longer to get my watercolours out. If you are out with your kids, ask them what they want to take - my daughter loves using my watercolours, and even has a small tray of her own that often comes out with us!

What are you favourite colours and materials? You could try using your favourite colours to sketch your chosen subject instead of the actual colours; blue trees? orange sky? red rocks? Or just take one colour out with you and draw exclusively with that. It's a good way to gain new ideas!

A sketchbook and a travel set of pastels, water brushes and a pencil, on top of a rock at Stanage Edge
My go-to travel set of neocolor pastels, water brushes, a pencil and some watercolours (not pictured)

What I usually find happens

When you've been out drawing, you feel really refreshed, especially if you are visiting somewhere new. Your brain is processing all that you've seen and it can make you feel very excited to get back to your desk and get turning all that new inspiration into a new painting or drawing.

I love taking my sketchbook on holiday. We are tied to the school terms and sometimes I can feel very deflated and tired by the end of a term, so when we go on holiday, I get a chance to recharge drawing and exploring new, exciting places. When we get home, it all feeds into my work and I am one happy creative bunny again!

Can you carve time out to get back to your desk when you've been on your adventure? A quick series of drawings inspired by your day out could lead to more ideas for paintings and more drawings!

A view of a farm house in the distance beyond a field with a gate and trees drawn by Nicola Ellen Illustration
Part of a series of sketches I did back at my desk after a walk

A few tips to minimise creative block

  • Try and create a routine around creating - try to get to your desk even if you don't feel like it.

  • Don't worry about bad drawings - you have to get the bad stuff out before the good stuff appears.

  • Make it easy to create - have a sketchbook in your bag/by your bed/near the sofa ready to pick up and draw or write down any ideas you have.

  • Keep going! The more you draw or paint, the more ideas you have!

Want some more ideas for clearing creative block?

If you need some more ideas to clear your creative block, I have a guide you can download of 10 ways I use regularly to get drawing again. 10 Ways to Clear Creative Block will have you back at your desk drawing or painting away! Click on the that there button and you will get this free guide straight to your inbox!

That's all for this week. In the meantime you can join my monthly newsletter for studio notes. Or you can find me on YouTube and Facebook, so head over to either of those to see what I’m up to between blog posts and newsletters! It’ll be good to see you there :)



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