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How to Beat Artist's Block

Tips for regaining your inspiration when you're suffering from artist's block.

By Dr. Janet Montgomery

It’s a devastating thing for an artist to feel they’ve lost their inspiration, to encounter a creative block. But suffering from artist’s block doesn’t mean you’ve lost your artistic ability and it can be overcome. Dr. Janet Montgomery has some tips to help beat artist’s block:

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 1:
It's the fear of not being able to do it that is making you feel you've lost your inspiration. To get rid of the fear, you must approach your painting as if it were a job and DO IT.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 2:
Force yourself to set a goal of ‘X’ number of paintings. Copy if you must, use kitchen tools as models if you must, but simply getting into the paint itself will begin to inspire you, even if you don't like the subject matter. There's always something to learn.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 3:
Change media. If acrylic, go to oil. If oil, go to printmaking.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 4:
Search for new painters on the web, using Google's image search. Go to galleries. Try to find an artist who's doing something that appeals to you, something that the voice inside you says, "I could do that" or "I'd like to be able to do that." Secure an image and copy it to find out what that artist did and how. Then think about recombining ideas.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 5:
Play the "what if?" game. What if I painted this old subject matter on a tire? What if I put together a still life of bricks? How can I use a new material, a new subject matter, a new style. Be wild in your considerations.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 6:
Remember that everyone has fallow periods. I don't consider them really fallow, just the subconscious taking a breather and getting ready to take a different direction.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 7:
Check out some books on creative thinking to give you a jolt.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 8:
Take a trip to somewhere you've never considered, even if it's only to a local town you've never explored. Always take a sketchbook, everywhere you go. Or a digital camera. Imagine yourself a Lilliput or a giant to change your perspective.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 9:
Keep a journal of drawings and writings for a month. Pick something from the journal to paint. Review it in six months or a year.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 10:
Compile a scrapbook of family portraits -- not just faces, but each family member doing something typical -- a ‘candid’ sketch with writing about the person, the time, your impressions. Keep it in a journal for your kids' kids.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 11:
Go to a senior citizen center and draw the people there. Talk to them about their life stories. Try to express your response in mixed media using copies of their old photographs, etc.

Beating Artist’s Block Tip 12:
Take a class that forces you to produce in a structured environment.

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