How to Overcome Severe Artist Block

by Wendi OBrien

Welcome to my studio…thanks for dropping by.  As I was editing the video for this artwork, I was trying to come up with something to talk about.  I mean seriously, how many times can you go over the process of laying down your pigments on your paper.  I really wanted to do something different for this one.

So, today I wanted to discuss artist block….what is it and how to deal with it.

What is Artist Block?

Artist block is typically experienced in a visual art profession.  This could be professional or hobbyist or someone in between.  Simply put, it is when the artist loses their ability to produce new works.

That being said, it also comes in extremes.  Some experience a low level and just need a bit of motivation or inspiration to get their juices flowing.  This is where those usual tips you see on how to overcome artist block come in handy.  

On the other end of the spectrum it can be so severe that the artist is willing to abandon their passion and careers all together.  Masters and well known artist’s have gone through this for centuries, so it is not a unique problem and these extreme cases is where I will be focusing today.

How to Deal with Artist Block

Since most artist block develops over a period of time, you can not expect to get rid of it overnight and there is no one answer that fits all cases.  We are all unique individuals, just as our art, just as our artist block.

Identify the Cause

The first thing we need to do is identify what is causing the artist block.  It could be just about anything including anxiety, over thinking, lack of confidence, no new ideas and your mind goes blank, unable to concentrate, procrastination, burn out, over working, personal circumstances and the list goes on.


In the extreme cases, self-reflection is necessary to understand why you are in this state of mind.  I know this can be a very difficult to go through, but I find it necessary to understand the underlaying cause of the artist block in order to know how to work through it.

During this time of self-reflection, if you are able and don’t rely on an income from your art, take break from it.  Focus on something new, read a book do other things that you love.  Just get away for a bit and give your creative mind a break.  Sometimes we just need to find a way to quiet our mind to get those ideas flowing again.  


If you do rely on the income, may I suggest stepping away for a day and doing something for yourself.  It doesn’t have to be spectacular, just something that will make you feel relaxed and get your mind off art for a day.  Sometimes we forget that we need to make ourselves a priority every once in awhile.  So, if you are not able to step away for a longer period then make yourself a priority once a week even if it’s just half a day, and see what a change just that small little step can bring.

Season or Cycle

I am a firm believer that artist block is something that needs time to run through its season or cycle.  Being individuals, our coping mechanisms are different and some will take longer to work through than others. So don’t beat yourself up if you have done everything that is recommended to get over it and you still can’t seem to shake it.  You just haven’t run through your season yet.

Art is healing

Now don’t get me wrong, art has many healing qualities, but when it is your main focus all of the time, it can also have an opposite effect which usually stemmed from an external cause that has either intentionally or unintentionally been brought into your creative world.  When this happens, art is no longer an escape and relaxing experience, thus the healing qualities are gone…at least for the moment.

Quiet Your Mind

So take a break…as long as you need, to quiet your mind, make yourself a priority and deal with whatever external stressors that began your artistic block.  Once you find your why and make some time for yourself, you are well on your way to healing and reclaiming your creativity.  What’s your why?

My Battle with Artist Block

My battle with artist block seems to come more frequently at times but, when I go back to my self-reflection I realize that maybe I rushed it and just didn’t finish my last season.  So, I take two steps back and start the whole process again.

My Breaks

 My breaks last anywhere from days, to week, to months.  It really depends upon the severity of block.  When I start doing the recommended solutions of just create something, look for new references or at others artwork to get inspired and those actions only create uncertainty, self-doubt and anger, among others then it is definitely time to step away and focus on other things.  

If you are in this severe of a case, forcing yourself to do anything art related will just create animosity, displeasure and resentment of your art or anything you create at that time.

 Until next time keep on arting!

Project Supplies

Paper:  Clairfontain Pastelmat – Burgundy

Pencil Sharpener


Pan Pastels (Background Only)

Colored Pencils

Luminance:  001 White, 009 Black, 039 Olive Brown, 041 Apricot, 044 Terracotta, 061 Permanent Red, 066 Natural Russet, 068 Herculanum (Red), 070 Scarlet, 225 Moss Green, 240 Lemon Yellow, 242 Primrose, 548 Raw Umber, 571 Anthraquinoid Pink, 575 Carmine Lake, 583 Violet Pink, 585 Perylene Brown, 599 Crimson Aubergine, 732 Olive Brown 10%, 736 Olive Brown 50%, 739 Dark Sap Green, 748 Dark Flesh, 810 Bismuth  Yellow, 820 Golden Bismuth Yellow, 842 Raw Umber 10%, 846 Raw Umber 50%, 850 Cornelian

Polychromos:  111 Cadmium Orange, 115 Dark Cadmium Orange, 118 Scarlet Red, 130 Dark Flesh, 132 Light Flesh, 172 Earth Green, 173 Olive Green Yellowish, 187 Burnt Ochre, 188 Sanguine, 190 Venetian Red, 191 Pompeian Red, 192 Indian Red, 193 Burnt Carmine, 219 Deep Scarlet Red, 226 Alizarin Crimson, 267 Pine Green

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