As creatives, one of the biggest challenges we face is overcoming creative block and keeping ourselves actively inspired. Here I list my 5 top favourite ways to conquer creative block and get the creative juices flowing!
You don't have to draw to be inspired in a museum but they are my favourite places to do just that! I find looking at all the interesting and often beautiful objects in the local museums to be particularly inspiring and will incorporate elements of the style of historical artwork and carvings into my own designs, such as my Bestiary Project illustrations. Drawing in one of the quieter museums such as the Classical Archeology Museum in Cambridge is also very relaxing and concentrating on observational drawing helps to free up my thinking and make tackling more structured briefs easier.
If you are running into a block on a creative project, getting out of your studio and drawing something else is often the perfect way to un-stick your brain!
(You can see some of my own Museum sketchbook work over on my Tumblr blog.)
2. Drawn From a Hat!
One of my creative workshop plans involves drawing random descriptive features out of a 'hat' and combining them to create a creature or character design. Although I created it for workshops I find this randomised drawing exercise a great way to loosen up and get the creative juices flowing! It helps me to stop over-thinking my creative process and reduce tension before tackling a more structured task.
You can try this at home yourself fairly easily by writing out a list of features, cutting them up and sticking them in a bowl and the exercise can work just as well for non monster-related work by changing the type of words you use!
3. Talk to other creatives!
Being a creative freelancer often becomes rather solitary work, particularly if your work is mostly digital like my own. One of the things I missed the most on graduating from university was the studio culture there, which allowed us to share ideas and advice and generally feed off the positive creative atmosphere.
If you can't afford to rent space in a shared studio, going to network meetings is a great substitute for the studio culture, helping you to meet new people, get some good advice and be inspired.
Network meetings are not only essential to expanding your own connections as a freelancer, they are also a hotbed of creative inspiration! Nothing beats being in a room full of other creative people, all crazily enthusiastic about their crafts and willing to share their expertise and advice with you. Whenever I've felt disheartened about my work or stuck on a brief, talking through my ideas with other members of my network has given me an invaluable boost both to my confidence and my inspiration.
In Cambridge there are several groups you can attend regularly (I go to all of these):
- Cambridge Creative Network (monthly)
- Cambridge Illustration Network (quarterly)
- Dr Doodley's Drink and Draw (fortnightly)
It may seem obvious, but the foundation of any good project is your research. Even if that just means googling references and sketching your subject in as many different ways as possible, good research is what turns good work into great work and if you're stuck on a project it might just mean that you didn't do enough of it!
However, when you're really feeling stuck, sitting in front of your laptop scanning google is probably not the best thing for you! Don't just rely on the internet; get out of your studio and go find the references and inspiration you need to get you going again:
- Go to the library and find books on your subject with lots of nice pictures in and read up on any quirky little details and facts which could help give you back that creative spark.
- Go out to the museums (again), find exhibits relevant to your topic and get inspired.
- Find exhibitions of work by creatives you love. Study their work and try to figure out what it is about their work that inspires you and let that feed into the way you approach your own work without copying.
5. Just keep drawing!
The most important thing of all is to just keep creating. It doesn't matter if you hate 90% of the drawings you make, as long as you keep creating eventually you will break through that mental block that is keeping you from achieving your objective. Use loose sheets of paper or cheap stapled sketchbooks so you don't get too precious and sketch everything you see; all the objects on your desk, the view out your window, people on the street, buildings, the cat, yourself, your dinner...everything!
The absolute worst thing to do when you're stuck on a project is to stop working!
If I stop drawing when I hit a creative block, it takes me three times as long to figure out the next step and get going again than it does if I keep sketching references, reading up on my subject or just go out drawing in museums every day until I crack it. Take your creativity out for a walk!
Never stop and never give up!