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How to Draw when When You're Out of Ideas

Updated on March 31, 2013

Going Blank When Looking for Inspiration

Whether you are working on a specific project or simply trying to practice your craft, going blank can be excruciatingly frustrating. It happens to the best of us. There is no real science behind the reasons why we sometimes come up against creative blocks, and they occur for different reasons in different people. Stress can be a contributing factor. If you are up against a deadline or are stressed for other reasons, your mind may just want to shut down, making it feel like you are all out of ideas. Constantly forcing yourself to come up with new ideas can also have an impact.

The trick is not to let it frustrate you so much that you simply stop creating. There are a number of strategies to cope with blocks and encourage creativity which are outlined below.

Three Common Causes of Creative Block

Psychologists believe that there are a number of psychological factors which cause creative blocks to occur. Three of the top reasons and how to overcome them are outlined below. Once you understand these, you are well on your way to picking up the pencil and drawing again.

  1. Perfectionism: Artists are often their own worst enemy! Are you the kind of artist who is always on the quest for perfection in your work? Do others marvel at your skill while you put yourself down and think its never quite good enough? If so, you are probably suffering from a bad case of perfectionism and it can be crippling to your creativity. If this is what is stopping you from picking up your pencil and drawing, ask yourself if you would be this hard on someone else. You will probably find that the answer is no. Be kind to yourself and relax. The ideas will start to flow again.
  2. Fear: Fear is another emotion which is crippling to creativity. There are many types of fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection... Have you ever heard of the saying, "feel the fear and do it anyway"? This can be hard to do, but once you identify that your stumbling block is fear, you can work out exactly what it is that you are afraid of. Once you understand what you are afraid of, give yourself the permission to face up to it and just do it. For example, if you identify that you are afraid of failure, write an instruction to yourself in your sketch pad. Tell yourself in writing to face up to your fear and give yourself the permission to let it go. You will be surprised by how effective this is. fears are very often much bigger when they are running around inside your head than when they are out in the open. Once they are out, they seem smaller and less significant. Then you suddenly start to see why they are irrational. At that point, you can truly let go and let the ideas flow again.
  3. Procrastination: The saying, "Procrastination is a thief of time," is one of my favourite ever sayings because it is the TRUTH! Procrastination is a common problem for creative people. Some creative people insist that their creativity thrives when they are working under pressure and as a consequence, nearly always leave their projects until the last minute. While it may seem that creativity thrives in this type of environment, quality and creativity often suffers The best work is not produced under constant pressure. If you find that procrastination is your problem, you may want to take a look at yourself and work out if your problem is not actually fear or perfectionism as described above. If this is not the case, try creating a schedule for yourself and planning your time very well. Be disciplined and stick to your schedule. When you catch yourself putting projects off, repeat the mantra, "Procrastination is a thief of time!" Once time is lost, you can never get it back, so stay organised and on top of your work to allow your creative juices to keep flowing.

Examples of My Own Drawings Done After Meditating


Meditation as a Strategy to Help with Ideas for Drawing

Many artists will tell you that sometimes, the very best ideas come at times when they were deeply relaxed. One of the best ways to relax properly is meditation. The daily practice of meditation can improve your creativity exponentially.

Meditation is essentially a way of training the mind to enter into an extremely relaxed state, a state close to sleep, while being conscious. This state is an altered mental state and the regular practice of meditation is thought to help ease many health conditions including high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Scientists believe that the practice of meditation slows the brain waves down so that the brain "cycles" at a speed close to the speed at which it cycles when you are asleep. You enter into the gap between being asleep and being awake. Like daydreaming. There are a number of techniques to induce this state, including the use of binaural beats- a specific sound which many people who practice meditation use to help induce the meditative state. Specific practitioners have taken these theories and run with them, producing instructional meditation CD's which incorporate the sound and effectively induce the meditative state. Some such instructional CD's including Jose Silvas famous "Silva Ultramind" technique and Gerald Odonnel's Remote viewing and Remote Influencing course, actually have specific instructional CD's aimed specifically at improving creativity. Transcendental Meditation is another technique which has been scientifically proven to have many excellent benefits to health as well as benefiting creativity.

If you decide to go down the route of meditation, whatebver technique you use will reap excellent results. Many artists speak openly about the fact that regular meditation practice not only helps you to overcome creative blocks, it also helps you to catch the ideas as they surface in your mind much more easily. Have you ever been in a daydream and had an amazing idea for a drawing or painting, and then found that moments later the idea had dissipated, like smoke? If so, regular meditation practice gives you the tools to catch those ideas and hold on to them until you can materialise them on paper.

Why not start today. Simply sit down in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and focus your mind by counting back from 100. After a while, you will lose count, don't panic. Just relax and be. Allow your mind to drift and see what comes up.

If you are interested in binaural beats or any of the specific meditation practices mentioned here, there are plenty of videos available on the internet for free which provide an excellent introduction to guided meditation practice. There are also links at the bottom of this article to more information.

Get Inspired to Draw by Life!

Go for a walk in nature! If you have a park near you, take your sketchbook and go for a walk. Look at the trees, flowers, insects and animals. Examine them closely and feel the energy of nature pulsing through them. all of these things are ALIVE by some miracle!

Take the time to really look at nature. Be still and quiet and allow it to envelope you. Then draw. Draw what you see. Draw an abstract version of it. It does not matter at this point, feel the energy around you and channel it through your pencil onto your sketch pad. Nothing is more inspiring than nature itself.

If you can't get out in nature, draw what is around you. Do you live with people? Practice drawing them from life. Look at your loved ones and feel their energy. Draw what you see while feeling, not thinking! Abstract your drawings if you wish or do something more representational. It does not matter, all that matters is that you put pencil to paper and draw.

if you don't have anyone around you, sit in front of a mirror and draw yourself! Look at your face and feel all of the experiences you have had that make you who you are. Feel them and use that energy to draw yourself. If this makes you feel self conscious or afraid, feel that fear, feel that anxiety and draw anyway. Use the emotion to make something really emotive.

If you don't feel like doing that, look at your non dominant hand and draw it! The hand is one of the most difficult body parts to get right. Practice drawing it, look at the abstract shapes it makes rather than the hand itself. Look at the negative spaces and draw it or any other body part you feel like drawing.

Draw objects and Copy Artists when you are Out of Drawing Ideas

Look around you. What do you see? A chair? A table? A cup? A suitcase? A vase? It doesn't matter what it is, just draw it. Copy it as you see it or draw an abstract version of it. Just draw.

Get an art book and copy the drawings of another artist. If you have no access to art books, simply Google your favourite artists and study their work. As long as you are just using them for practice, you are not violating any copyright laws! It is amazing the impact that another artist can have on your work once you really start to study their work.

Examples of My Automatic Drawings

Till the End of Time.  Automatic Drawing. 8.3x5.8 inches. Graphite and coloured pencil on 125g paper.
Till the End of Time. Automatic Drawing. 8.3x5.8 inches. Graphite and coloured pencil on 125g paper. | Source
Nothing. 10x7 inches. Watercolour sketch. Automatic drawaing.
Nothing. 10x7 inches. Watercolour sketch. Automatic drawaing. | Source
Comfort. Automatic Drawing. 8.3x5.8 inches. Graphite on 125g
Comfort. Automatic Drawing. 8.3x5.8 inches. Graphite on 125g | Source

Automatic Drawing when you are Out of Ideas for Drawing

Automatic drawing is a drawing technique which defined the Surrealist movement. Andre Breton defined Surrealism as "Pure psychic automatism," and it remains very important to the Surrealist movement.

You can utilise the technique when you are all out of ideas for drawing and produce stunning results. Doing this just after a meditation session can prove even more fruitful but you don't have to do it that way. Simply relax and sit in a comfortable position. Place your pencil and sketch pad in front of you and allow your mind to drift while your pencil moves around the paper. Detach yourself from the end result and just let the pencil make marks on the paper. After some time, you may notice shapes that you recognise. At this point, feel free to connect things up and play with them until you get something you are happy with. It is amazing how this simple exercise frees up your creative mind and hand, very often producing unexpected and beautiful imagery straight from your unconscious mind, and causes you to experience more wonderful ideas.

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Scribbling to Help when You are Out of Drawing Ideas

the act of scribbling is often used as a warm up exercise by many artists, but it can also help free your mind of blocks and open you up to the possibility of new ideas. Simply relax and sit down with your pencil and drawing pad. Scribble on the paper. Don't be afraid of making a mess. Be free and let the pencil move. You will find that as your hand warms up, so too does your mind. Before you know it, the ideas will start to flow again. Scribble for as long as you wish.


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