Art Advice Issue #6 - Dealing with Art Block

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There's something really important to keep in mind: "Art Block" is a mental state, and, as such, it is temporary and you can overcome it!

Mental Blocks by barananduen

The term "art block" is misleading, because it makes you think it has one definition, when, in fact, it is a term used to refer to several quite different situations. Here, we'll talk about the different types of art block and how to overcome them.


This is the easiest type of art block to deal with. DRAW ANYTHING! It doesn't have to be something spectacular; drawing an object on your desk or in your room will do; it will help you break out of this art block. Here are some ideas for you:
  • Ask your friends or watchers or random people for suggestions. You don't have to draw all of them; just take the ones that seem appealing to you.
  • Draw random objects: decorations, an insect, a slice of pie...
  • Close your eyes, draw a doodle/random shape. Open your eyes, try to make a creature out of it. Now redraw it with purpose.
  • Draw a scene or character from the last movie you watched / book you read / song you listened to.
  • Experiment with a different art form, like photography, crafts, dancing, etc. or a different medium (acrylic, pastel, pencils, etc.). This will shift your focus and still get your mind thinking creatively. Working with different art forms will give you ideas that you can apply to your main form/medium.
The last idea has another benefit. While working with a new art form, you will hone different skills, that will help you with your "main" medium if you have one (or the media you normally do). For example, if you draw and are stuck, working on photography can help you with composition and depth of field, among other things. Scrapbooking or making collages can help you with textures, colors, and also composition. Sculpting can help you with volume and angles. You see things in a different light and can come up with new, fresh ideas. :)


This type can take two forms: a) You've never been able to draw the way you want, or b) you used to like your art, but now you feel it sucks. The good news is: both are temporary! Read on!


Many, many people who are just starting with art are under the misconception that art learning is a relatively quick process, that you can get good at art in just a couple of months, whereas the fact is, it takes years to get to the level we want, with art as with anything else. We must have patience! It's important to give yourself time; focus, don't rush, and don't get exasperated when things don't go the way you wish they would. They will, with time. In the meantime, practice! Do studies (from life or photos, not from others' art). Learn how to use shading to convey volume. Practice different light sources. Learn and practice anatomy. Learn about lighting and colors. Keep going and don't give up! You must have perseverance! What I call "The Three Ps" is very important to keep in mind while learning art (or anything else, for that matter!).

Focus on the journey, not just on the end goal. It is important to enjoy the process for its own sake. This attitude will help with patience and perseverance.

While you're doing this, don't feel discouraged when things don't turn out the way you want! EVERYONE makes mistakes! And everyone has had to go through a learning process. Just because you don't see them posting things with mistakes doesn't mean they didn't happen. Takes mistakes in stride, have a little humor with yourself, and learn from them. Art Advice Issue #2 deals with a method you can use to change your attitude toward mistakes and see them in a positive light, making it easier to learn from them.

Here are two Art Advice Articles that expand on these topics. I highly recommend reading both if you're suffering from this type of art block.


Usually, when you feel you've hit a wall, when you feel like you're no longer happy with your art, it's right before you begin to improve again, so don't let that feeling make you quit.

What happens is that your brain is no longer satisfied with your current work because you've seen things you like better, and, subconsciously, you're going "my work would be better if I could do ___." The thing is, once you become aware of what that blank is (which will happen), you'll start working toward achieving it, and you'll be moving forward again.

Sometimes it's helpful to take a short break to clear your mind a little, like when you've been working on a project/paper too long and need a break from it because you can't think anymore. Take a few days, maybe a week or two, but don't quit entirely! In the meantime, you can use your creativity in other media. Try photography, crafts, decorative cooking, anything! Give yourself some time and approach things with a fresh perspective. Give your brain a break from what's bogging you down.

When you come back, you can do three things:
  1. Try again. Sometimes things just "click" after you've taken your focus off of the matter for a while,like how you can spot errors in an essay after you've laid it down for a day or two better than right after you've finished writing it
  2. Go back and review the basics again. You don't need to spent ages doing this; it's just a refresher. Sometimes, we get hung up on our methods and forget something we once knew we should be doing. A refresher's always good.
  3. You can try approaching things in different ways. Experiment! Do things in ways you didn't do them before. Try different types of lighting, coloring, shading, for example. Maybe you'll find something you like better than what you were doing before.
The important thing here is to realize that this sudden dissatisfaction with your work is a GOOD THING! It means you're about to make a leap and get even better! So, embrace it and don't feel discouraged by it!


This one might be brought on by other things going on in your life, maybe things that are making you feel down. Sometimes, even music or books or whatever used to get you in the mood to do art doesn't work.

Force yourself to draw -ANYTHING- (See TYPE 1 for ideas). This will help jump-start you, and then you can get back to drawing cool things. The same applies to writing - write anything! A poem, a haiku, an anagram. Do a few and you'll get back in the mood. If you do photography, just take your camera and head out. Take pics of ordinary things from different angles; try a type of photography you don't usually do. Don't worry about the results being good. Just focus on doing the thing.

When I've had this type of art block and did these things, I got out of it fairly quickly. When I didn't, and sat it out hoping it would go away on its own, I stopped doing art for five years, and in the process forgot many things I already knew about how to make art. Different people work different ways, but I do recommend that if you feel this type of art block has been going on for too long, actively do something to try to get out of it, like the examples I mentioned above. You don't want it to drag on long enough to set you back in your progress.


Lastly, I want to address the mental cage that is choking under pressure. You can feel pressured by external sources (others) and by internal sources (yourself). Sometimes, you might feel like you have to perform at a certain level, and that pressure may make you perform below what you usually do. In worse cases, it may make you freeze and scared to even try! Don't let pressure play you wrong. Breathe deeply a few times and clear your mind... and draw without worrying about it! Just draw!

It's like how sometimes, doodles on lined paper come out better than things you draw on a white paper or on a canvas... it's because you're not putting pressure yourself to come up with a masterpiece.

Draw without worrying about how good or bad the outcome will be. If it's not as good as your last piece - nothing bad happens! Honestly! But you know what does happen if you freeze up because you're afraid you won't measure up to your previous works? You will not create equal or even better works at all! So, let go of the pressure, don't worry, and just draw. You WILL make better works; it's natural and makes sense. More practice and time leads to improvement, no matter what level you're improving from. Just give yourself the opportunity to do so!

Let go of pressure and expectations and just draw for the sake of it! You'll do fine.

I went through this problem earlier this year, and, to break out of it, I decided to just sketch a dude (because that's what I'm used to doing), not doing anything complicated, and without much of a plan... just let go of that fear and draw! This on the left was the image I made. It started off as just a sketch, but then I liked it and went ahead and painted it. And it turned out fine, but more importantly: it helped me break out of the rut I was in.

Yes, it's important to challenge yourself and break out of your comfort zone to learn new skills, but sometimes (like when you're in this type of art block), going with your own personal strengths will give you the morale boost you need to draw again, and then you can keep moving forward and tackle challenges and new things with more confidence.

Believe in yourself! And remember: don't stop or you won't create the next awesome artwork you didn't know you would make, because your future pieces will always be better than your past ones. Don't forget that!


I hope his article can give you some ideas and motivation to help you plow through your next art block, whichever type it may be, and you'll be back on your way to creating beautiful works! :heart: Also, feel free to share your own experiences with art block and how you deal with them, in the comments. :)

If you found this article helpful, next time you see a random stranger feeling down about their art, leave them an encouraging comment. :heart:

And if you would like to see a specific topic covered in an Art Advice Article, let me know either in the comments here or via Note, and if it's something I can write about, I'll do my best to accommodate your requests.

Until next time!
~B~Heart Balloon Emote 


Making Feminine + Masculine Features (Stylized)ART ADVICE ARTICLE #11: TIPS FOR DRAWING FEMININE FEMALES AND MASCULINE MALESI'm not saying that all female characters should look feminine and all males should look masculine, not at all! But the point of this exercise was to effectively convey a character as either male or female despite hair length, clothing, etc. Every so often, I see people working in anime style asking how to make cartoon/anime guys look male even if they have long hair, so I made this to help in these situations. For this exercise, we'll take the same base sketch (so, in this case, we're not changing either the hairstyle or the face shape), and then use certain visual cues to make one look female and one, male. The results are interesting. : D,BASE SKETCH. I started off with an androgynous face and hairstyle for the base sketch. This is the same sketch used in all the drawings in this article.LINEART. The first thing I did was vary the lineart style. This is optional, but we're just throwing all options out there, and it's interesting to see the difference it makes. ,For the middle one, I turned the line stabilizer ON and used smooth, curving strokes. For the rightmost one, I turned the stabilizer OFF and used straighter lines and more jagged edges.Before we even get to the face, you can see the difference the lineart style alone makes. Now let's add the actual facial features...,Here, I drew the face, using the same lineart technique described above. In addition, I used the following differences:FACIAL FEATURESThin, curves eyebrows vs. thick, angular eyebrowsCurves for drawing eyes (round, oval) vs. straight lines (rectangular)Upper lip vs. no upper lip Rounder bottom lip vs. more rectangular bottom lipSmoother jawline (it could have even been rounder) vs. angular jawlinePointed or rounded chin vs. square chinNeck curves inward to appear slimmer vs. straight lines for neckI didn't even add eyelashes and makeup or facial hair; it wasn't necessary. These items above, alone, were enough to make a difference.It's important to note that most of these in the list above are not actual, real differences between the faces of real men and women. Instead, they are ideas for stylistic decisions(*) to quickly get the idea of "female or male" across to the viewer.I kept the same face shape for this example to keep the base sketch unchanged, but you can, of course, vary face and bone structure, etc. In fact, this is encouraged!CLOSINGThese are not chemistry lab instructions - you can pick and choose what you do, do things differently, etc. and it won't blow up in your face. XD However, it shows several things you can do to make a character look male or female, without changing the basic character design.These are two articles I recommend reading in conjunction with this one. (*)The first explains what style really is (and walks you through finding your own), and the second explains why studying realism will help you make better cartoon/anime art:,Art Advice Issue #5 - How to Find your Own StyleAugust 16, 2016By far the most common concern I see people on DA,,The Misconception Behind 'Study Realism'November 28, 2020 ART ADVICE ISSUE #10 - THE MISCONCEPTION BEHIND(I'm sorry, I can't put them one next to the other)I hope someone finds it helpful. : )OTHER ART ADVICE ARTICLES:Issue #1 - Don't Let Anyone Make you Feel Bad About your Art: Assumptions & Artistic VisionIssue #2 - Dealing with Art Mistakes: How to Have a Positive OutlookIssue #3 - Advancing in Art: The Three PsIssue #4 - a - Basic Tips to Make your Art Look Better b - Advanced Tips for Photographing Traditional ArtIssue #5 - About Style and How to Find your OwnIssue #6 - Dealing with Art BlockIssue #7 - How to Ask for and Provide CritiqueIssue #8 - Random Traditional Art TipsIssue #9 - Debunking Common Art MythsIssue #10 - The Misconception Behind "Study Realism"You can also find these (and other helpful stuff) linked in the "Art Motivation Corner" (green) widget on the bottom right of my profile page. The Misconception Behind 'Study Realism',ART ADVICE ISSUE #10 - THE MISCONCEPTION BEHIND "STUDY REALISM"Most people who draw anime/cartoons have, while asking for ways to improve, at one point or another been told to "study realism." A common response to this is, "But I don't want to draw realism!" But, did you know that the purpose behind this suggestion is NOT so that you draw realism? They're not suggesting you change to a more realistic style. What, then?Let's look at this through an analogy: Say you don't know music yet and decide you want to learn how to play the Happy Birthday song. You're not interested in playing anything else, just the HB song, and you haven't started learning anything related to music at this point. OK, that's fine, and now we have our situation set up. Once you've decided this, you set yourself to learning the sequence of notes to the HB song. You practice and practice, and, after a while, you can play it really well without a hitch.After a few years, it starts feeling bland to you, and you ask, "How can I make my HB song better?" And someone tells you, "Learn all the other music notes," and "Study classical and other genres of music." And you reply, "But I don't want to play that type of music; I want to play the HB song!" (And that's FINE! It's valid; it's what you want to do.[*Footnote 1])But without having learned all the other notes and other types of music, you can't make a remix of the HB song, or an "epic version," or a hip-hop-fusion version; you've capped at the end of the first paragraph of this story. So drawing anime or cartoons is like playing the HB song, or any one song in our example. And here's where our misunderstanding comes in: "Study Realism" DOES NOT MEAN "Draw Realism"Yes, you'll have to draw it to study it (not only your brain, but also your hand needs to learn the skill), but it doesn't mean that's what all your artwork will look like. It is meant to give you more tools to make your anime and cartoon work stronger, more appealing, and more unique. How will it do that? The more music notes you know, the more types of music you understand and can play, the more original a remix/version of the Happy Birthday song you'll be able to make - and it will be unique. Because you will be able to take all that diverse knowledge and apply it to your song, making it stand out, and the next time you play the HB song, people will go, "Wow! This is a really cool version!"So now we can be clear: There is a difference between learning something and performing it. You can perform whatever you choose, but by learning all the things, your performance of your "Thing of Choice" will be stronger.What, Exactly, Will Studying Realism Teach You, Then?,I. VALUESIf you learn how to paint/shade with a full range of values (by learning realistic shading) that properly depict both volume and lighting, you will have no trouble simplifying that to cel-shading or gradient-shading in your anime or cartoon drawings, because you will at once spot when something is undershaded or the shadows are in the wrong spot. On the other hand, if you try to do cel- or gradient-shading first, you are way more likely to a) undershade, and b) have an inconsistent light source. And when these things happen, you won't be able to tell *why* your drawing looks "off" or bland.II. COLORBy studying realistic coloring, you'll be able to learn how color varies across an item (say, a shirt) that is a "solid color." Example: you're drawing a character with a pink t-shirt, standing in the sun, at the end of the school day. The t-shirt is solid pink, however, the colors on it will vary from orange-ish to purple-gray, with some areas almost a bright red (and that's not even considering items around the shirt that would bounce light back onto the shirt and change its color). But you'll only know this (and how to do it) if you study realistic coloring.Then you can apply that knowledge to your stylized artwork and make it stand out more.,Photograph of real pears, by @Daykiney | Drawing of a stylized pear, by me.See how studying realism can enhance your cartoon work.III. MAKE BETTER STYLIZED ANATOMYBy studying and learning realistic anatomy, you will be able to make stylized art that, for example, doesn't have one arm longer than the other, because you will have learned how to measure proportions, even if you don't draw realistic proportions. So that if you decide you want to draw unrealistically long legs (eg: Sailor Moon), you'll be able to make them look good and keep them consistent.You will also be able to draw figures in any position, because you will have learned how body parts are made up and how they move, as well as foreshortening/perspective.So when you go to draw a pose you haven't drawn before, it will be WAY easier.IV. UNDERLYING SHAPESAlthough this is one of the least-mentioned aspects of art-learning, it is, in my opinion, one of the most important, because when you learn to see underlying shapes (the quasi-geometrical shapes that build up a figure), couple with learning how to measure a form using other parts of the same form as reference (measuring the length of one body part by the number of times another body part fits in it, as mentioned in Section III, above), you will be able to DRAW. (Period.) You won't be able to draw just people. Or just wolves. Or just cats. You will be able to break down a new subject into its building blocks and come up with a very reasonable likeness. And whatever's different, you'll easily be able to make relative measurement to spot why and fix it.,Once you learn to identify underlying shapes and how to measure proportions in anything, you will also be able to pick up and reproduce any existing style without much trouble. For example, this was my first time drawing anything Peanuts. I didn't have to do practice-sketches for it (though there's nothing wrong with doing that). But I knew, from realism, that to achieve a good likeness, you need to measure body parts relative to other body parts, so I looked at Schulz's drawings and was able to determine: OK, Charlie Brown's head is roughly this shape, his body is so many heads tall, his eyes are this % of the head, the ears are this far in, the arms reach down to here, etc. I knew what to look for.V. FOR THOSE WHO WANT SEMI-REALISMIf you want to do "semi-realism," you'll have a way easier time of it by learning realism and then stripping it down as much as you like, than by starting off with "100% anime" and trying to build it up without knowledge of realism. People think the latter is easier, because it *seems* less intimidating, but it's like trying to drive to a store you've never been to without knowing its address: you'll be driving around forever trying to find it, and it will be frustrating. What people call "semi-realism" is stylized realism, and you can't really hit it without knowing how realism works.CLOSING NOTESIt also doesn't mean you should stop drawing anime/cartoons and focus solely on realism for X amount of time - you can do both concurrently. In fact, the most fun way to study realism is to do so on your favorite subjects; you can even turn your reference into your favorite character!Studying realism is also one of the best ways to help develop your OWN, unique style; one which, when people look at it, say, "Oh, that's [your name]'s work!" For more on this, see: Art Advice Issue #5: About Style and How to Find Your Own.*Footnote 1: It is fine as long as you are drawing for yourself. As soon as art is a job and you're drawing for an employer, you have to draw in the style they tell you to. So, in this case, it's to your advantage to be flexible. I hope this was helpful and helps clear up a common misunderstanding people go through when receiving feedback. OTHER ART ADVICE ARTICLES:Issue #1 - Don't Let Anyone Make you Feel Bad About your Art: Assumptions & Artistic Vision Issue #2 - Dealing with Art Mistakes: How to Have a Positive Outlook Issue #3 - Advancing in Art: The Three PsIssue #4 - a - Basic Tips to Make your Art Look Better b - Advanced Tips for Photographing Traditional Art Issue #5 - About Style and How to Find your Own Issue #6 - Dealing with Art Block Issue #7 - How to Ask for and Provide Critique Issue #8 - Random Traditional Art Tips Issue #9 - Debunking Common Art Myths Issue #10 - this oneIssue #11 - Making Feminine & Masculine Features (Stylized) You can also find these (and other helpful stuff) linked in the "Art Motivation Corner" (green) widget on the bottom right of my profile page. Art Advice Issue #9 - Debunking Common Art Myths
There are many phrases here on DeviantArt that get passed around and repeated like they're The Art Law. Usually, these pieces of advice are well meant, and they may have been relevant to the person who first received them, but they are usually not universal truths - what applies to one person may not necessarily apply to everyone else. Let's take a look at some of these and see what's really behind them.

That's like saying coffee with twenty sugars is better than coffee with just two. :XD: Some people might like some coffee in their sugar, but it's not for everyone.
The general idea behind this may have been that if an artist can put believable textures and details into their work, they've honed their skills well. However, this idea often gets misinterpreted, resulting in beginner artists believing tha
Art Advice Issue #8 - Random Traditional Art Tips
* If you draw or paint on a table, keep a paper tissue under your drawing hand to keep the oils in your skin from transferring to the paper (this happens even if you've just washed your hands), which may keep the pigments from being properly absorbed in some places.
* To check for errors in your sketch, especially those relating to symmetry, rotate your canvas and place it on each of its sides, step away and look at it. Also, take a photo or scan it, and do a horizontal flip on the image with your computer.
* To easily transfer your sketch onto watercolor paper, board, wood, or other surface, color the back side of your sketch (scan and print it onto regular printer paper if it's in your sketchbook) with a graphite pencil (2B works fine, HB is harder to transfer), tape it graphite-side-down to your watercolor paper, and go over the lines with a pen or sharp pencil. This works like carbon paper but th
Art Advice #7: How to Ask for + Provide Critique
Critique - if asked for and provided correctly - can be beneficial and doesn't have to hurt. Here, we'll talk about some things to keep in mind when asking for as well as when providing critique.
I.    For both the artist and the critiquer - Opening notes
II.   For the artist requesting critique / improvement help
III.  For the person providing critique
IV.   Closing remarks
DeviantArt is a great platform for interacting with other artists and growing your skills, as well as helping others do the same. Critiques may be exchanged in many ways: in a forum or journal post, in the normal deviation comments, via private Note, or even via chat. Be aware that if you don't have a Core Membership, you can still ask for critique - just say so in your deviation description or make a post about it! :)
It's important, however, to rememb
Art Advice Issue #5 - How to Find your Own Style
By far the most common concern I see people on DA mention is, "I wish I had my own style / How can I get my own style?" Hardly a week goes by when I don't see different people saying this. Because of this, I decided to write this article with some tips people may find useful, when searching for a style to call their own. This is what I did, ten years ago, when I was trying to find my own manga style; and I've mentioned this method to some other people and they found it informative and useful as well, so I'm sharing it with you all.
The first part of this article will talk about what is included in what we call "style" (did you know personal style is also found in realism?) and the reasons behind common stylizations (as commonly seen in anime and manga).
The second part talks about how an artist arrives at his or her style, and describes a method you can use if you don't want to wait for your style to surface organically ... in other words, if you wan
Tips for Photographing Traditional Artwork
A more advanced expansion on my "Basic Tips" article, Basic Tips to Make your Art Look Better. First, let us recap on those basics:
Make sure your picture is laid out flat, either lying flat on your desk or attached to a wall. Minimize wrinkles. Set your camera perpendicular (at a 90-degree angle) to your picture. You can use the paper or the canvas' edges as guides against your camera's display to align the picture properly.Unless you have a DSLR with an adjustable flash and are well versed in flash photography, do not use a flash.Take the photo in a well-lit area.
This probably doesn't work if you use a phone camera, but if you use a regular camera and your hands aren't steady enough, set your camera on a pile of book (or use a tripod if you have one) to keep it steady, and use the timer to take the phot
Basic Tips to Make your Art Look Better
This month's article is a two-parter; one with basic presentation tips for different media, and one with more advanced suggestions for photographing traditional art. For the more advanced article, see here: Tips for Photographing Traditional Artwork
This part s super basic and requires no skill whatsoever, but for people who do this, it REALLY helps your art look better, when displaying online, and minimizes rejections from Groups.

:new:UPDATE Jan. 2022: This section used to advise against using intrusive watermarks, providing examples as to why they make your piece less attractive, and offered more aesthetic alternatives. However, given the recent mass-scale wave of theft the art community is currently undergoing, I feel I can no longer advise against intrusive watermarks. Thieves have brought us to this. Do what you must.
Art Advice Issue #3 - Advancing in Art: The 3 Ps
For people who are new at art, or new at a different medium.
Keeping what I call "the three Ps" in mind will help you power through and not quit before you've reached your goal.
It sounds cliché, but practicing is necessary; not just for art, but for everything. Much like athletes spend years in the youth levels, learning the skills, before they can become professionals... and then even when they're pros, they go to training every day, to hone their skills. Just like they do, so, too, must an artist practice.
Footballer fella (Sports) Da Vinci Fella (Artists)  
Practice can be anything. It doesn't mean you must shade so many spheres before you can-- no! You can shake it up! You practice and hone your skills with every drawing you make. You can practice drawing your OCs, your pet, your favorite piece of decoration in your house. Practice with s
Art Advice #2 - How to Have a Positive Outlook
When doing art, we know what we want something to look like. When it doesn't turn out the way we want it to, it's easy to fall into the trap of feeling discouraged. But don't!!
:bulletyellow: First, if it gives you some consolation, know the fact that everyone screws up sometimes, even professionals. People just tend to not show their screw-ups, so it's easy to make the false assumption that everything they do is wonderful and they never mess up. Just because you didn't see it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Mistakes and product the artist doesn't like happen to everyone at all levels. It's completely normal!
:bulletyellow: Change your outlook about mistakes. When we draw something that doesn't come out how we intended it, keeping these two things in mind will help you move forward:Every time something doesn't come out "right," we get one step closer to getting to the point where it does come out just the w
Don't Let Anyone Make you Feel Bad About your Art

I see so many people with destructive rather than constructive comments on people's art or even general styles of art. In my [previous journal entry], I mentioned how, if you're doing art for your own enjoyment, the only person your art has to please is yourself, and I mentioned about people having different artistic visions.  Since my return to DA, I have seen many people being made to feel insecure about their art. Here's a very old anecdote that I'm using just for illustrative purposes here, and hopefully it will inspire you to not give up...
Back when I was in elementary school, I'd made this little painting for art class (the assignment was to paint whatever we wanted) and was insanely proud of it, thought it was

 You can always find a direct link to these articles in the "Art Motivation Corner" widget on the bottom right corner of my profile page.

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byebyeocean's avatar

This is very helpful and informative! Thank you for sharing!