Creatives of all types often find themselves in the dreaded creative block, and digital artists are no exception. The blank page for this kind of artist is even glowing, all those bright photons hitting their eyes overwhelming them with possibilities, so much so that all ends up equaling to nothing…
That’s why so many start with a grey background, a way to fight this feeling. But sometimes you find yourself in this position and a grey or colored background is just not enough. You’re itching to make something, but nothing seems to make sense. The pressure to make that masterpiece is pounding in your head.
Don’t despair. This happens to all of us.
First of all, we need to get into the right frame of mind. If you feel anything like I described, you need to decompress that pressure. This seems obvious and simple, but it’s key. If you go back and revise your works, you may reckon your best ones are those you either had enjoyed making the most or didn’t expect too much from them in the beginning. This tells us something very important: pressure kills creativity and execution. When you’re tense, it shows in your strokes (if you paint or draw). You get tunnel vision and you’re more prone to make mistakes. You need to chill, if you want to get out of this state.
To make this easier, we need to shift the focus, the goal. It’s not a piece of art we will make. It’s a practice piece, a challenge, an exercise, a sketchbook doodle. Once we’re there, I have five ideas that might help you start. You may even find something you hadn't thought of before. This, in turn, may lead you to a broader artistic spectrum. Here they are:
1 | Try new and strange brushes
If you paint digitally and have your set of preferred brushes, try something different. Radically different. For instance, try brushes that are used for stamps, but as brushes to make strokes. Or brushes that have crazy settings.
If you make other types of digital art, try to replace your main tool with something very different. Whatever your type of art, you’ll find tons of resources online.
2 | Try a different kind of software
If you paint, try sculpting, or 3D modeling, or rendering already made models, or vectors, etc. If you make 3D models, try painting. Or fractals. Whatever you do, try something as far from your current workflow as possible. Remember, this is an exercise. The goal here is just to give your brain other muscles to flex. Just have fun or be curious about it. There’s no need for anything to come out of it on screen. The process is the goal here.
3 | Start with an abstract image or texture
This is not only a great way to avoid the white background feeling, but it can also be fun and help train your mind’s eye to search for visual information where there seems to be none.
Choose an image that’s preferably abstract and with lots of noise, like a close-up texture or something like that. Stare at it for a while. You can even turn it upside down, flip it and rotate it. Soon enough, you’ll start recognizing something in it. Paint or draw over it.
Here you have an example of a picture of a tile from an old building, that it’s digitally painted on. Even in this one, there are many more things to recognize other than what was painted.
If you want free texture images, you can get some fresh sites here.
4 | Abstract a photo
Select a photo you like to use as reference. Try and recognize what elements you like about it, like colors, composition, shapes, etc. Squint your eyes and look at it again.
Use those elements to make a new artwork. Don’t get caught up in copying the reference. Keep the concept of abstract in mind and use it to pick some elements you find interesting. You can go as far as you want with this. This is just to break the ice and use your mind in a different way!
5 | Play a random image inspiration challenge
You can design your own challenge, but this is one I created and helps me when I’m overwhelmed with choices. Pick a random number. If I don’t have dice, I usually use the hour of the day I’m currently at, like 5 PM.
Go to one of the websites you use for inspiration: it can be Pinterest, Instagram, or a digital art community like Renderosity. Use the random number to pick the image corresponding to it.
In this case, the fifth image that appears will be the one I’ll use. Use it as inspiration, almost like in the previous idea, but what you make doesn’t have to be abstract. It can be anything. It can be the whole image, as a study. It can be the colors, for a completely different subject. It can be an interesting texture.
The challenge is whatever the image is you have to find something (or things) for you to use in your practice piece.
Many times, we decide to get “arting” while cold. Our minds synapses work a bit like muscles, too, so we need to warm it up. I hope you find these helpful to relieve the pressure and even get some new perspectives for your creative endeavors!
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina. Learn more about Barbara and her work at the following links:
Barbara Din YouTube Channel