We’ve all been there – staring at the blank page with no idea of where to start, what to draw, how to get inspired. Developing creativity and sparking it when it is lost is an important ability to cultivate.
You have probably heard of creative block. The phenomenon is often discussed in the creative groups on social media and there are whole books on the topic. And it happens when we least expect it…
The suggestions to overcome creative block are as varied as the people offering them. And they range from the practical ‘just do it’ to the ‘get away from it’ suggestions and they all work to some extent, the trick here is to find the right mix for you.
While it is a profession for many creative people, many artists create just for the joy the work. In “A Deep Breath of Life,” Alan Cohen writes “…countless creative artists agree that even if no one else ever read their books, or listened to their music, all of their efforts would be worth the sheer joy of producing the work.” This goes for the visual artist as well.
Finding your creative spark can be achieved in numerous ways. I am intrigued by the thought of ideas as tangible things, formed while reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.” She writes “ideas are constantly trying to get our attention. Let them know you’re available.”
Here are some of my favorites exercises plus a few of the resources that have inspired my own creative journey. Some I have developed over time and others have only been added to my creative toolbox.
Creative Exercises For Designers
Design is the art of Balance! Design differs from art in that it has a purpose. Simply find a problem to solve and work through several solutions. Pick the best and make it presentable for your fictional client.
The first time I used this exercise, I actually picked a local charity event that happened every year. Not expecting anything to come of it, I offered the designs to the organization and they used one of the ideas! Later, that same charity paid me for more design work.
David Sherwin’s writes in Creative Workshop “you’ll never have enough time to work on a paid client project.”
He adds to the 80 design challenges in his book with time limits and additional ideas to challenge your creativity and design skills even further.
Two of my favorites exercises are Chapter 2: Design a type face from elements in the world around you; and
Chapter 6: Mr. Blue, design the cover of a magazine devoted to things with the idea of blue.
My dummy company is ‘Encore Blues’ and is focused on being ecologically focused and living environmentally consciously.
These 2 challenges and many others in the book are not only stretching your creativity but can be revisited and adjusted numerous times to lead you in new directions.
Another way to spark creativity or develop it comes from a college graphic design class, the assignment is to choose any advertisement that could use improvement and re-design it with predominately text.
Re-do the ad again, with the picture as the predominate focus (photo or graphics) and once more a third design with the focus on white space.
Another way to stretch your creative design muscles is to re-design a print ad into 3 sizes each made for different uses on the internet and social media.
I did not start with an ad on this one, but the image above is a Facebook cover (top), a Instagram square (left) and a web ad (right) all imagined for Encore Blues.
Exercises For Visual Artists
This next idea is compliments of Thomas Benner’s Facebook group Adobe Creative Cloud Users. The post featured software engineer & artist Eric Geusz’s work.
Eric turns everyday objects into spaceships. You can see Eric’s work in this link to the Bored Panda article.
One comment under this post was from a teacher, saying it would be a good assignment for his art classes… so put your own twist on a art project using found objects.
Social media Challenges
The ideas are flying around on social media platforms, from blog content calendars to photographic and artistic themes. From suggestions for art prompts, exercises and themes challenges are available in 30 days and 52 week time-frames.
Start at LKArts on Pinterest, try these boards: creative sparks: prompts; photo tips & tricks and in social media to find collections of challenges. I’ve found they are somewhat interchangeable and can often help to keep you engaged with a list of objectives.
But that’s just the start… you can and should make your own challenges! You set the goal, the time frame and the parameters.
The goal can be the number of images or pages, in a selected time frame, and then add a few targeted details. Then expand on the original prompt if the motivation strikes
At the Mindful Arts Studio’s blog post “100 Ways To Fill Your Sketchbook” she starts with the parameters of two pages and expands them until she fills a whole sketch book.
Pink Sparks Studio’s blog post “10-ways-to-start-an-art-journal” suggests “Art Every Day” and to support this goal, she recommends a art journal along with multiple ways to get started with loose backgrounds like a collage of torn paper, hidden writing, or making your own stamps.
Consider developing creativity by choosing to work in a different medium or combining two techniques. This idea can work for any of the visual arts: photography, sketch, draw, paint; even digital artwork.
Give yourself some sort of accountability, a person, group or even on a social media platform. This step will help with staying on task.
This list of ideas are often mentioned in the social media challenges.
• People: Self Portrait, Eyes, Hands, Silhouette
• Objects: Clothing, Technology, Close-Up
• Nature: Clouds, Sunset, Animals, Flowers, Seashells, Waves, Trees, Rocks
• Color: Pick one! Green, Blue, Yellow, Black & White
• Places: Farmer’s Market, Playground, Carnival, Street Fair, Parks and Nature Trails
From a Pinterest search comes the Artwork Archive’s blog post “20 Artistic Prompts to Get You Through a Creative Slump”
Two that I use regularly are:
# 9. Practice continuous line drawings where your pencil can’t leave the paper while you draw. Some of my favorite doodles are often done in this fashion.
#18. Go for a walk and photograph ten random things, then choose one to illustrate. For me, this one combines things I do regularly, taking pictures as I walk and using those pictures in my art.
For a different kind of inspiration sign up for our email list and get The A to Z Guide of Ways to Stay Creative. A collection of often suggested words and phrases that are tried and true, combined with images that we hope support the ideas!