Have you ever sat down to put in your art-making time for the day and felt like this?
(There is a Xena GIF for everything, I swear to God. One of these days I'm going to write a blog and use solely Xena GIFs and it's going to be amazing. Long live Lucy Lawless!)
I used to feel this way ALL the time and I still do every now and then. My number one way to avoid this feeling?
1. Get a pocket-sized notebook and jot your ideas in it
This has completely changed my life and I'm betting it will change yours, too! Here's mine:
It's just a pocket-sized lined moleskin notebook. I'd prefer one unlined for doodled notes, however I lost my last one and this was the only kind they had at the airport when I was stuck there for seven hours last month. Hah. Yours doesn't have to be this exact kind. It can be any kind! Heck, go all out and make your own, teeny bound notebook! (I might need to try this...)
2. Nothing is off limits in your idea book
I jot everything down in mine. Quotes I like. Something that happened to me that day. A book I read and really enjoyed. My own story ideas. A comic that I got hooked on in Webtoons on a weeknight and stayed up way too late binge reading. (Or, more likely, an epic length fanfiction story. Xena and Gabby 4eva. )
Nothing is off limits with your idea book. No idea is a bad idea because coming up with ideas leads to more ideas. AND, just because it's in your notebook doesn't mean you have to do anything about it. Sure, you'll have gems here and there that you can run with and turn into something, but you might also have things in there that might have just been a random thought. It was in your brain for a second and then it was gone. That's ok! A thought now, might turn into a beautiful piece of art ten years from now. Write it down!
If you're like me, maybe you have a hang up about keeping notebooks pristine. There's nothing quite like cracking open a brand new notebook or sketchbook and seeing that perfect first sheet of paper. I look at a blank sheet of paper and I see potential. What it could be. If I make marks on it, could is over, it now is something and what if I don't like that something? Then, I ruined it.
Get past this. It took me a long, long time to get past this. This is what I did:
1. Have a sketchbook that you touch for your explorations. These aren't full out art works. They're figure drawings. Watercolor sketches. Inking practice exercises. Whatever skill set you're developing, that's what will be in your sketchbook. Not to say that you won't have work in there that could qualify as finished work. You will on occasion. But, the vast majority of your work in your sketchbook will be practice.
2. Buy a "special" canvas or paper or whatever for your finished, polished work. I prefer 11x14" Fabriano Artistico 300 Pound cold press watercolor paper. It took me a long time to figure it out. Figure out what works for you.
3. Have a party in your idea book. With the above two outlets, I find it much easier to make marks more freely in my idea book. Try it, see if it works for you, too.
If I'm ever drawing a blank when I sit down in my workspace, I just whip out my handy dandy little book and flip through it to see if something sparks my interest for further exploration.
3. Go outside, be in nature.
Even if you're not an outdoorsman, try it. I'm not saying you need to go on a month long expedition or even tent camp in your backyard for one night. Go to the local park and take a walk. Take a walk around your block. Sit in your yard or on your porch and close your eyes and just listen to your other five senses. Or, heck, go camping, go hiking. Just get outside and start noticing things.
I mentioned in last week's blog that I love the negative spaces between the branches of trees.
How does the time of day and the weather affect the light outside? What kind of atmosphere does that create? What does snow look like on a leaf up close? What do the fall leaves sound like when you walk on them?
What things in nature move you to awe, to fear, to gratitude? Ask yourself. Then write it down in your idea book.
4. Look to your favorite stories for inspiration
Listen, I know everyone hates on fanart. Plagiarism is never ok. I know that there are lots of artists out there who create fanart and profit from it. There is some really gorgeous fanart out there. For me, I prefer to play it safe. If I create fanart, I don't sell it and I, now, typically keep it to myself.
There are fandoms that really move me. DragonAge is a prime example. (Speaking of which, the teaser trailer for DA4 has dropped. OMG!)
I own every DragonAge game art and lore book available and you better believe that I know them cover to cover. In fact, I'm not entirely convinced that Matt Rhodes isn't a mage of some kind in his own right. When I'm feeling stuck, I flip through these books, or I go down the internet rabbit hole of DA fanart until something strikes me.
Or, there are certain tropes that always get me. For example, the hooded, mysterious beauty. I really can't resist it. Almost ever.
They're everywhere. Seriously. Here's mine.
Or, alternatively, push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you are always drawing faces, try drawing a landscape. This is a good opportunity to explore your art fears.
Equip yourself with an idea book and conquer artist's block!
Reach out to me on Instagram at @msrmcgaughey with your art-related questions!