Just One of Those Days, Confronting Artist’s Block

Have you had one of those days, where you feel like you can’t draw or paint your way out of a paper bag? Some days nothing you do works and you feel like you’ve never picked up a paint brush before in your life. Welcome to the world of artist’s block. Never fear, this is completely normal.

Recently in one of my classes, a student talked to me about how great it must be to always create great work. She said to me, “Everything you do turns out. That would be so fun to just do everything good the first time, and not always make mistakes. I want to be like you.”

Be careful what you wish for. The truth is, a lot of my work goes into the trash and I get artist’s block all the time.


This is a painting I managed to mess up. Who knows if I can get it back to this.

Admittedly, some days, I feel like I can outshine the Great Masters. Every stroke I make is magical and every artistic move I make feels great. Yet, on other days, I feel as though I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life. I make mistakes. I take a piece that did look awesome and completely muck it up.

Currently, I’m doing damage control on this painting (see right) I once loved, but I screwed it up. I am so frustrated over this once loved painting, I could just cry. My own battle with artist’s block has ruined a piece I loved. If you have ever felt like this, you are not alone.

Being an artist means you are likely a little:

  1. Moody – Artists are sensitive creatures. Our moods swing like a pendulum, from one extreme to the next. The energy from that pendulum drives us. I get particularly moody about my art. One day I absolutely must work in acrylic. The next day, I’m in the mood for graphite. One day I have to create flowers and yet the next, if I don’t draw an animal, I’ll burst. Sure, this pendulum swinging can drive one to distraction, but it also feeds our creative energy.
  2. Creative – Our artistic minds are constantly creating new visions. I love looking through the thousands of reference photos I have. It is an exhilarating feeling to look through images and get beautiful new ideas. This feeling makes me love my life.
  3. Obsessive Perfectionists – When we create, we want it to be perfect, We’ll toil forever to make the piece just right. I never quit until I’m totally satisfied with a work. Others may think it looks good, but if I know it can look better, I keep going. I will prevail over this painting (see above) I am struggling with; I am now obsessed with it.
  4. Critical – As an artist, we have a specific vision of how we want something to look. If the work deviates from our vision, we feel it’s a failure. If we can’t correct it, we trash it. My students will attest, I have taken my own works off the wall that I feel are subpar, and tear them to shreds.

I’m particularly critical of my watercolor and I usually throw three out of four of my watercolor works away. Any piece realizes the same fate, the garbage, if it’s less than what I envisioned for that piece. Yes, it’s frustrating, but such is the artist’s life.

Let’s cut to the moral of the story. Every artist gets artist’s block. Mistakes are your friend; learn from each mistake. All of the frustrating attempts keep us striving toward better artistic technique. If you just quit without working through the artist’s block, perhaps you aren’t as dedicated to your art as you thought. A driven artist will never give up.

I teach through demonstrations, but first I let students struggle a bit because they learn the most through struggling. Remember, when you’re struggling, you are normal. If you are an artist that will suffer for your craft, you will be better and more accomplished.

If you have one of those days and you experience artist’s block, just take a break. I always regret messing up a piece when I know I’m not operating at my 100%. Go do something else for the day with the attitude that you will be better when you return.

lee-hammondNever give up!




Edited by Meghan Norton, eMedia Production Coordinator, ArtistsNetwork.com

Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

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