Artist's Block - Chris Hart

I don’t care who you are, or how well you draw, one of these days, the Art Block Fairy is going to pay you a little visit. When that day comes, ideas will be scarcer than possums driving pickup trucks. Despite the randomness of that metaphor, how you handle artist’s block will decide when you’ll get those creative juices flowing again.

Some of you will decide to pause and have a snack. I can tell you from experience that this doesn’t do much to kick-start the imagination. When that doesn’t work, there’s always the option of getting a second snack. But eventually, you’ll get too frustrated and too full to keep doing that. There’s got to be another solution.

So you decide to follow the prevailing wisdom, which is to go for a walk to refresh yourself, in the hopes that inspiration might return. The walk is pleasant, but almost mythical in its fecklessness. If walks worked, the beach would be teaming with cartoonists and writers.

Watch TV? Won’t help. Do a chore you’ve been putting off? Gawd no. I can’t stand to see you suffering like this, so I’m going to tell you the little secret, which is totally counter intuitive.

Here we go:

The problem with the popular wisdom about taking a break is that it removes you from the “productive” mode and puts you in a “reflective” mode, which I also refer to as the “What’s the meaning of it all” time waster mode.

Think about it. You go for a walk along the water, with plans to return to work rejuvenated. Who the heck wants to return to work after a walk on the beach anyway? The key is to stay in the “productive” mode, but to switch the material you’ve been working on. While it’s true that you need to put some distance between you and the drawing that’s been giving you fits, you don’t have to take a mini-sabbatical in order to do it.

This is what I recommend: Keep drawing. But switch subjects. Draw something you’re enthusiastic about, for example, a personal project, or something that you haven’t had time to complete, or maybe a picture of a possum driving a pickup truck. Lose yourself for an hour or more.

Now you can transfer your rejuvenated creativity back on the drawing that’s been disobeying your efforts so brazenly. And because you didn’t take a break to wind down, you don’t need to waste any time winding up. You’re ready to go.

But here’s the last hint: when you return to the original drawing, attack it from a different angle. In other words, to get fresh perspective, draw from a different perspective. So if it was a side view, try drawing that character in a ¾ view. If it was a full shot, try drawing the character in a medium shot.

And don’t be surprised if you get the drawing right this time, on your first try back. Let me know how it works for you!

Your Cartooning Sherpa,

Chris Hart