Ah! The Blank Page. It can be so daunting! Whether your blank page is a sketchbook, an open laptop or a canvas, the “just starting part” can be paralyzing.
I think my biggest fear is that I’ll waste my precious time and materials on something that won’t turn out like I want it to. But, I’ve learned that I just can’t worry about that. Like anything, just the practice of showing up and doing the work is what it takes to transform us into the artists we want to be. But getting motivated to start can be tricky. So, I thought I’d share some simple tips today to help you (and me) when we are staring down at our blank page.
Let’s get started!
Sometimes the best way to start is to have a little bit of fun. So my first tip is:
Make It a Game
In her awesome Skillshare class Sketchbook Magic (highly recommend!), Ria Sharon gives some great ideas:
- Just start scribbling and build on from there.
- Open a book. Do something based on what you see or read.
- Do a contour drawing
- Create something based on lyrics to your favorite song.
I’ll add a few that work for me:
- Go to your backyard and draw or write about the first thing you see.
- Ask the kids! They are always full of great ideas.
- Draw what you ate for breakfast
- Play Art Add-On with the kids (you take turns drawing the same picture). See an example of this in The Art Habit for Moms.
Become a Copy Cat
Just reading that probably made you feel a bit uneasy. We all feel a little nervous about copying others especially when it comes to creative practices. But if you think about it, we are all copying all of the time! I loved this from author and artist Austin Kleon in his book Steal Like An Artist:
“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying. We learn to write by copying down the alphabet. Musicians learn to play by practicing scales. Painters learn to paint by reproducing masterpieces.”
Of course, he’s not talking about plagiarism or blind imitation. He’s talking about inspiration. Whose work do you love? Who do you admire? Start there and try to see the way they see. Try to figure out the thinking behind their style.
Austin Kleon goes on:
“So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.
“In the end, merely imitating your heroes is not flattering them. Transforming their work into something of your own is how you flatter them.”
So you can start figuring out your style by copying.
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Another great way to overcome artist paralysis is to:
I love the Painting a Day concept. I actually did a whole post about my own version of it. I discovered it years ago and I think we can apply it to most mediums. The idea is to do one small (very small) painting a day – mostly every day. Carol Marine is the author of the book Daily Painting which started a whole movement of daily painters. She explains how this concept helped her overcome her creative paralysis:
“Painting small and often gave me the freedom to experiment- every day. I got to start on an entirely new project. No longer did I feel overwhelmed by the large number of things I wanted to paint – I could do them all. If one subject or one style didn’t work out, well, I didn’t sweat it. I had only invested a part of a day’s worth of work on it, after all. My fear of failing disappeared — well, almost. Probably a little fear is good for us. I do know I was no longer making excuses not to paint.”
I’ve tried a version of this with great success. Just in a sketchbook instead of small paintings. I found that my blank page paralysis all but disappeared and I was shocked at what I could create in just minutes every day. And now, I have an awesome collection of sketches!
So make it small and see what happens for you!
I hope these tips have been helpful for you. I try to always remember that I’m not going for perfection. Just progress! Creativity isn’t always easy and it isn’t always fun. When you are working at improving…it’s work! But the work is worth it.
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