How To Break Through Artist’s Block

As an artist, I never have any idea what I want to draw. I think about what I want to draw so much that I overwhelm my mind and hibernate on my couch binge-watching Netflix instead.

Working as the Graphics Coordinator at Threadless, I see every piece of art that comes in to us and eventually goes out into the world. It’s inspiring to my personal career to see the crazy insane talent behind some of the submissions, but I have to admit that sometimes I also feel a little discouraged wondering if I can ever be that good. But, I’ve slowly learned to not let that get into my head as much.

When it comes to breaking that creative block, drawing for myself is the first step I take. I find myself feeling the most motivated and inspired when I really tie my personal likings into my art. Not only is it a nice break from my typical freelance work drawing logos and whatnot, but it also voids any connotation of ‘work’ from the process.

I start by thinking of things I actually want to draw. For example, I developed a whole series just from thinking about two things I love: pizza and horror movies. I challenged myself to mitigate the scariness of horror characters with pizza. The series gained a lot of traction, to the point where people contacted me about purchasing pieces, and I had three of them featured in a local Chicago art gallery. The best part of the series for me was going home every day looking forward to drawing and coming up with the next character. The flow of creativity became endless when I was able to mitigate all the pressures of trying to make something cool by just having fun.

Pieces from my “Pizza + Horror Movies” series

My next best practice for getting out of creative ruts is collaboration. As an avid lover of Instagram, I wanted to incorporate my drawings into photography. I started a series called ReMixed Media, where I used photos taken by people on Instagram and drew on top of them.

One of my first collaborations with my friend Ed Gilardon for my ReMixed Media series

It’s become a super fun project, and it’s always a challenge to balance the drawing and photography into a cohesive piece. This series has really opened up more channels in my creative space because I’m constantly thinking how I can transform more photos with my drawings. I stare at manholes on the street wondering how I can draw a Ninja Turtle on it, or at Chicago’s recent snowfall to see if there’s somewhere I can draw Elsa from Frozen. I believe that finding what you really like and want to draw keeps your brain constantly thinking creatively.

Additional work from my ReMixed Media series

My final practice is quite simply to draw every day. As basic as that sounds, getting into the practice of practicing is the foundation for everything. Draw on a napkin, post-it note, table – wherever you can. I carry around a pencil or pen everywhere so I have no excuses. Much like exercise, you have to train yourself and your brain to get into habit of thinking creatively.

It doesn’t matter what you draw or create, just be sure to make something every day!

Artist’s block is super frustrating, and happens to everyone. But I promise, if you try drawing things you love, collaborating with others, and drawing at least once a day, it will pass. Plus, you never know when something as silly as pizza or drawing cartoons on photos might build into something bigger than you expected, and resonate with people everywhere. Remember: Inspiration is everywhere!

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Jeff Guerrero

Graphics Coordinator @ Threadless. I put bacon on everything.