Student story

Tips: What Do You Do When You Hit a Wall?


#MondayMotivation comes from Sketchbook Skool students who answered this burning question: What do you do when you hit a wall? When you feel like a drawing isn’t working, or you can’t even get yourself to draw in the first place, how do you get past that and sketching again? It’s a question that made Sketchbook Skool co-founder Danny Gregory write Art Before Breakfast: The Workbook, and it’s something every single one of our fakulty members has faced. They’ve given their tips in SBS klasses; now it’s time to hear from students themselves how they get past procrastination.

I try to draw my way out of it by just drawing what’s in front of me (coffee cup, keys, etc,) until something gels. –Jo Harris

I’ve found doodling helps—taking a line for a walk, making a squiggle or dripping some paint and turning the blobs into people or monsters or animals. Anything silly, meaningless and disposable.‬ –Andrea England

Can’t finish a sketch? Close the sketchbook and come back to it on another day. Allow yourself to rest and get centered again. Every day, look at the work of a variety of artists and see how they handled creative problems in their drawings. See what made their drawings fun and exciting to look at. Try copying some in your sketchbook, and learn from these artists. If one of your sketches is just wrong, paint over it with gesso and try doing the drawing/painting in another way. If you don’t have anything to draw, go somewhere (for a walk, to a coffee shop, store, museum, etc.) and find something that piques your interest (people, objects, landscape, building, fun signs, window reflections…) and draw it. Draw it lots of different ways. Draw it quickly or blind (without looking at the paper) or with a fat marker. The more you play, the more creative you will be! No perfect drawings, just lots and lots of marks and lines and scribbles‬. –Ann Sinarski

When I feel like something is going disastrously wrong, I just keep going. I figure I can always paint over it, so there’s nothing to lose. I try to enjoy the process more than worrying about the finished product. I also remember that pretty much all artwork goes through an ugly stage (and possibly several ugly stages!), but if I keep going it seems to somehow sort itself out. One lousy drawing stops looking lousy when it is part of something bigger. I remember Sketchbook Skool teacher Tommy Kane‘s advice to just keep going once I start. That makes a huge difference.‬ –Helen Wilding

I’m also inspired by Tommy Kane; I force myself to finish a drawing that I am ready to give up on. I just push through by telling myself that I can figure it out. I may also put it away for a short period because I find that when I come back, I can see its positive aspects. If I have trouble starting, I look for inspiration in a book, a blog, a museum, a Sketchbook Skool klass, etc. That gets me excited to create again.‬ –Lenore Vanden Handel

I make colorful washes on blank pages to sketch on later. Or I doodle. I always like making marks on the page, even when I can’t think of “anything” to draw.‬ –Donna Druchunas

So many answers to this question, because there are so many times I’ve hit a wall and I’ve found so many solutions. One is simply to come to the Sketchbook Skool Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest pages and see what other people are doing and find inspiration there. Another is to do what Sketchbook Skool teachers Miguel Herranz, Tommy Kane and others have suggested we do and steal, steal, steal! In other words, if I can’t find any inspiration, don’t know what to draw, am totally blocked, I pull a book by Tommy Kane or Lapin or Andrea Joseph off my shelf and I try to copy one of their amazing drawings. While I haven’t drawn anything original, I learn so much by copying the work of a master. Now I’m so glad for those hours of being blocked. And of course the ultimate solution is to do what SBS teacher Nelleke Verhoeff suggests and take up a longer project. I couldn’t be blocked when I did a 99 faces project because I had 99 faces to draw! And I haven’t been blocked since, because whenever I don’t what to draw I simply go to the Sktchy app. The problem now is breaking that addiction so that I can find the time to draw other things again…‬ –Helen Leigh-Phippard

I just keep going. If the sketch isn’t working, I start a new one. If I’m stuck, and haven’t caused irreversible damage, I take a break, hang it up, and look at it from a distance to get a better perspective on why I’m stuck. If I can’t get started, I play/experiment with new materials, or go on an art play date with myself to a museum, gallery or art supply store.‬ –Celia Caro

I don’t just hit a wall; sometimes I am the wall. But practice, practice, practice—there is no way around that. Doing SBS teacher Michael Nobbs’ 20 Minutes a Day Challenge and continuing it until you finish one project. Then a selfie a day for 30, 60, 90, days. One watercolor a day for 31 days, Inktober, etc. Drawing soon becomes a way of life. Participating in Sketchbook Skool, posting drawings on our Facebook page, remembering what other artists such as Tommy Kane, Koosje Kooene, Danny Gregory, Andrea Joseph, and the others are sharing with us and applying what works helps a lot. Reading the posts in our Facebook group and posting questions and issues helps a lot too. The journey is a blast.‬ –Robert Spinola

What do you do when you hit a creative wall? Tell us in the comments below!

Creative inspiration is always at hand with Sketchbook Skool klasses, which you can take whenever you want. Try a 6-week kourse with people just like you, or work at your own pace with a 30-day workshop. Click here to check them out, and never hit that brick wall again.

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