Breaking Your Post-Finals Creative Rut

The stress and pressure from finals can ruin your creative drive.  Holed up in your room for weeks with little stimulus besides Netflicks, pulling all nighters to finish up, by the time your finals are over, you are tapped.  Unfortunately, your break from classes is your chance to draw for yourself, and creative block can be frustrating.  Here's a short list of things I turn to when I can't get the graphite going:

1. Draw from reference

Drawing from reference removes the creative pressure, but keeps your hand moving and has the potential to improve your skill.  The more you draw from reference, the larger your frame of reference is, and the more you can draw accurately from your imagination.

2. Go out and sketch from life

This isn't the same as drawing from reference, as drawing from reference implies that you've looked something up.  Drawing from life gets you out of the apartment, and provides a variety of stimuli.  You can sketch at a coffee shop, at a park, or just outside on your stoop.  Change your environment, and you've increased your chances of inspiration striking.

3. Remove the need to be 'good', and just put marks on the paper

Finals puts a lot of pressure on you to produce 'good' work, and that can be daunting.  Just draw for the pleasure of it.  You probably haven't done that for awhile.  Doodle while on the phone, while watching TV.

4. Work on a personal project

I'm sure you've had plenty of interesting ideas squirreled away in your sketchbook, things that had potential but you didn't have time to pursue during the semester.  Now's the time to dust them off and make a project of it.  Some people are most creative when there's problems to be solved, and by giving yourself a project, you're going to be seeking solutions.

5. Brainstorm

Even if you don't have ideas, you can  brainstorm.  What do you like?  What do you dislike?  What do you enjoy drawing?  What do you need to work on?

6. Read a book of short stories in a new genre

Creativity is all about new stimuli, and if you give your brain something novel to chew over, new ideas are going to spew forth.

7. Get some exercise

Your legs could probably use a little stretching after those long stretches of sitting still at your drafting table.  Exercise increases oxygen intake and blood flow, two things that're good for your brain.

8. Don't worry about your creativity, focus on your craft

By improving your art skill wise, you'll be ready to draw that great story when it comes around.

9. Read art instructional books

This goes hand in hand with number 8.  Improving the basics will increase your confidence, and you'll be willing to tackle harder subjects.

10. Go to a museum

I bet you haven't done that for awhile, especially if you're in the Sequential Arts, where our kind of art rarely gets showcased.  Go with an open mind and a sketchbook, and take notes.  Observe color and composition.  Sketch the sculptures.  Write down names and research artists who inspire you when you get home.

11. Watch people work on Livestream and Youtube

Sometimes the reason you're blocked is that your process stifles you.  Watching other people work can introduce you to exciting new methods, or shortcuts you may not have known about.

12. Work in a medium you're unfamiliar with

Don't try to be good.  Just try to learn the medium.  If you like watercolors, try gouache.  If you like markers, try watercolors.  Try to pick a medium that's similiar to one you already know, and is cost effective, or utilize tools you already have in a new way.

13. Work with no goals

Just noodle around with your materials.  Try to learn a new technique with old tools.

14. Work without the intention of showing others

For many artists who post on the internet, there is an intention that everything they make eventually ends up online.  Remove that intention, and draw for yourself.

15. Make something personal

This goes hand in hand with number 14, and it allows you to artistically work through some of your issues.  When my father passed away, I spent that weekend cranking out work, because it allowed me to focus without getting sucked in to depression.  Now might be the time to get a creative grip on what's bothering you.

16. Read comics in a genre you wouldn't generally read

It's all about broadening your horizons.

18. Read comics with the intention of making their techniques your own

Particularly if you're reading comics that fit under number 16.  A new genre often introduces new techniques, new layouts, new compositions, that you could use to freshen up your work.

19. Research an artist outside your field

Illustrators have a lot to offer sequential artists, sequential artists have a lot to offer children's book illustrators.  Seek outside your field for new ideas during the break.

Here's some great advice from a woman who knows her stuff.

Still can't get in the mood?  How about some mind-hacks via lifehacker?
Recalibrating Your Reality


  1. This list went beyond the obvious like so many generic HOW-TO self-help lists tend to.

    Please use header forms for such a long bulleted list.


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