How to Unblock Creativity

Miniature Art

Most artists, I’d bet, have had some sort of creative block at one time or another. There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank canvas with no ideas. Sometimes we look at the work of other artists to motivate us. I’ve spent hours looking at artwork as well as photographs with little or no inspiration. At these times I go back to what my art teacher, Cindy Wider taught, make little quick 10cm x 8cm sketches of whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I start with a lead in line for a landscape, start a horizon line, a moody sky, a river, a road, a building – you get the idea. Doodling is a better word for it; however, there are other ways.

In addition to little pencil sketches there are several other ways to clear that block:

  • I love to use willow charcoal to quickly test out a layout before actually painting anything. Unlike pencil sketches which are usually very basic charcoal can create a rich artwork that can stand on its own.
  • One artist, (I don’t remember who) makes shapes with paint on the canvas and waits for the basic shapes to inspire a painting. That could work.
  • The one that seems most popular today is to do timed mini paintings by allowing yourself 20 or so minutes to complete the art. This generally won’t work for me because the minute the timer goes on I get panicked which blocks any creativity.
  • However, forget the timer and just cut a small piece of mixed media paper into a size of 4″x6″ or 5″x7″ and start painting–the only decision is still-life, portrait or landscape. The size makes it easy to finish in one session and if it doesn’t work out then start another even abandoning it before completion. There is little time invested and so it can easily be written off as a bad experiment. Often times though it yields a nice little gem that can be framed and sold as a miniature or can be used as a greeting card.

So what’s your favorite way to unblock?

Here are a couple of mini paintings that each took about two to three hours.


4 x 6 inch acrylic painting of a farm with hills behind house and barn

4 x 6 inch acrylic painting

winter sunrise

4×6 inch acrylic painting

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