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5 Artistic Ways to Get Your Creativity Unstuck

When your creative imagination refuses to flow, help it along.

creative block

Whether you write, photograph, sculpt, or find your muse in some other creative outlet, you may enjoy collecting techniques--and books with fresh strategies—for inviting flow into your day. Here’s a new book that contains 300 lovely images.

Creative Block: Advice and Projects from 50 Successful Artists is by Danielle Krysa, who is a Vancouver-based artist. Her blog is The Jealous Curator.

She conducted 50 interviews with successful artists in various media from across the U.S. and beyond. She asked each how they get into a flow state, that seductive sense that time has stopped and creative ideas are relatively free and easy to access.

For instance, Krysa asked Rachel Denny, a Portland-based fiber artist and sculptor who works with animal forms: “How do you feel when things are truly flowing?” Her response:

It feels like I’ve had about three cups of coffee (minus the jittery, making-you-sweat part) and everything is clear and calm in my mind. I love it when a piece is almost finished, and I can see what I’ve made coming to life.

Another noteworthy quote is this one from the interview with Aris Moore, a multidisciplinary artist who lives in New Hampshire:

It is when I find myself playing more than trying that I find my way out of a block.

Along with each interview is an exercise that works for that artist. Krysa calls them Creative UnBlock Projects. Most could be adapted for any creative person, including writers.


1. Pick an interesting object and, in one sitting, draw/paint/represent it in a minimum of a hundred completely different ways. I used the example of a “ring.” So you start by drawing a diamond ring, then maybe you draw a ring around Saturn, or ring around the rosie, and so on. Things get interesting when you start running out of ideas and are forced to be ridiculous and stop thinking so much! (Martha Rich, a painter in Philadelphia

2. Catalog the contents of your medicine cabinet. Draw, paint, photograph, or collage everything you have, and then make a poster or small book about the objects. (Kate Bingaman-Burt, an illustrator based in Portland

3. For this challenge called “Once Around the Block,” leave your studio to explore the neighborhood, houses, sidewalks, shop windows, and gardens on your block. Take your camera, or sketchbook, and examine banal objects around you, photographing or drawing them. It’s not about the result; it’s about the process. They should present a new side of three or four objects you haven’t paid much attention to before. (Matthias Heiderich, a German photographer

4. Use a cropping tool to find new compositions from an original piece. Enlarge this small portion of the original piece; create a new piece based on the enlarged composition. (Shannon Rankin, paper-cutting/installation

5. Take a trip to a local swap meet or antique store, and rummage through a box of old photographs. Find five of your favorites and then write a paragraph-long short story about each one. Don’t be afraid to be funny or fantastical. (Jen Gotch, a photographer in Los Angeles

Copyright (2014) by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel

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