Overcoming Artist Blocks: Find Inspiration in Nature

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by artist blocks?

It may seem like it’s for lack of ideas, but ideas are literally all around us. Look left: Idea. Look right: Idea!

I have a theory that artist’s blocks are more about a fear of not coming up with the BEST ideas than lacking ideas altogether.

If we think we don’t have the best idea, we may convince ourselves that it’s easier to say we have NO ideas than it is to just start making.

Here’s a thought: There is no best idea, there’s just doing.

An Exercise for Overcoming Artist Blocks

Today I have a simple exercise for us to try, which helps me break through an artist’s block, and it also gets me outside, so it’s a nice two-for-the-price-of-one.

Find Inspiration in Nature

First, you need to get out in nature or take time in your day to observe nature.

Go out on a walk or keep our phone handy for when you notice something inspiring in the natural world.

This could be anything: the bark of a tree, a sunset, the shape of a puddle, a flower blooming, the texture of fresh soil, etc.

Pay attention to what lights you up and causes you to take notice!

When you see something, consider why you like it.

Is it the color, texture, composition, scale, contrast, etc.?

Next, take a photo. Take a bunch of photos. Don’t edit yourself, just gather ideas.

Oh, I see where this is going. Now we have some ideas! 😉

When you’re back at your art journal or sketchbook, scroll through your nature photo library and pick a photo to inspire your next piece of art.

Then, bring out any art supplies you enjoy or have been curious to play with. Draw, paint, or otherwise create a response to the photo.

Set an Intention

Very important!

Set yourself an intention to play, have fun, and capture something about the essence of what you see.

Going back to what you admired about this thing in the first place: maybe it’s the color, texture, shape, contrast, etc.

Do not set a goal of perfection or let yourself get stuck on a perfect recreation of the thing.

It’s the playing, fun, and the essence that are important.

You’re making your own unique marks, afterall, and your style is what sets you apart and keeps the art enjoyable.

6 Easy Steps for Overcoming Artist’s Blocks with Nature

  1. Go outside
  2. Look for things in the natural world that inspire you
  3. Take photos
  4. Back at your studio, choose a photo for inspiration
  5. Set an intention to play and have fun
  6. Recreate the essence of what you see

An Example of How Nature Can Crush Artist’s Blocks

These are some of the things I noticed this week as I walked the dog, walked to meetings, and generally moved about my days:

  • the texture of bark
  • the sun pouring through maple leaves to illuminate their bright redness
  • pop-up California poppies that volunteered around a fire hydrant
  • the foggy layers of mountains and clouds behind Stanford’s main quad.
overcome artist block inspiration nature

I settled in on one of these photos…

Then I thought about what lit me up when I took it. In this case it was layers of the tree line in the background, followed by rolling green hill, dark blue-grey mountain, and light-grey fluffy clouds.

This is what I would attempt to create.

Given that it’s wispy and layered, I thought watercolor would be a fun medium to play with.

Let me just say that I’m usually an acrylic paint gal, and watercolor is not a my medium of choice. So I had to tell myself that this was all about play, not about perfection, and I would see what happened.

I hunted through my brushes and thought a fluffy hake brush would help me create a wash for the background layer. I’ve had this brush since college, and so it’s marked up with my name to tell it apart from everyone else’s brushes. Ah, memories!

watercolor background landscape art journal

When that dried I went back in with a couple more layers to add more details.

Keeping in mind, this has very little semblance to the original photo.

However, this is exactly what we’re after here: The photo gave me an IDEA, and that got me PAINTING, and minutes later the page was no longer BLANK!

Yay! No more artist block 🙂

Altogether I gave this about 20 minutes, and can more to it at a later point if I’d like.

There’s more!

Try this out and you’ll also get the bonus of spending more time outdoors, noticing things around you, and building appreciation for the natural world.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Still feeling stuck? Download a free set of Art Prompt Cards for 16 unique ways to add creativity to your art journal, sketchbook, or next art session.

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