How to Remove a Creative Block and Get Painting Again!

We’ve all been there, BLOCKED. 

Being blocked is different from being in a rut or just not feeling it today. Let’s clarify what I’m deeming as a BLOCK. This means for weeks, perhaps months and in some cases I’ve heard of years you just can’t bring yourself to create. On those rare cases that you do create during a block it’s apathetic and perhaps even a paint-filled self-deprecating hate fest. Yuck.  

A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a still life painting of white peonies on an antique Japanese lacquered trunk
Unseen Potential, 18″ x 14″, oil on panel

I believe if you’re an artist (even as a hobby) if you’re blocked you’re negatively influencing your entire life. They deplete your joy, art spirit, and confidence. On top of that, they can destroy your financial health, hurt your relationships, and diminish your skills. How can you sell any paintings if you’re not making any? If you’re making apathetic uninspired paintings don’t expect them to sell either. People feel that and they don’t want it.  Ever heard of the phrase if you don’t use it, you lose it? Well, that’s what happens to the skills you’ve worked so hard to build the longer you stay blocked. The relationships you have will definitely suffer when you’re blocked or at least they won’t thrive like they could if you were in flow. When someone is in flow and inspired they just have a joyful presence about them. They’re sharp, excited about possibilities and adaptable. On the other hand, when someone is blocked they are usually sad, angry, jealous, dispassionate. Let’s face it after a while it’s hard to be around that Debbie Downer kind of attitude. 

What are signs of a BLOCK? 

  • If you haven’t actually painted something in weeks you might be blocked. That means hanging out in your studio acting like you’re doing something doesn’t count.
    •  (The caveat to this is if you’ve spent weeks in your favorite place on earth like Paris taking time to feed your creative juices. That’s different. When you come back from that you’re raring to go!)
  • When you do paint you’re not very excited about it. It’s like you’re forcing yourself to do it and going through the motions hoping you’ll get excited once you start, but you feel just as crappy as when you started. In fact, you probably feel worse because you just can’t be pleased and instead of enjoying painting you spent the whole time beating yourself up about how stupid your painting looks or how awful of an artist you are. 
  • You’re not interested in learning, growing, trying new things. You’re not interested in getting new supplies, books, videos or signing up for new art classes. In other words your curiosity and openness is SHUT DOWN. This is the very opposite of creativity. 

What’s at the root of a BLOCK? 

PAIN. This is the root cause of a block. This doesn’t have to be directly related to your art either. It could be something painful and even traumatic has happened to you in your personal life recently that you just haven’t processed and now you’re repressing it. Repressed pain becomes a block plain and simple. It could also be repressed pain directly related to your art too. You’ll want to sit with this and ponder what pain you need to feel and release in order to get unblocked.  

Some common examples of pain that you may need to process related to your art: 

  • A rejection from a show, a gallery, a collector. 
  • A harsh criticism on your work from anyone, but especially from someone you admire or are close to. 
  • Not having your work acknowledged or appreciated. You put your work out there and crickets. Even a criticism might be welcome at this point! 
  • Not getting enough achievements. Everyone else seems to get the awards, the press, or praise.
  • Not selling. This is big for a lot of artists. When people don’t want to buy our work it makes us lose confidence that what we’re doing matters at all. 

There are too many pains to list that can happen in our personal lives including: COVID19, getting laid off, losing a loved one, having to take care of a loved one, ending of a relationship or friendship, conflict or relationship struggles, a disease, a financial blow, an accident and on and on. All can cause a disruption to your life and create a BLOCK for you in your artistic life. 

What to do to get FREE from a block? 

We have to number one get still and find out what pains are underneath the block. Journaling time is a good solution. Light some candles, have a box of tissues handy, and start asking the question, “What pain have I not processed that is blocking me?”  Ask to be shown the pain and fear underneath it all. 

Feel the pain. Cry it out. Feel it. Don’t go into the blame game and victim mode. Just acknowledge the pain you’ve felt and feel how bad it hurt. Don’t judge yourself or justify why you shouldn’t have been hurt by it. Don’t call it stupid, silly, or logically explain it away. Just feel it. 

Acknowledge what you wanted. I think identifying what you had wanted or hoped for also helped. “I really hoped I’d get into that show because I’ve worked so hard to get better at my work and it just really sucks and hurts that I didn’t get in. I’m just really hurt and disappointed by this. I wanted this accolade so that I could feel acknowledged and confirmed that I’m on the right path.” 

Welcome healing. I think just by feeling the pain without having it mean anything about you or anyone else automatically brings healing. If it helps I recommend welcoming the healing, asking for healing or opening yourself up to be healed from this pain. 

Love in Light, Kelli

6 thoughts on “How to Remove a Creative Block and Get Painting Again!

  1. I’m so happy to hear this Jean! Thank you for being so honest and brave here with your comment. I’m incredibly sorry that you’re experiencing this. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you right now.

  2. Thank you so much Sabra! Hoping you and Stephen are hanging in there through all of this. Much love, Kelli

  3. Good one Kelli, life is rough sometimes… sometimes we set ourselves up for it with out even realizing it…and sometimes life is just like that. Our love one die and we just have to get over it. I think as artist we are just more sensitive creatures which makes us more venerable. It’s not a bad thing.

  4. Love this sweet Kelli. Many thanks. I agree 100%!

    We send our love and our light to you for abundance in every way for you forever.

    Thank you Kelli!


    Sabra Schray

  5. I truly needed this especially this morning. First I wish to aplogize again for writing a disgruntled remark a couple of months ago, when you talk of pain and healing and not painting….that is me! My husband has had two serious surgeries, has dementia, he is now in hospice care, does not understand why and cries every day to come home, hard to heal when the wound is opened every day. My wish is that no one ever has to watch the love of their life die a little each day and many do!
    Your message is strong and wise, and one day I will again pick up a brush and rejoice in creating artwork.
    Thank you for putting it our there for all of us who need to read it, hear it and. And do it!

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