The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.


The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.


The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.


Strategies To Conquer Art Block

From classical to contemporary, artists as contrasting as Van Gough and Jean-Michel Basquiat have a common enemy: art block.

What is art block and why does it happen? According to Mark Travers, Ph. D., psychologist writer for Forbes, art block is when an artist feels they are stagnant and is often caused by performance anxiety. Specifically, it is triggered by the perfectionististic idea that creativity is a never ending flow. Travers advises to, “not let your insecurities and self-evaluations get in the way of moving forward.” Similarly, Whitney Young arts teacher Mr. Nowlin suggested that art block can also be from a feeling of overstimulation or “an extreme abundance of unorganized ideas”— a struggle that he finds students have. On the other hand, Chloe Chiang (who has taken 2 AP art classes in her high school career) offers a student perspective: that art block is most often triggered by the feeling of inadequacy or that people won’t understand her. “I have vague ideas of what I want to do,” said Chloe, but the exact execution of these ideas are what stump her.

Though Mark Travers, Mr. Nowlin, and Chloe might all have different ideas of why art block happens, all three agree that the best way to combat art block is to push through it. As an artist myself and someone who has taken three AP art classes, I agree. So I would like to share strategies that I’ve learned from others and found over time that help me conquer art block.


  1. Music

 Though it may seem generic, I use music as a tool to push through a creative slump the most often. It’s my go-to strategy. It was a strategy suggested to me by an art teacher from Marwen (an afterschool arts school in Chicago), who used to play music to help our brains and pencils flow. I suggest using a song to help represent the way a scene or character looks, or using the song to create a story. Even abstractions of songs help!


  1. Prompt Generators

The internet is a great tool as well! Especially prompt generators which can provide the right amount of instruction that you might be lacking. When feeling lost, prompt generators for illustrations provide concise technical or conceptual direction. Personally, I prefer word generators but photo generators are good too. (References are never cheating!)

Here are links to my two favorite generators:,


  1. Experiment With Media

This is another easy strategy that I’ve learned from my time after school at Marwen. Oftentimes to combat feeling bored with what you are making, mixing up the media you are using helps. It’s okay if it’s messy! It’s about having fun experimenting. You can you stickers, found objects/paper, stamps, food (fruit juice, coffee, etc.) The possibilities are endless!


Getting better at art means working through the hard art-making moments. But there are no rules in art that say you can’t give yourself grace. It’s okay to mess up sometimes! Often, even if you aren’t happy with your results, you are still learning from the experience. That’s why it’s important not to give up. So try your best, and be patient with yourself!


Made from experimenting with media prompt
(Image: Apolonia Garcia, 2023, acrylic paint on canvas)


Made from Music prompt
(Image: Apolonia Garcia, 2023, oil pastel on paper)


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