10 Exercises to Demolish Your Artist Block
April 7, 2022

It’s that time of year: the tail-end of the winter chill (if you live in the Northern hemisphere), and the doldrums of the school year can leave you feeling tired, uninspired, and unable to create.

If this sounds familiar, you’re probably experiencing some artist block. Don’t worry! Artist block is totally normal. As Bow Seat alumna, judge, and friend, Ely German says, “it has happened to everyone who has created art more than once.”

Luckily, Ely joined us in March for an episode of our Deep Dive Series and shared 10 exercises for getting out of the artist block rut. These are designed to get you started, jump in, and have fun. Don’t overthink any of these exercises and do NOT worry about the final product – just start making!

Ely’s Artist-Block-Breaking Exercises:
1. Netflix & Sketch

Materials: TV or Computer, Streaming Service, Paper, Pen

Relax, turn on Netflix (or any other streaming service) and search for “ocean.” In all likelihood, you will find a wide range of documentaries. Pick one that intrigues you and doodle while you watch. Respond to what you hear, pause and draw what you see, or simply scribble as you watch.

2. Leaf Patterns


Materials: Dry leaves, Ink Pens, or Paint

Go outside and find some dry leaves. Using an ink pen or any paint, draw on the leaves. You can follow the patterns on the leaves or create your own. If the weather allows, stay outside for this one!

Note: This is Ely’s personal favorite 🙂

3. Printed Blues

Materials: Magazines, Newspaper, Scissors, or Exacto Knife

Grab magazines, newspapers, or anything with printed images on it. Using scissors, an Exacto knife, or your bare hands, cut out any areas where you find blue. Stack and layer these blue scraps to make shapes and images. Have fun and get destructive!

Pro-tip: Ely recommends ripping the paper so you don’t worry too much about the shape of the scraps.

4. Self-Portrait
Ely's sketchbook which features a simple painted self-portrait.


Materials: Mirror, Paper, Blue Pencil

Grab a mirror, paper, and a blue pencil (so you don’t overthink the tool) and draw yourself. Draw in whatever style comes most naturally to you, whether focusing on the details or creating a simple, single-line drawing.

Pro-tip: do not use your phone’s front-facing camera as a mirror. Any notification can distract you and bring you right back into artist-block-world.

5. Word Storm

Materials: Pen and Paper

Write all of the words you can possibly flush out of your brain on a piece of paper. Do your best to keep the words random – you do not want to start composing sentences. After you have written down as much as you can muster, try to find any interesting patterns or trains of thought. When you start to create, you can refer to this list of words to reference your ideas and feelings.

6. Your Favorite Ocean Being

Materials: Anything and Everything

Choose your favorite ocean animal and collect as many drawing tools as you can find. Do not feel constrained by pens, markers, and paint. Go into your kitchen and grab ketchup or coffee. Get weird with it! Draw your favorite animal with all of these materials (and don’t worry if you can’t draw a realistic-looking animal with ketchup).

Pro-tip: If you cannot pick one animal (because they are all your favorite), choose a seahorse! They are visually interesting, with tons of reference photos.

7. Mindless Pattern
Circular line patterns filling a page


Materials: Pen and Paper

You can put the ketchup away for this one…

Using a pen and paper, draw a shape and repeat it until you fill the page. If you choose a detailed shape, this one can take a long time. This exercise should be mindless. Sometimes you will lose track of time, and before you know it, create a piece of art.

8. Music is Your Muse

Materials: Any Music Player

Lay down, queue five songs, and simply enjoy them. Do not look at your phone or get up. Just consume the music. Sometimes feeding your artistic brain can get you out of your slump.

9. Ask Questions

Materials: Friends, Family, Colleagues, Classmates

Think of a simple question. “What is your favorite thing about the ocean?” or “What is your earliest memory of the ocean?” Ask people in your life this question. You may be surprised at the conversations that follow. They may spark a new idea or fresh inspiration for your art.

10. Look at Bow Seat Inspiration
Samples of student art from Bow Seat's inspiration page


Materials: bowseat.org/resources/inspiration

Look at student art on the Bow Seat website! Much like listening to music, consuming art can help you find inspiration. Try not to overanalyze what you find or search for patterns. Observe and discover what comes to you.

We hope that these exercises help if you are experiencing artist block. Sometimes inspiration strikes when you least expect it, and sometimes you need a little help. If you were unable to attend the webinar, and would like to watch it now, you can find the recording on our YouTube.

If you do find inspiration from these exercises, we hope you participate in our 2022 Ocean Awareness Contest: The Funny Thing About Climate Change.

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10 Exercises to Demolish Your Artist Block

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