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  • Artist Block


    Zak
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    At first, I tried to research this problem online and found videos on YouTube about dealing with art blocks, which was helpful for what it is. (You can search for it yourself if you're interested.)

    Put simply, I was looking for a global answer to getting rid of art blocks altogether. The good news is that it's possible, but it's going to be hard. This isn't some kind of a trick you can use to just avoid art blocks. Rather than continue like this, let me just get into the next part.

    We start at the very beginning of your life, infancy to about 7 years old.

    The first 4 years of life is a period where your personality is being developed. The next 3 years is a period of correction and refinement of the personality. In the age range of 7 to 8 years old, a human's personality is already well-defined.

    Now about these age ranges: The first 4 years of life, a human being is completely depends on it's parents. It can't fend for itself at all. In the wild, animals often will often let their cubs die or give food to only one of their cubs; human nature isn't far from this kind of behavior.

    At around 4 years of age, human children can usually walk well. However, in a civilized setting the child's first steps cause much stress for the parents as the children now have access to dangerous objects around the house and/or can cause harm to valuables. At this point, parents can't limit their child physically so they impose rules on the children to limit them.

    Very simply: If a child does something its parents approve of, they praise and reward it. If the parents feel the child is misbehaving, they punish it.

    Every child needs love and kindness and this need is genetic. However, this good/bad game causes trouble later in life:

    1) Humans get used to comparing themselves with others.

    2) Humans get used to be appraised by others.

    3) Worst of all, humans fail to differentiate between who they are and what they do: "I've succeeded" = "I'm a good person" and "I've failed" = "I'm a bad person".

    Now, not all parents act like that. Some parents are clear in that they love you whether or not you're successful and they also don't appraise your acts. But in that case you don't have any art blocks and don't need to read this article. I'm pretty sure that most people who draw to express themselves don't think of themselves as "good without any conditions", sadly.

    So, the first 7 to 8 years of life lays the foundation for your self-esteem. There are 4 kinds of self-esteem:

    1) Stable self-esteem. This is for those rare lucky folks I mentioned above. Their parents weren't bribing or punishing them to get the behavior they wanted. People with this kind of self-esteem don't need anyone to tell them if they're good or bad because they know who they are and what they're worth. These people are calm and usually do a lot with their lives, and this is our goal in this article. Every step in this direction is worthwhile.

    2) Overrated self-esteem. Usually seen in people with rich and/or accomplished parents. These people project their parents' achievements on themselves and can't stop talking about how awesome they are because they desperately need to confirm their importance, which has no real base.

    3) Low self-esteem. Almost every artist has said at least once that they have low self-esteem. It's possible, but highly unlikely. You can check yourself for low self-esteem pretty easily: do you envy someone's else drawing skills at least sometimes? If so, then no, your self-esteem is not low. People with low self-esteem don't envy others because they truly believe that other people deserve it and they themselves don't. Legitimate low self-esteem is rare, so don't flatter yourselves with the idea that you're one of these special snowflakes.

    4) What you probably have is called unstable self-esteem. People with unstable self-esteem depend on the feedback of others, constantly compare themselves with others and - depending on what they see around themselves and what people around say about them - their mention about themselves can be total praise or complete self-hatred. Sometimes you feel awesome but the next day it's the opposite feeling. Sometimes it can be a matter of mere hours.

    This is a common situation, but common does not mean normal. Living and building your adult life based on the rules of an outdated child's game causes so many problems in all aspects of life. The problem is that parents represent society for a child, so even if your parents don't control you anymore whether you live far away or they're gone, this game continues with everybody you meet.

    People with unstable self-esteem can't tell if they are good or bad by themselves. They think that they're only good if they doing something successfully and that if they fail then they're a bad person. When they're "good," their self-esteem goes up; if they're "bad," their self-esteem suffers. This point of view does not fit reality and limits many opportunities.

    Failure is not something bad. Failure is a process where experience is earned.

    Imagine that you're climbing the stairs. If getting to the top is success, then that means every step is a failure. If you're doing something big and outstanding, failure and success isn't a roulette; usually you can't reach success without gaining some experience from failure. But if you have unstable self-esteem, each failure hurts personally. You feel you've done something wrong and you're a bad person. Look at it like this: learning anatomy or perspective is just like climbing stairs, and each step can hurt your personality because you still looking at the World around with the eyes of 7-year-old child. Too many young artists desperately search for "ideal" tutorials to make these stairs as short and safe as possible, while people with stable self-esteem just take the steps and improve themselves every day.

    So what's an art block? You try to draw and then fail, and you subconsciously try to protect yourself from hurting your self-esteem again by being unable to draw. The mind is a powerful thing, far stronger than the little part you get to control. So, you "don't feel like drawing" for a couple days, truly believing you can't draw at all. You need time to restore self-esteem before you can try again, but even if you come back to try again, you remember what it did to you last time. This also explains why some artists draw at the same level over the years or draw the same faces all the time using the same techniques, angles, poses.

    I hope you understand the nature of the processes that halt your artistic evolution better now.

    Now, let's use information to try to figure out how to fix the problem. First, we have to start seeing our failures as they really are: Steps to success. For this, we should establish our self-esteem. Our appraisal of ourselves should not depend on how successful we are with our current workflow.

    So, how do you establish your self-esteem? I'm very sorry, but there's no magic cure. Beyond that, I myself still don't have stable self-esteem. I don't believe there are any clear instructions that can help you develop self-esteem. It's a sad paradox, but earning stable self-esteem can be another long flight of stairs with success at the top. However, I already smoothed down the highs and lows of "I'm awesome" and "I can't draw at all" enough to get rid of art blocks once and for all.

    I'm going to give you some tips that helped me and could help you:

    1) The main goal of this article was to give you a minimal amount of information to catch your attention and to give you some understanding of the problem. Knowing the problem is always the first step to solving it. Ask yourselves again and again: Whatever you try to do, failure is unavoidable. Does it mean you're a bad person if you try to learn something new?

    2) Looking in the mirror and saying "I'm good, I can do anything" can help for a time, but it doesn't fix the problem because you're still playing the game. What you have to do is mature and rise above the game. Just accept that you're a good person without any conditions, without buts. Just accept it as a fact. For some people It comes naturally after 30, but you don't have to wait. You're already mature enough to decide who you are and to stop depending on the opinions of others.

    3) Every human being is born with a stable self-esteem, but losing it after 4. So you are not developing something new, you just coming back to your natural state of mind.

    4) Write all your thoughts down. There's a big price to pay when good thoughts and ideas aren't written down. Research, plans, ideas - everything should be on paper. A human's mind composed of 2 parts: Consciousness, which can be controlled, and subconsciousness, which can't be controlled. The information you remember and forget is controlled by subconsciousness. In other words, pretty soon everything you have read here will be pushed away because your subconscious mind is always trying to erase any thoughts about something going wrong with you. So, start a notebook!

    5) At first it's hard to keep track of everything you've learned. You could start with analyzing (in writing) art blocks you're passing through. Then you can analyze current art blocks every time they crop up and then you'll have the ability to recognize these problems before they can hurt you.

    6) Never compare yourself with other people. You will never see the whole picture clearly enough. Compare yourself only with your past self. That's the one and only indicator is available for you for fair comparison.

    7) I know I wrote a lot about wrong parenting. But it does not mean you should put all the blame on them. No one said that you could handle their work better. Focus on the things you are able to change - on yourselves only.

    What I gave here is just a simplified version of what I have read. If you are interested, do some research of your own! The better you understand the problem, the easier it will be for you to solve it!

    That's enough for now, thank you for reading, and I hope that this helps some of you.

    P.S. thanks Ceeb for editing most of this article for me.

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