PS is an artist who loves helping people develop their own creativity and drawing skills.
How to Overcome Creative Blocks
An empty page is such a disaster. It’s pretty daunting even for experienced artists. You may have ample ideas, but "How do I start?” is always the real question.
If you want to avoid the jitters of staring at a blank page for hours, one way is to scribble, scribble, and scribble. You can also shade the entire page with pencil lead, and then use the eraser to extract white areas here and there. It’s easy and fun, and it's a fast way to lift your creative block.
Fortunately, there’s one more interesting way to keep your creativity flowing. You can use lines. Yes, lines! Just imagine how many ways can you use this simplest drawing element to produce the finest drawings.
You might be overflowing with ideas, but the problem is—how do you get them onto a blank sheet of paper? Here are some suggestions that you can use to create objects and figures just by drawing lines.
14 Ways to Spark Your Creativity by Drawing Lines
- Scribble, Scribble, Scribble!
- Use Your Whole Arm
- Try Different Tools
- Try Different Types of Lines
- Draw Your Surroundings
- Draw a Continuous Contour
- Draw a Continuous Line
- Draw a Blind Contour
- Draw a Quick Contour
- Draw a Cross Contour
- Try Lyrical Drawing
- Smudge a Charcoal Drawing
- Use Incomplete Lines
- Use Organizational Lines
1. Scribble, Scribble, Scribble!
Scribbling is my favorite thing to do. Use a piece of scrap paper or pick up your drawing tablet. Start scribbling with your unrestrained thoughts. Make some areas darker and some lighter. You don’t have to show this to anyone—it’s just a personal exercise, so let your feelings flow freely. (Seriously, pour out all your frustration that’s blocking your creativity.)
Consider These Thoughts...
- Did you draw with your wrist? Or did you keep your arm on the table?
- Does your scribble drawing give an impression of an atmosphere?
- Does it have spatial depth?
- Did you cover the page edges?
2. Use Your Whole Arm (Scribble With Your Arm in the Air)
Take a big piece of paper—say, a newspaper. Place it either on the floor or on your table and start scribbling. This time, instead of just using your wrist, use your whole arm to draw the unrestrained lines. Notice how the marks change when you switch from wrist movement to arm movement.
3. Try an Assortment of Tools
You should have pencils of varying hardness (like 6B, the softer one, and 2H, the harder one). Also include charcoal, crayons, fine-point marker, black ink, and paint in your collection. You can also try something new with a cotton swab or twig.
4. Draw Lines With Distinctive Qualities
With so many tools by your side, you can draw different lines with different qualities such as solid, broken, straight, curved, continuous, and non-continuous. Draw the first line light and fast and the other slow and with pressure. You are giving a different look to your work just with the unique use of lines.
Now compare the lines. Does each one have an emotion or a specific texture?
Note: Use a tool for a purpose it’s meant to serve. For example, for shading, a soft pencil works better than a hard pencil. You may use the latter but the result won’t be that alluring. However, some experienced artists do go for unnatural uses of their tools when they have some creative intention in mind.
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5. Draw Your Surroundings
Explore your surroundings. Look at what kind of scenery lies outside your window—maybe it’s buildings, gardens, or other houses. Draw them with lines using different drawing tools. I have added one as an example here, which is made simply with straight lines and no complications. You can try something like this. Be mindful of how each of these lines contributes to the overall tone of your drawing.
6. Draw a Continuous Contour
Draw a continuous contour. You can draw the shape of a leaf, car, or football. Draw its outer shape covering the entire area of your page. Don’t care about its accuracy, just draw as per your imagination. Try to bend the shape with specifics without picking up your tool. Don’t lift your hand until you are done. For reference, I have added an image of a leaf.
7. Draw a Continuous Line
Let’s use a continuous line. In the previous exercise, you drew a specific shape. Now, let’s take it a bit easier. Draw any shape or object you feel like—even no shape is a good option. Just don’t lift your pencil until you’re done. Use a soft pencil or a marker, or run your finger on the digital screen. You can use your room space, bed, or any other object as a reference. Imagine you are taking your line for a walk over a white space. When you have to take an enclosed path, just overlap the line. I have added an image of a lightbulb as an example.
8. Draw a Blind Contour
Do a blind contour exercise. In this, you will draw without looking at the paper. Take any object such as a flower, shoe, ball, etc., as your subject matter. Try to draw it big enough so it touches the boundaries of your paper. Draw the form while giving your full attention to the subject matter and not the paper. Don’t worry about the end result. Here I have drawn an image of a shoe using a blind contour process.
9. Try a Quick Contour
Once again, let’s practice with continuous contour. But this time, we have to make it quick. That’s why it’s called quick contour. Use the human body as a reference. Study the general shape and draw as rapidly as you can. It’ll be a mess at first, but you’ll adapt to the complex figure with practice. To help you out, here’s an image of a man drawn using continuous quick contour.
10. Draw a Cross Contour
Drawing cross contour is one of my favorite things to do. Using lines, you can draw various objects and decorate them as well as give them spatial depth. For reference, use a coffee mug, or a fruit like an apple or a mango. First, draw its outline. Then add parallel lines. The lines can be curvy to indicate the shape of the object.
11. Try Lyrical Drawing
Start from the top left or top right corner of the page. Draw what comes to your mind first—for example, a spiral, flower, plant, or any random design. This is called lyrical drawing. Artists like Henri Matisse specialize in this type of flowing art. It can help you think differently and reignite the creative corners of your mind.
12. Smudge a Charcoal Sketch
Use either charcoal or soft pencil. Draw any form using lines. Then smudge it to give it a faded or distressed look. One such example is that of mountains shown in the above image. You can also draw a human face and then smudge it to show emotions.
13. Use Incomplete Lines
Imagine an object or a figure. What are the crucial outlines of your object/figure? Draw these outlines non-continuously (broken lines) to indicate the overall shape. For example, look at the drawing of a horse using incomplete lines, as shown in the image above.
14. Use Organizational Lines
In the last exercise, we are going to work with organizational lines. These lines are used for emphasizing the structure of the composition. The lines create spatial depth through overlapping and defining objects with their organized pattern.
Consider a still life or the interior space of your room. Carefully observe the vertical and horizontal patterns of the subject matter. Start drawing vertical and horizontal lines to initiate the composition. Extend the lines you used for drawing the objects to also cover the nearby space, as shown in the image above.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Creative Blocks Is to Just Do Something Creative!
All these exercises are inspired by former famous artists. Each one of them is incredibly simple yet creative and powerful enough to remove your creative block. Besides these exercises, I suggest you take inspiration from the drawings of famous artists whenever you face restraints in your work.
All the best!
© 2021 Prachi Sharma
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 01, 2021:
I enjoyed reading these exercises you gave as examples to unleash creativity. Children's drawings, before they are taught to color within the lines, are naturally creative.