Even the best artists get stuck, quite often actually. How one deals with hitting a creative road block is the biggest difference between a professional artist, and one that never makes it. Almost all of it is entirely mental and has nothing to do with inherent “skill”. Even the most kickass artists sucked at one time. They failed many hundreds or even thousands of times before they got where they are. They learned how to let go and keep growing instead of trying to hold on and perfect every stroke. If you’ve just started and you’re looking for perfection, that probably means you’re stuck at this very moment. Just remember, it’s about moving forward at all costs, even if that means leaving something unfinished. It’s all about practice and believing you will get to where you want to be (eventually). I’ve comprised a few tips below to help stay “unstuck” accompanied by some gifs (because everyone loves pretty pictures!).
If you find yourself spinning your wheels on a piece, it’s time to take a step back. If you’re nearing the end of the day sometimes a good night’s rest and extended time away allows your brain to see all those problems you were overlooking. If you’ve spent more than 55 hours working for the week, chances are you are burning yourself out and need a more prolonged break. Working 55 hours in a week is bad in many ways
If you feel really stuck, sometimes it’s best to just start up a new project to keep the progress going. This will give your mind even more time to become less attached to the hard work you put in, while keeping your skills sharp in the process.
If something just isn’t working, it’s time to get some reference to help out. Preferably you’ve gotten reference before this point, but hey, better late than never.
Confidence is key. When you have experience, you can pull from instances where you eventually overcame a particularly rough patch. When you’re just starting out however, there’s no such experiences to pull from. You just have to trust that you’ll figure it out. Sometimes you won’t, and that’s ok. It’s about getting up again and believing that eventually it’ll come to you. Even after 8 years I still have trouble with this, so cut yourself some slack if things aren’t going well (it’ll come eventually).
Even veterans of their craft need feedback. There’s nothing worse than slaving over a piece to find out you were going the wrong direction with it the whole time. It’s tough to show unfinished work to others (I personally have heart palpitations when I show work sometimes), but in the end you’ll be glad you did. Besides, you’ll be doing this nearly every day as a professional so no better time than the present.
If all else fails, sometimes it’s just time to start over. It’s hard not to become attached to our work, but it’s important to know that part of the creative process is throwing away our hard work. You’ll actually be quite amazed how quickly you can get back to the point that took you so long to get to.
Edited by Sterling Reames, Principal Animator of Bit Fry Games