Overcome Your Creative Block: 5 Essential Exercises to Get You Unstuck (+ FREE Workbook) | Isa Down | Skillshare

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Overcome Your Creative Block: 5 Essential Exercises to Get You Unstuck (+ FREE Workbook)

teacher avatar Isa Down, Artist, Educator, Author

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Introduction & About

    • 2. Essential 1: Mark Making

    • 3. Essential 2: Outlook & Mindset

    • 4. Essential 3, Part 1: Different Mediums

    • 5. Essential 3, Part 2: Journaling Exercise

    • 6. Essential 4: Expansion

    • 7. Essential 5: Practice & the Daily 3's

    • 8. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

When I think about what it means to be a creative, an artist, I think of the actual act of sitting down to the canvas or page and creating.  But the more I have thought on this, the more I realize, there is SO MUCH MORE than this.  It’s a mindset, it’s taking action, yes.  But it’s also about looking inside yourself, entering a cocooning phase, and being ok with inaction, too.   

I’m Isa Down, and I’m an artist, author, and teacher.  Today’s class, Overcome Your Creative Block: 5 Essential Exercises to Get You Unstuck is about overcoming that place of feeling stuck creatively.  Today’s lesson is divided into three parts: Outlook, Expansion, and Practice.

Outlook: We will first explore an exercise in Essential 1: Mark Making.  Then, in Essential 1, we will explore the question: what is the outlook or mindset that you need to take to enter the space to sit down and create something that is just itching inside of you to get out? 

Expansion looks at exploring different ways that you can take a creative approach – that may have nothing to do with your main creative media of choice.  Getting outside of your comfort zone to truly understand yourself as a creative.  In this section, we have two exercise/creative prompts, and one section where we discussion what it means to expand and stretch those creative muscles. 

The final section, Practice, is just that – it’s about the daily rituals you can take to truly evolve into your creative life, and embody that lifestyle at any stage – whether you are in hibernation mode or are creating product every day. We discuss the "Daily 3's" that you can establish for yourself -- and how to integrate the lessons from this class in your everyday creative life.

Some of the exercises we are doing will push you outside of your comfort zone.  And I invite you to have fun in the process, and see what you can create. I’m so looking forward to having you in class, and seeing what we can do together to get through those times of creative block – when inaction is all we feel we can do, and when coming at the problem from different perspectives can open a whole new era of creativity in you. 

I have also provided a FREE downloadable PDF workbook for you that explores the content of this class in written form -- for those of you who want to take the content from screen to paper.  

Let’s get started!

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Isa Down

Artist, Educator, Author


Hello, and welcome!

I am so happy to have you here.  I absolutely love teaching and encouraging students, and find you all so inspirational! I can't wait to see what you create.  

If you are new to Skillshare, welcome! You'll find so many amazing resources and classes here, as well as a supportive and welcoming community.  Feel free to explore Premium classes on Skillshare using this exclusive link for 2 WEEKS FREE, no strings attached. 

I'm Isa Down, artist, educator, and author with my company Poppy and Gray Co.  I am forever-inspired by nature and natural elements, and you'll see this strongly represented in my ink and watercolor art.  I mostly create modern ink and watercolor florals with bold colors and fine det... See full profile

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1. Introduction & About: What do you think about what it means to be a creative an artist? I think the actual act of sitting down to the campus or page and creating. But the more I thought on this, the more I realize that there is so much more than this. It's a mindset. It's taking action, yes, but it's also about looking inside yourself. And sometimes that means entering a cocooning phase, being okay with inaction. Teoh Today's class is about overcoming that place, feeling stuck creatively, and we will be exploring five essential exercises that you can use today. E sit down and I'm an artist, author and teacher. I have talked to thousands of students, but with here on skill share and that person workshops as well, and I'm incredibly excited to be bringing in my brand new book Out to the world inking florals This'll Summer. Today's lesson is divided into three parts. Outlook expansion and practice in outlook. We look at what is that outlook or mindset that you need to take to enter the space, to sit down and create something that is just itching inside of you to get out? Expansion looks at exploring different ways that you can take a creative approach, though that may have nothing to do with your main creative media of choice. But getting outside of your comfort zone to truly understand yourself as a creative can bring out a whole new side of you. Practice is just that. It's about the daily rituals you can take to truly evolve into your creative life and embody that lifestyle at any stage, whether you are in the hibernation mode or you're creating products every day. Some of the exercises were doing will push you outside of your comfort zone, and I invite you to have fun in the process and see what you can create. I am so looking forward to having you in class and seeing what we could do together to get through those times of creative block. When in action is all we feel we can do and when coming at the problem from a different perspective can open up a whole new era of creativity and you so let's go ahead and get started 2. Essential 1: Mark Making: So our first exercise portion of our class is about mark making, and it really is about a simple as it sounds. It's about sitting down and just making marks on the page. The idea of sitting down and just getting something on the paper is not about creating a finished product, but it's about building that muscle memory and just getting yourself to sit down and continue in the habit and the ritual of what you're used to doing. If you're feeling like you're stuck in a creative rut and you just I haven't even sat down to do anything on the page, I highly encourage you to just take time out of your day. Even if it's just five minutes to just start making marks on the page and see what you can create, you don't have to sit down and expect to create anything that you're normally creating. This is not about creating a final product. This is not about building and creating off of what you already do, necessarily but more about sitting down and getting that muscle memory and also just continuing the habit that you have and the ritual of sitting down to the page for me when I'm feeling particularly stuck. I like to sit down and just Philip age with different colors and the French strokes of the brush. Um, and for me, it's less about creating something that I'm going to use for anything per se on, and more about just letting my mind relax and just using the creative products in the media that I tend to use every day. There was a time in a place also for sitting down and using the products that you don't use every day, and we will be looking at that in one of our next exercises. What I enjoy about this is that it's completely mindless, and I really don't have to think well that much about what I'm creating It allows my brain to relax a little bit and stop thinking so much about having to create something that's perfect or foreseen, Um, or with any sort of riel end product in mind. So take some time now and just fill a blank page with different marks and patterns and see what you come up with way go exercise one. You're just Mark making on the page and see what you come up with and from creating this, I feel like I really actually sat down and used. It's a muscle memory. I used my paints and that's all that I can ask of myself today. And if tomorrow this is all I could do again, then I will sit down and do this all over again. 3. Essential 2: Outlook & Mindset: so outlook. We're gonna think about living a creative life. What does that look like? What outlook do we have on this? And when we think about creating creative life for a living and creative life, I don't know about you. But one of the first things I think of is sitting down to actually paint to create a product to embody this creative life. So much time in the studio. Every day I'm painting and trading these phenomenal things, selling them. It's a give and take with my clientele, but that's not the full picture. The reality is a little bit different, and it's something that gets us stuck. And that is that creativity has an ebb and a flow. We all love the flow. We think that is what is a creative life. But in reality there is an ebb, and that is really, really critical to living a successful creative life. Unfortunately, that is the part that gets us stuck. That's the part where we feel like we just can't create. Have I lost my touch? What's wrong with me? Um, all those kind of questions. Maybe I'm not actually an artist. I've been making it up all along. Those are the things that get a stuck and it's in that process of our oven ebb and flow. The creative life is this breathing, inhaling, exhaling thing. It is not a stagnant process, it is very much alive and we get very stuck and you panic a little bit when we hit that EB moment for that but inhale moment of creating. And this is particularly true when we're living in times of crisis. Whether that's personal crisis were global crisis. Um, our body enters this fight and flight response and we pick we can't create when we think that we might die essentially is what our bodies were telling us. Um and that it doesn't matter what the outside stimulator of this is, what it is that's causing you to feel this way. It's very valid, whatever it iss. So then what happens? We enter this negative feedback cycle where we think just can't create. I've lost my touch. Maybe I never had it to begin with. Oh, but I'll sit down and just paint something anyway, just to prove to myself that I still can't and then we sit down and lines don't look right or the PT doesn't come out the way we wanted it, Teoh. And we feel that it's a failure, and then we get stuck in that negative loop. See, I told you I couldn't create. I don't have the touch, I can't do it and then we just sink deeper into that mindset. But we don't have to do that anymore, because this first exercise that we did together on mark making is getting you to continue the habit and the ritual of sitting down every day at the same place, maybe even at the same time, if that helps you to create something and it works with your muscle memory to keep your muscles moving in the way that your paint fresh, you know that you flick your paintbrush or whatever it iss whatever your medium is on, and however you create, it gets you in that process, the ritual, the memory and continues on you on your path. Then you are still progressing, even if you are in that more hibernating boat. And the thing is is not about coming up with a finished product as you saw Mark making is just that, making marks on the page it doesn't have to be anything special. I do hold on to them because they have given the inspiration later on in life. But I'm not in that, um, eb moment of my creative life, Um, but it's not about the finished product, and it's not about expecting them to become anything. It's about just sitting down and going through the process in order to live a creative life . Your outlook on it has to be one that embraces the UBS as much as it does the flow, the inhale as much as the exhale because each phase serves its purpose. And if you're in that ebb and inhale type of phase and it's time to just sit in it, Cnet Explorer other things go through the process. Continue your ritual and give yourself some grace. 4. Essential 3, Part 1: Different Mediums: her second exercise looks at someone that the same thing of just sitting down and making those marks on the page. But and this one, we're branching out from our normal medium. For his last time, we sat down say, if you're watercolor artists like myself, you can sit down with watercolor and create the different marks on the page For this class . We will be taking other mediums and kind of exploring what that looks like for us, something that we're not used to using. So I have some markers. I have some colored pencils. I got a little bit of wash paint, and then I also have something. See Bia pastel crayons as well, just a week, then explorer and see what we come up with. So I just highly encourage you not to really think that bench during this process, but just start creating and see kind of what comes out of of you in the end. Here, it's about making the mark on the page, but it's also about recognising that sometimes what we need is to do something that we're not normally doing. However, that looks for you. If you're normally an abstract artist and you are feeling really stuck in abstract. Why don't you try doing something really fine, fine tuned and detailed, something that is more realistic unless abstract and vice versa. If you're used to doing more detailed drawings like I am, why not come in and do something that is completely off the wall? Not at all. What you're used to doing and just see what you can come up with doesn't mean it's gonna be pretty. In fact, it could be incredibly unpretty, but that's not really the point. The point of this is to just sit down and get creating. So and you can see this is not a beautiful painting, and that is kind. That's perfectly OK. That is not the point at all of this, that this is to explore different mediums, and that's exactly what I did. 5. Essential 3, Part 2: Journaling Exercise: next, I want you to grab a painting that you've done or something that you've created that you really love. And I want you to have it nearby. If you just have an image of that on your phone, that works perfectly well too. Point is that you are able to look at it and observe it while we're going through this exercise. So I'm gonna be using this poppy hum painting that I had created that I really absolutely love. And then you're gonna get your pants caper and on your pad of paper, you are going to draw, um, two lines to create four quadrants. And I don't you to think too much. About what? The's homing right away. But in the top left hand, I want you to just write image in the top, right? You will write heart the bottom left. You will write memory and in the bottom, right, Evil right problem. And I'll explain in a little bit more detail in the next section. Um, about what this means to be creative and have your main outlet be, for instance, Incan watercolor. What does it mean that you're now sitting down to a great about it, so I don't get to think too much about it. Go through this process with me of doing this project, and then we'll go from there. So in the 1st 1 the top left under image I want you to look at, you're painting either on your phone or in person, on your wall. However it is on, I want you to write down just some keywords, more like a stream of consciousness type thing here of what it is you love about it. You know, I might write that I love that There's this little pale area of green up here, Um, contrast ing with this dark line. I love the way this pedal folds up in around or the way this one kind of is falling down to the side. Um, and you could just use keywords, or you could be a little bit more descriptive, but set yourself a timer for one minute and let's go ahead and rate what we love about our image in the top left hand corner. And then we will meet again to go over the next boxes way . All right, so I have done my rating for this section. and if you need a little bit more time, you can go ahead and pause the video. But things that I wrote down that I love about mine are the way the greens are mixing together the curve of this dropping pedal, the way the flowers seem together. But they're also very separate from each other. They're not, You know, they're not coming from one distinct plant, that they seem still very much to interact with each other. And I love the way the stems kind of fade into nothingness. Those are just a few of the things that I wrote there. Next, we're gonna be looking at the next quadrant called Heart and in Heart. I want you to write what it is that you feel when you look at this. What does your painting that the thing that you created make you feel? This is not about what you hope it makes other people feel. But when you sit down and you look at it, how does it make you feel again? Set a timer for one minute and just write down he words or sentences that come to mind when you think about how it makes you feel away right again. Take some more time if you need to. But some of the things that you may have written down or you know, that I certainly wrote down for mine are that this looking at this makes me feel like things were possible in, like, my skills. And my ability is in what I can accomplish are limited. Excuse me. Limitless. Not limited. Limitless. Um, it makes me feel both calm and really energized at the same time. And part of me also wondered that I really think this because I love this painting. Um and I'm really proud of this one, and sometimes you just wonder where it comes from. Um, and that's how this, PT maybe feel or contact three memory. I want you to think about the memories that you get from when you painted this. Um, I know for myself a lot of times I paint from a place a really deep emotion to try to work through my feelings or thoughts on things. Um and I know others have as well. Sometimes it's just about sitting down, and my mind goes completely blank. Um, and I just get completely entranced in the music I'm creating or music. I'm listening, Teoh and the painting that I'm creating, So just right down the memories that you have from when you painted it It may also remind you of a person or a story or a time and just take a minute and write down what comes to mind away. Right? So when I look back on this painting, I think about what was happening when I was painting this. I was incredibly brings out, um, in my health care career and was wanting more art in my life and wondering how is that possible? Um, I was also working through some feelings about ah partner in my life at the time and how that can interact with my life as well. And ultimately it came to needing to follow my absolute yes, which is creativity, Um, and this is the product of kind of that thought process that I was going through at the time. Of course, it was far more detailed, but ultimately, those are the things that I remember kind of working through and thinking about as I created this in for the last part of this writing exercise is the quadrant called poem and you're going to do just that. You're gonna write a poem based on everything that you have garnered from this the mood, the thing that you love about it, how you created it, process that you created it with the internal process. Um, and it doesn't have to be pretty. It doesn't have to rhyme. It doesn't have to follow the rules of poetry. I just want you to take a minute or two or five and don't think about it too much for me. It's I tend to do more disjointed words kind of, you know, as opposed to, um, doing like, a rhyming type of thing. So just think of just create something out of this. This will probably be the hardest thing for anyone who is not a writer or for who is not used to writing. But I really encourage you to just give it a shot, Um, and see what you make of it. - All right. Garrido's So I'll redo my poem. Like I said, it does not have to be the next Pulitzer Prize. But in looking at this I wrote, abundance is often right in front of you. A stark contrast of colors and lines calling out. Hello, I'm here. Can you see me? 6. Essential 4: Expansion : so exercise to waas. Kind of twofold exercise to looked at one. What happens if you just sit down and you dio not only a different medium that you're used to using, but you maybe do something totally different. If you're abstract artist, maybe you do something a little bit more of you tell like detailed technical drawing. If you're do more detailed botanical drawing, what happens if you sit down and you just do something a little bit more abstract? It may be incredibly ugly, and that's okay. It really doesn't matter if you look at what I created during this process. It's nothing to write home about, but actually, But I really love Is this section down here? I'm not a huge fan of up here, but that doesn't matter, because what I got out of it with something I actually kind of enjoys. It was fun to sit down and just makes the marks on the page. So that was part one different kind of approach. But same idea is our first exercise. I'm guessing the second exercise, the writing exercise waas Probably not something that you're usually used to doing and maybe push you outside of your comfort zone quite a bit. And to that I say Great, Wonderful. I'm glad that you got pushed out of your comfort zone because what that is doing it is stretching your creative muscles. If you define yourself just as what you typically dio, I'm in ink and watercolor artist. That is what I dio You were limited yourself so much. And no wonder you don't feel like you could create, because at some point it is a tiny little sliver in this grand scheme of things of the whole creative life, a world that there is out there by exploring all the facets of your creativity. You are serving the bigger purpose which is expanding your creative life more. You expand it more, you stretch those muscles. And were you trying to things where you were going to serve your medium of choice? It's like taking a problem and say, Here's your problem and you can't quite solve it. But you keep coming at it over here and you can't get in over here. There's no way to figure out how to solve the problem, but that your only approaching it from one way, you're only approaching it from ink and watercolor. I can't get in here. I can't get into my creativity. Why can't I get in? Hey, guess what? Over here, there's an open door. So you know what? Let me try some acrylic. So it's not really working. Let me try some pastels That's not working. And eventually you're gonna get to the open door and the thing that is going to crack open your problem because you're approaching him from all these different perspectives and all these different ideas, and eventually you're gonna get back in there to your creativity. You're asking yourself to look at your art form from foreign perspectives, and this does a couple of things when you're feeling really stuck. Not only does it give you that alternate path inside to your creativity again, but it distracts you from your major pain point that is this huge elephant in the room that is absolutely gonna keep blocking you. If it is right in front of your face and you can't do this, you can't create right now. There's no way to go forward in this right now. And like I said, it invites you to come at the problem. Quote unquote problems from a completely different perspective, and you have no idea what amazing, brilliant things might come out of that. So I just encourage you to keep exploring and get outside of your comfort zone. Whether that's with writing or different mediums, painting or creating on on the page by writing, you were really taking a look intensely at what it is about that one painting that you love so much. What did you do that was so phenomenal? And often you know, I know for myself I find especially that memory portion. Hey, you know what? I was actually going through a pretty rough patch at the time. I wasn't incredibly happy. I look at it, it's beautiful, and I think, Oh, I must have been so happy and joyful or whatever, but it makes me feel good to look at something that I love. That I created and understand. The thought process I was going through at the time can also help me break through whatever block it is on having now, because it might be a similar within the specimen or stream. If that makes sense, so go and explore and see how you can get into your little problem and break open your creativity again. 7. Essential 5: Practice & the Daily 3's: So now we've talked about the outlook and we had our mark making experiment and we talked about expanding and approaching in the expanding section how to come at a problem from different angles. And now we come to the practice, which is just that you have to practice. It is it does become a ritual. It becomes something that you are doing daily and practicing as much as you can, even if it is just for a minute or five every day. So within the practice, I want to talk about your daily threes, and this is your last little exercise that you can take with you out into the world and work with to get through your creative block. I did some work as a health coach in my nursing career, and one of the things that I would have my clients do is write down the top three things that they fell even on their absolute worst day. The three things that were non negotiables, the daily threes that they absolutely had to dio. So you know it was health coaching. So for someone, it might be drinking enough. You know, I will drink a gallon of water. Please don't drink a gallon of water. Um or I will eat, you know, two carats. I will go on a two minute walk. I will. Being that by 10 p.m. Whatever it is. What are your three non negotiables that you absolutely have to get done within any given day. And this could really be applied to any facet of life. These are the three things that keep you maintaining. Keep you at a plateau so that even if you don't feel like you can progress right now or build or really create, um, in a big way right now that you are still you're not developing, you're still maintaining that plateau, and you're still staying at the level that you are. What are your three non negotiables? Your three dailies. And it doesn't have to be something that looks specifically creative. Outwardly, it could be going on a walk. I will take a five minute walk every day. I don't know about you, but if I am struggling with something and I go on a walk, it really helps me. Um, kind of solve things were just sort of any kind of exercising that something about the rhythm of it just kind of helps me. It worked for him. Process things it could be writing for four minutes. You have this reading exerciser. You can give yourself one minute per padron, and there you go. You have given yourself some type of writing exercise that's creative. That's looking at a different perspective of your heart. Or it could be mark making. You know, sit down, make marks on the page whether that's with your normal medium or with a different one. The goal, of course, is to just keep practicing. And if, even on your worst day, when the world is falling apart, you can still main. Do your daily threes and maintain your plateau and keep that practice going. You are practicing within that creative mindset and still very much embracing and living that creative life. And at the end of the day, being able to do the daily threes is not about a task that you have to dio What are three things that make you feel good that make you feel satisfied and settled and calm and like the world is not completely crumbling around you, if that's how you're feeling, and I promise you that if you maintain this, you will absolutely have no problem coming out of your creative red 8. Final Thoughts: All right. So I created this class after a lot of you had reached out to me asking How do I get out my creative red and particularly so during a pandemic on. And I just want to do a little side note on that because, um well, you may be coming at this class in the hopefully not too distant future when we're not in the middle of the pandemic. Um, right now, just keep in mind we are in a crisis mode. We have no idea what's happening next. We don't know what our lives are gonna look like. They changed drastically. You know, we haven't seen something like this since 1918. And I personally have never lived in a time when the entire country shut down. So we are in a crisis mode, and it's okay to not create right now. That said, if you feel like that is a process that you want to have in your life to kind of help you sustain and maintain during this crisis, then by all means do it. And don't You don't have to expect a lot of yourself. Um, but the act and the ritual of following through and living creatively and utilizing the exercises in this class may really be able to help you get out of that creative red. I know they've helped me, Andi. It is not about creating some final products. At the end of the day, that said, I would love to see what you created in this class. I would love to see your mark making pages. I would love to see what you created when you were using a different media. And I would love to see your problem if he would be willing to share it with me. Um, and with the students in this class. So make sure you upload it into her projects area so that others can yet inspired by you and your creative, wonderful work. And if you post anything on instagram, you sure you tag me at Poppy and Graco s so that I could be sure to see it. And I always love to share my students part work that they create in my classes as well. So keep an eye out for that. And I'm just so glad that you joined this class. I think that is one of the biggest steps that you can take to getting through creative block is by finding resource is on ways to get through that creative block. I can't wait to hear your stories and see what crew you create from this class. So make sure that you work in touch and I'll see you guys in my next class.