Live Encore: Drawing Exercises to Bust Creator's Block | Mel Rye | Skillshare

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Live Encore: Drawing Exercises to Bust Creator's Block

teacher avatar Mel Rye, ✎ Artist + Educator

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      How to Tell if You're Stuck


    • 3.

      Exercise One: Mindful Drawing


    • 4.

      Exercise Two: Timed Drawing


    • 5.

      Exercise Three: Associative Drawing


    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Break through your creative block with these energizing drawing exercises! 

Skillshare Top Teacher Mel Rye is an artist, illustrator, and qualified Art & Design teacher. Her artistic philosophy is brilliant in its simplicity: Mel believes that everyone is an artist, and just needs to break through the pattern of self-doubt and overthinking to see it! In this Skillshare Live session, recorded on Zoom and featuring participation from the Skillshare community, Mel will show you how to push through the creative block that’s holding you back from artistic greatness — and how to have a lot of fun in the process. 

The class will begin with a quick breakdown of how to recognize when you’re creatively stuck, and how to approach getting out of that sticky situation! From there, Mel will teach you how to do something we all struggle to do sometimes: slow down. Once everyone is in a calm, relaxed place where their creativity can thrive, Mel will speed things back up with an exercise designed to help you generate ideas. With those creative building blocks in place, Mel will guide you through one final exercise — one that shows you how to look at things in new, different, and exciting ways. If you’ve been struggling to work through a creative block, or are just looking to inject some new energy into your art, this is one class you don’t want to miss!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Mel Rye

✎ Artist + Educator

Top Teacher

Hey there, I'm Mel!

I create colourful, fun and playful art. My work celebrates humour, silliness and the unexpected to create joyful pieces which have a broad appeal to both children and adults. I like to work in mixed media, and combine drawing, collage and paper cutting which I often manipulate digitally, although I'm always experimenting with new materials!

Teaching is very much part of who I am and I adore sharing the things I've picked up so far on my creative journey. You can find my work in progress, BTS, creative tips, advice and tutorials on Instagram and YouTube, so it would be great to connect there too!

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1. Introduction: Doing these creative exercises, I think is really helpful to anybody. Not just as visual artist, but I think we all think creatively. Hi there, I'm Mel Rye and I'm an illustrator, artist and teacher, and I'm really excited to be bringing you this live today. I work in a really diverse range of mediums and creative outputs. I really love the diversity in my work, but it makes it really quite easy to hit creative block with all these options available. In today's class, I'm going to walk you through three drawing exercises, which are going to help you start your creativity, and they can help you move forward if you're feeling a bit stuck as though you are in a creative block. To follow along today, all you need is some paper and something to draw with. There's also a worksheet in the class resources, but if you don't have a printer or you haven't printed it out, don't worry, you can just sketch it out as you go. Something to note, this class was recorded live and I got to interact with students as I was working. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm really excited to be here. Let's dive in. 2. How to Tell if You're Stuck: Hi everyone. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us with Mel Rye for her live session today. Like I said, my name is Katie. I'm a producer with Skillshare, and I'll be hosting today's session. I'm really excited to have Mel here. Hello. I hope everything's all set up. Looks like all the tech is all set up, so that's fantastic. I will hand over to you. Like I say, if anyone wants to ask any questions, make use of the chat and I will bring them up as and when there is time to do so. Thank you. Fantastic. Before we start our first exercise, I just want to talk a little bit about creative block, getting stuck or whatever it is that you call that. Because I think it's something that we all experience. I think it's really important, it's something that we keep very separate from ourselves. Because I think it's quite easy that we see it almost as a reflection of ourselves not being creative enough. I think it's really important that we recognize that everybody gets stuck sometimes, everybody feels uninspired. Just to make sure that you're feeling like it's not a reflection of your work or your creativity or any of those things. One of the things about getting stuck is sometimes I think that it's quite hard to recognize when we're getting stuck because we're used to our particular ways of working and we can be quite stubborn and we keep going and we keep doing the same things, hoping that we're just going to get there in the end. I think something that could be really helpful to do is to try to be really reflexive about what those things are that signal to you that you're getting a little bit stuck. From what I've observed, both in myself and in students that I've worked with, I think there are three things that you can look out for that may be a sign that you're getting a bit stuck. I think one of the biggest ones is procrastination and that can take so many forms. It can be that you just start spending loads time on social media. It can be that you just realize that you're starting to make appointments in those times when you should be doing your work. You can suddenly start tidying your desk. That's a big thing that I tend to do quite a lot. Procrastination is sometimes, we all do it and it's that habit that we all get into. But if it's something that you feel like is happening a lot, it could be a sign that there's a creative block coming for you. Another sign I think, is when you feel like you're having doubts about your own abilities. If you're feeling like, I'm not talented or skilled enough to be doing this. I think that's often a quite a big indicator. That actually is just a period of being uninspired and actually you can do the thing that you're setting out to do. But it's just that internal feeling of not being inspired. It can really make you have doubts about what you're doing overall. Then I think sometimes it can actually come out in other ways when you have a creative block, it can come out through just feeling a bit off, either that could be physically or mentally. It could be that you just have bouts of headaches and you think, I can't really focus and that can be quite a big sign that there's a creative block coming for you. It may be that one of those things might strike for you more than the others but I think being able to recognize when you're stuck is one of the biggest challenges. Because when you know that you're stuck, then you can actually take steps to move out of it by doing some of those exercises that we do today or other methods that are going to help you to get inspired again. Then once you have recognized that you maybe feeling a bit stuck or having a block. There's all sorts of different ways of approaching creative block and getting unstuck. But there are three really big approaches that I just want to highlight. There's three main strands to the getting unstuck that I think are really important, which are what the exercise is based around today. The first thing I would really encourage everyone to do is to do what I call playing without there being a product. If you look at how young children create and make art, it's really refreshing to watch because you can see that they're really engaged in just playing with the materials and just letting go of fear or expectation because they don't have any, because they're not going to be creating an end product. They are just playing and creating for the sake of it. This is something that I really advocate if you're feeling a bit stuck and it's why we're doing some of these drawing exercises today. I think just finding the time and space in your life to create that space just to create for just for the sake of creating. You're not going to be creating a product to sell or to show anyone else, to put in your portfolio. I think it's actually really important and something that I think can really help you to move out the period of feeling quite uninspired. The second approach to getting unstuck that I think is really important, is actually trusting ourselves and our own creative ideas. I think when we feel uninspired, we often have this knee-jerk reaction to look externally for inspiration and that maybe looking at the work of artists that we admire or researching a subject matter, or maybe looking at art materials that we think are going to help to get us unstuck and which we all do that. I do that as well. But I think we stop trusting ourselves. What I think is a really good idea in an approach to getting unstuck is to actually really try to limit and even completely reduce and cut off the amount of external input that you're getting. If you're going through a period of feeling quite stuck, just limiting that external stimulus can really help you to reconnect with what it is that you find interesting and your own thoughts and your own ideas about what you want to be doing. The third approach to getting unstuck is to actually just do something different. Hopefully some of the exercises that we're going to do today will feel a bit like you're doing something a little bit different and perhaps that you're not used to doing. But this can be translated into lots of different areas of your creative practice as well. It could be making quite simple changes, even going somewhere new to create your work. It could be using a different medium, it could be a different subject matter, even very small changes like using a different type of pen to the pen that you usually use can just inject a little bit of freshness and start to move out of that period of feeling stuck. They are the three main approaches to moving out to the period of being stuck, I think is super important and that is what I'm hoping that we're going to do through these three exercises today. 3. Exercise One: Mindful Drawing: Without further ado, I think we'll move into our first exercise. This is an exercise in mindful drawing. Something that I personally find happens to me when I get creatively stuck and uninspired, is I can feel very overwhelmed and get a lot of racing thoughts, and it's quite hard to follow a particular line of research and inquiry. Something that I've been bringing a lot into my own practice is meditative drawing. It's a really fantastic practice to take you back a step and get you to a place [inaudible] from being joyful and calm rather than feeling panicked. So the first exercise we're going to do today, I'd invite you to have a piece of paper in front of you and also something to draw with. I'm going to be using a fairly big permanent marker because it shows up much better on camera and over Zoom, but you can really use anything, a tool that you have, you can use pencil, markers, pens, whatever you've got to hand. Just have those in front of you. Before we start drawing, I'd just like to invite you to start taking some really deep breaths. It's just going to help to prepare us to start drawing. If you want to, you can also close your eyes as well. I think that can sometimes really help to just cut off that external input. As you're breathing deeply, it's really helpful to just imagine all your busy thoughts and ideas to do less whatever is that you've been doing today. Imagine that all being gathered up into your breath. Then take a really full long exhale and imagine that those thoughts are being breathed out of you so that you can just let go of them. Next, it can be really helpful to actually physically imagine yourself relaxing, particularly your shoulders, forehead, and throat area. As you keep breathing deeply, now, I'd just like you to become aware of your surroundings if you've got your eyes closed, and you can be taking in some information about little sounds you can hear or textures that you can feel. If you've got the paper in front of you on a table, you could start to feel the paper and feel the texture on your fingertips. Even perhaps the sound that it might be making as you feel that paper. If you've had your eyes closed, I'd like to invite you to just open your eyes and then start to notice your surroundings. Just notice any shapes that you can see in your surroundings. It may be in my surroundings, for example, I can see some scissors and some tape and some pens. Just notice what shapes they are. They could be 3D objects or it could be 2D artworks or things you have in the wall around you. You're going to choose a shape from your surroundings, which is going to form the beginning of our mindful drawing exercise together. I'd recommend choosing a shape that's very simple because we're going to repeat the shape quite a few times. Shapes like circles, ovals, squares, triangles are all going to work really well so that your hand can feel quite natural in repeating them. If the shape is too complex, it can still elucidate jarring as a mindful drawing. I've got some tape on my desk. I'm going to use this shape as inspiration to my mindful drawing using double circles, I'm going to use a circle within a circle. Then I'd like to invite you to draw that shape quite small in the very center of your paper. It doesn't matter how big your paper is, but the drawing of that shape should be quite small. By small, I mean smaller than a coin. Just draw that shape once in the middle of your paper. We're going to repeat that shape several times. Then next, I want you to draw the shape again and the rule here is that it needs to touch the first shape that you drew. If you draw the shape again, making sure that the edge is touching that shape and then repeat it again. We're going to repeat the shape over and over. As you keep repeating the shape just very gently, we're just able to take your shapes up to the very top edge of the paper. It doesn't matter if you don't get there and in the time that we'll be working on this, it's just good to have a general direction that we're moving in to give us some focus for our drawing. As you keep repeating the shape over and over again, just notice how it feels. You can think about reversing the direction. If you're drawing a shape in a particular direction, you could try reversing that and see if it feels particularly different. I'm trying to have your attention completely on the drawing. If you can just try to really notice how it feels to be moving your hand in that repeated action again and again. Don't worry if it's not looking particularly aesthetically pleasing or like a nice drawing. It's much more about how the exercise feels and what it can do for your brain and making you feel a bit more relaxed and energized. You could also experiment with drawing the shapes more quickly or more slowly, or larger or a bit smaller. It may be that there's a particular way of drawing the shape that feels particularly good, so you can focus on that. If you hit the top edge of your paper, you could go back to the middle shape, and then you can start drawing down to the bottom edge of the paper. Doing a repeated action like drawing the same shape over and over again is super-helpful to try to calm your mind. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, if your creative block is coming from a place of feeling overwhelmed and not really sure, which direction you should be going in or perhaps you've got a lot of different projects on the go, and you're not really sure, which one to focus on next, I think doing a mindful drawing activity can be really very helpful. Just because it gives you something to focus on in the same way as a traditional meditation, you're focusing on your breath and bringing your mind back to your breath. If you are drawing a shape, it gives you a focus to bring your attention back to say that all those other thoughts and ideas and things whirling around your mind can just go into the background a little bit. When we are becoming more relaxed and focused through doing mindful activities, whether it's meditative drawing or breathing exercises or meditation, our brains are still really working quite hard. Even though they're relaxed, and sometimes you might find that subconsciously things start to come to you. You probably had the experience of being out for a walk, or in the shower, and then something comes to you. It's often because you are actually enabling your brain to be disengaged from the issue that you're trying to work on or the creative problem that you are trying to solve. You can keep adding more and more shapes. I mean, ultimately you can fill up whole pages doing this activity. I really recommend it as something that can be a really lovely activity for doing at the start of the creative session. If you just take a few minutes just to do a little bit of mindful drawing, it can be a really nice way to begin your creative process. Get yourself into a place of being more calm and focused before you begin that more challenging work of whatever it is that you're about to do, whether it's drawing or painting or digital work, or coming up with ideas. I'm hoping that because you've been repeating the shape over and over again, hopefully you'll be feeling a little bit more mindfully focused and relaxed, which is a really good place to be in for our second drawing exercise that we can move to. 4. Exercise Two: Timed Drawing: This next exercise is about ideas generation. It's easiest to come up with a great idea if you have a lot of ideas to choose from. This exercise can be quite helpful in helping us to develop fluency, which is coming up with a lot of ideas quickly and diversity and thinking about, are we coming up with a range of ideas that are quite different from each other or are there variations on the same thing? What we're going to do is we're going to have a time limit to this exercise, five minutes. In that five minutes you're going to add drawings or sketches to the circles to transform them into recognizable objects. What I mean by that, I'll show you an example. If I were to add to my first circle, I could add some chattels for example, and a stem and leaf. I can make that circle into a flower. It's a good exercise to help us just push ourselves and think of those solutions to a problem that go a little bit beyond the obvious answers. There aren't really any rules to this exercise other than the objects need to be recognizable, and if you want to combine circles together, you can do that as well. If you wanted to, for example, and I'm going to make these two circles into a pair of glasses, that's okay as well. You can combine circles together. I'm not going to say too much about it before we start because I think it's more interesting to actually do it and then see what you come up with from having done the exercise. I've got timer here that I'll just set for five minutes and we'll see how you go. If you haven't sketched your circles out, don't worry, you can just draw them as you go. Don't worry if you don't fill those circles for five minutes, you probably won't get to fill all them in and don't worry about the quality of the drawings. It's not about producing good drawings, it's just about producing different ideas. I'm going to start the timer and I'll be doing alongside you. That's five minutes. That went super quickly. I'll be interested to know how you found the exercise, do let me know in the chat. I think it's a really interesting exercise to do because you realize that you start to think in a particular way. In preparing for this session, I tried this exercise a few times and I have definitely found that it gets a lot easier and I've improved a lot at coming up with ideas and coming up with a better selection and range of ideas with practice. I think that it's a really helpful exercise to try and practice and just see how you get on. Particularly if you try that again tomorrow or in a few days time, I think you'll be quite surprised at what actually you come up with on a different occasion. 5. Exercise Three: Associative Drawing: For this exercise, it's useful to have that exercise handy because we're going to refer to it. But you just needed another blank sheet of paper. This exercise, we're going to use our powers of interpretation and imagination and perspective to take one idea or one object or one drawing and actually transform it into several other ideas. I think this is a really helpful exercise for thinking creatively because it can really help to train you to look at things differently. What we're going to do is we're going to pick something from the sheets of ideas that you've already created. When you pick something, I would encourage you to pick something which isn't too simple. It has some form to it other than a circle, say something where you've added some elements to it and it's not super symmetrical so it doesn't feel like it's going to be the same because we're basically going to cut it up and then use those bits of it. For example, in my sheet, I probably wouldn't use the button, for example, because I think that's going to be quite limiting because it's going to look the same regardless of what basically I use. I think I'm going to use the ultra-light bulb in my top row. I think I'm going to use that because it's got a nice different bits in it that when I deconstruct it and tear it up a bit, it's going to look a bit different for each one. We are going to just draw out that whatever you choose from your sheet, quite larger on a new piece of paper. I'm just going to draw a really big light bulb. Draw it on your paper reasonably big, if you can, and then we're going to tear it up or cut it up if you want to use scissors. If you want to, it can be quite nice to take a little photograph of it before you do that, just so that you can compare what it was before and then what you've destroyed and made new things from it. You can use scissors if you want or tear it. I am going to start by just tearing it up into four. I'm just going to tear it up. I'm going to get rid of my other sheet now. I've got four fragments now that I can use to create new things from. You can see what I mean about the object not being too complicated so that it still feels like you can make them into something else, but not too too much like a circle. I'm going to start by just having a look at what I've got and just actually rotating them and looking at them at different angles can really start to kick-start those ideas. It's a bit like when you are looking at clouds on a cloudy day, you think, "Oh, that one really looks adorable. That one really looks like a person." This exercise is a bit like that in a way. It is just giving you a starting point, somewhere to begin from, to create some new things from. I'm seeing something in this drawing. I'm going to start with this fragment. I'm going to put it just on a new piece of paper so that I might add other drawings to it. For this one, I'm seeing it a bit like an animal, like a dog or a mouse with an ear here. I'm going to just go with that aspect of what I'm seeing and just add stuff to it to make it look more like that. I'm just going to give the dog another ear, nose. Again, Mell, this is just something you don't think too much about. You just go for it. Yeah, just go for it. Don't think too much about it and often I think it's better to go with the very first thing that you think of. If you turn in a particular way and think, oh, that looks like I've just seen a dog in mind. Don't try and think of all the other things you can see. I think it's really helpful to just stay with your gut instinct and then just sketch out and don't worry about it being a good drawing or anything like that. It's just about transforming it into a different thing, a different idea. I'll just add a tail onto my dog. That's my first fragment and then I'm going to do the same thing with my other fragments. I'm going to leave that on a piece of paper and if you want to consider tape it down or stick it down later, but just for the person's doing quick. I'm just going to leave it laying on that and then go into my next fragment. Quite like the end of bow more than these ones for some reasons, so I am feeling like am going to go with this one next. I'm seeing a body in this one sitting, joyful person with a quite big stomach. I really like doing this exercise because there's something I think very powerful about, actually taking something that you created, a drawing, an idea, and then actually destroying it and making it into something else because it can just make us a lot less precious about. But the first thing that we create, sometimes we get very attached to an idea. If we think of something, we're brainstorming. Very often when we see that first idea, it's actually really difficult to move past that first idea and then seeing other things that can lie behind it. That's one of the reasons why I quite like to do something like destroy an idea or a piece of work. I'm going to make this a hot air balloon, I think. You don't have to use all of the fragments. Obviously, it is a bigger challenge to try and make all the fragments into something because it's much harder to try and find a use for all of them and try and transform them all into something else. It's Interesting because this is the same shape as the light bulb, just a different object. Actually, stickmen, stick people absolutely fine, it's not about it being a great drawing. It's about the process and the ideas. By giving us this starting point of whatever is drawn on your fragment, it's like a mini design brief because it then becomes less intimidating than a completely blank page. I think we've all had that fear that goes along with just having a completely blank piece of paper and you can create anything. Actually just giving yourself some parameters to work within. You've got these particular lines that you've got to work with. It's so helpful in just kick-starting your creativity and just coming up with solutions to something which can seem almost like a little puzzle, then you can solve it. Anything that gives you some design brief to start working from is a really helpful thing to do Because it just takes away that element of them, that fear of the blank page, which is really powerful, actually. I think blank pages can be terrifying. Mell, a couple of people are asking or sort that their drawings are more abstract. Yes. Is that okay or are you really looking forward to them to become new objects? No, I think it can be completely abstract. I think it's just about taking something that, obviously at the beginning before I tore it up, it was very obviously a thing. It was a light bulb. The things that I'm drawing, they are very basic, but they are representing particular things. But yeah, totally doing something completely abstract can be a great way of translating your drawing into something else, just creating shapes and playing with the lines that are there and seeing particular forms because actually drawing abstract shapes lines and forms, it can lead to so many different things. You might suddenly realize that there's the beginning, it's a really interesting drawing you want to turn into a prin or incorporate in something else. Yeah, absolutely. Anything goes. Yes, somebody says, Hey, they don't normally draw they are a writer. I mean, something I found from all of these exercises that I can definitely see them working across multiple disciplines. Just getting your mind out of its usual state really seems to broaden your horizons and make you think in a different way. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you can even think about very logically translate this into the master of writing. You can take a piece of writing that you've done or a sentence and actually cut the words up and think about using the words in a new way and that could be a way to apply the same principles in the form of writing. I think a lot of these exercises that we're using drawing is our tool. It's not really about the drawing, at all. It's about just different ways that we can think. Just they need to work a little bit outside your comfort zone and do something different. When I said there are those three approaches to getting unstuck, I think doing something differently. It's really important because you just start to see those new connections between things that maybe you haven't thought of before and it just prompt you into maybe going in a new direction. 6. Final Thoughts: I'd love to see your exercises, so please feel free to share one, some or all of them in the project gallery and also you can leave some comments with any reflections or insights that you found along the way. Thanks so much everyone for tuning in. I really hope you've had fun and I hope that I'll see you in another one of my classes.