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Artist’s block is defined as a period of time when an artist cannot access their creativity or they are unable to create a piece of art, much in the same way as a writer may suffer from writer’s block. I have developed a system named Art Block that allows a creative person who is feeling uninspired to be able to imagine and create new art. This system is to help stimulate creativity by allowing the individual to push through their artist’s block instead of simply waiting for inspiration to strike. Card games of chance and interactive books that are more self-directed have inspired me. My goal is that this method is not only used to alleviate artist’s block, but that it can also be used as an educational tool.

The Fluxus movement of the 1960’s and 70’s has been a great source of stimulus for me. Works such as Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit teaches the value of the process over the final product. In Ono’s book the reader is invited to participate in activities that focus on mindfulness and being in the present. This state of mind can help lead to creativity. While my goal is to get people to create art, the process often gets overlooked. This card system helps take the guesswork out of the process. Getting bogged down with details and meaning often leads an artist to think the problem is one of a lack of ideas. By providing mediums, techniques, artists to emulate, and color palettes it puts the artist in a headspace to focus on making rather than creating. Since the system focuses on working through the artist’s block, the details and the meaning are meant to develop as the artist continues to make, hopefully leading to that “aha moment”.

The card system allows for a person to be able to experience something new and/or familiar by the chance draw of a card. The text-based system gives the artist a chance to access and use a favorite online search engine or the local library to research unfamiliar techniques and artists. Inspired by the graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, the minimalistic design of the cards makes it easily readable, but also minimizes any cues that would overtly influence the aesthetic of the artist. The standard playing card sized deck consists of 90 cards with 2 cards that explain the “rules” to the system and 4 categories of cards (40 Inspirations, 20 Colors, 20 Techniques, and 8 Canvas). I have used a neutral gray background so that the color palettes are easier to match and the back of the cards are color coded and labeled for easy sorting. When an artist feels like they have encountered artist’s block, they simply have to randomly select a card from the categories they feel that they need some help with. By narrowing the scope of available options an artist has, the system lets the artist get started and begin working towards inspiration.

There are numerous ways in which people create art. The system I have designed allows for great flexibility in its usage because the first rule of the system, as with art, is “there are no rules.” I consider the system to be a guide and a starting place. I have been stricken countless times with artist’s block and have had serious trouble getting on track to the point that I am unable to get started on projects in a timely manner. I have researched ways to combat this, but I usually end up wasting more time looking for a resolution. I feel that if I had previously had a system like this one, I would have had a much easier, productive, and better thought-out artwork of my own. That is why I created Art Block.


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  • Content length or size
    • jpeg

  • DPLA rights
    • © 2019 Dorothy M. McLellan, All Rights Reserved

  • Location
    • 30060

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Is format of
    • Deck of cards