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Working Through Art Anxiety

Some Techniques to Keep Creating

Photo by Mitul Shah from Burst 

As I thought of what I might want to write for this week's post, I found myself anxious. Somehow, in such a short time, I already wound these posts with my fears and stresses. In the last year, I have come to the realization that I am am very empathetic and have abandonment issues. As an artist, this can be problematic. It is especially problematic with sharing art on social media. My specific issue has been that I've had so many people I've been connecting with and empathizing with that when I go to create art, I am drained of empathy for myself and what to create.

Whether you struggle from mental health issues or not, it can be hard to share your art, even if you are proud of it. It can feel like placing your work before a judge and jury, ready to be convicted for lack of conviction. Sometimes the cloud of social media can even intimidate an artist out of creating art.

The realization I've specifically come to with my art is that it should be for me, even if it's an illustration for someone else, or me working towards something for others. At its core, it needs to be for me. Art is such an investment of time, energy, and emotion. Same goes for writing, video, and music for that matter. They all require such commitment. With that level of commitment, you need to have a degree of love, passion and drive for it.

As my anxiety spikes around creating, here are the measures that I have used in the past I plan to try.

Drawing Guilty Pleasures

Maybe there shouldn't be such a thing as guilty pleasures... but there is some art I create that I never post. It might be that same 3/4 face, or something where the anatomy is purposely messed up, or a medium I suck at but enjoy making a mess with. Sometimes it's actual scribbles on a page, or a dozen pages, to just get my hand moving and the stress of creating something meaningful out.

Taking Time for Solitude

This might not work for extroverts, but for introverts like me, it can feel selfish to say no when you don't actually have anything planned, especially if you need more than one day. It is important to take time to decompress and be able to be present in yourself. I find writing in a notebook what thoughts are dwelling, then just drawing or painting can be great. Or, I also like to put on a podcast or music and draw for that hour straight of the podcast, or the duration of a playlist, even if it ends in just random lines.

I have personally taken a few days off because I know I will have a bunch of work coming in shortly. That act has helped me detach a little from my stress train even a bit.

Out of Your Comfort Zone

Oh, how I like my comfort zones... yet I don't? But, I easily creep back into them. When I'm really feeling incapable of art, or just void of ideas, I like to use randomizers on personality and appearance of a character and just draw it. One I specifically like, I stumbled across years ago (here).

Another trick is to do technique exercises, such as drawing scenery and objects around me, or learning the anatomy of a new creature. It can make me more focused on the challenge than my insecurities.

Not Drawing

Okay, sometimes this is the worst idea. But, to have ideas for drawing, you have to have experiences. I will have bursts of time where I just keep digging for more and more fuel for my tank. It could be seeing other art, watching animation, going for nature walks, wandering stores, people watching, trying a new recipe... the list goes on. At times, I realize my lack of desire to create is actually me being under the weather, and I need to figure out what my body is lacking. Forcing myself to keep trying to create, I would put blinders on for my health and just get frustrated.

Talking to Other Artists

I recently upped my confidence with commenting on social media, and have struck some conversations with artists I look up to. I've also spent time chatting with artists I know. For me, seeing their passion and maybe even learning of some of their techniques or imperfections gives me some extra fuel. Seeing what they create sparks ideas of my own future work.


It's okay to have off times for art. In most parts of our lives there will be ups and down. When a down is past a certain amount of time it can be demoralizing. Take a step back, step deeper, see what you need.

I hope this post has helped you even a little. Thank you for taking the time to read it!

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