Painting in short increments can solve your Not Enough Time to Make Art quandary. I talk about this in my free course Six Tips to Paint More, and I live by, and believe in this approach. When you’re just starting out, knowing how much time you need to make some art can be a guess, or a preconceived falsehood. If all you have is 20 minutes here, and 40 minutes there, take those slots, and make something in them. I’ve marked the dates I worked on the watercolor in this post in the captions below. I started in November and finished in January, over a hopscotch of short sessions on a lap desk, on the couch, in the evenings, just before bed. There were no all-afternoon painting sessions waiting for me on that holiday-strewn path of the calendar. I kidnapped short sessions, and enjoyed the heck out of my episodic time, painting a watercolor of a boy in a chair reading books, before I changed into jammies and slipped into bed. You can do this too. Pinky-promise.
Take Your Time
Many of us say “I don’t have time for art.” Perhaps we should alter that mantra to “I haven’t taken time for art.” Untouched art supplies will never chase you down the hall to tap on your shoulder for attention. We don’t “get” time for art. We have to “take” time for art. It’s a wholly different mindset, and it puts you squarely in the driver seat, steering the artist’s car. Letting yourself believe (and say) you haven’t got time for art is misleading. Are you waiting for someone to give you more time? We all have the same hours on every clock, all over the world. What we fill the hours with is worth examining. Life is busy, and if you find it more “relaxing” to surf the net or watch television, can I urge you to give art-making a try for just 25% of those sessions? Taking is more assertive than waiting to have. Taking insists that you own this endeavor, and you’re in control of how you spend your snippets of downtime. I am guilty of emptying the dishwasher, and doing one last load of laundry before I can make art. A deeply set program is stuck in my engine room, insisting I finish the drudgery before I get rewarded with art-fun. I wrestle with that lopsided hierarchy every. single. day. If your attempts at regular creative sessions are fraught with time management issues, read Srini Rao on the Profound Power of Knowing How You Spend Your Time.
Let’s Pause this Regularly Scheduled Program
In between this phase of the watercolor portrait (above), and the next image (below), I painted the portrait from this post in December, in the same mini-sessions on the couch during the evenings. This is a good example of why it’s wise to have several watercolor block pads and sketchbooks handy in your art supply tote bag, so you can zig-zag through those urgently-inspired painting ideas, and then loop back to finish the one you started a few weeks ago. Caveat: If you’re just starting out, it might be best to stay with a single painting all the way through till it’s finished. Especially if acknowledgments and attaboys are hard to come by in your own repertoire of self critiques. Even if you don’t like the final art, you can (and should) at least congratulate your efforts at finishing. Really. We need encouragement to stay in this, and if all you ever tell yourself is that you fell short of the goal, why would you ever want to return to painting? Shush your naysayer with a pat on the back, and stay in the game. Baby steps forward. Give yourself the advice you’d give to a child just starting out at anything. You get better with practice. Lots and lots of practice. Never mind the wishes for a masterpiece. Do you think Misty Copeland acquired her skills by dancing once every couple of weeks? Just paint.
Distract the Bull while I Paint
In response to the mention of audiobooks on my instagram feed, here are three (below) that I recently listened to and enjoyed immensely. (Today, I just started this one.) Do you listen to books while you work? If any of your book selections are working to keep art supplies in your hands, and eyes averted from surfing the net – because you can’t wait to hear more of your book – share the titles in the comments. Books are magical atmospheric mood enhancers. They will take you to Kent, England to stroll through an old castle, while you’re standing in your kitchen, laying some washes onto a new watercolor, or sitting on the couch, gridding a drawing. Audiobooks also wave a red flag to distract the Bull of your critic, and your self consciousness, so you can paint in a more relaxed way. It’s the best kind of trickery. Here’s a link to a free audiobook if you want to give it a go.
Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post,
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Happiness in life is not a given, it must be seized.
~Kate Morton, The Distant Hours