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7 Tips for fitting more art into your life


I often hear from artists who, in spite of their best efforts, they just can’t seem to fit in enough time and space in their lives for drawing and painting – even though it is something they really love to do. If you are one of those artists, here are a few tips that might help you get back in the groove.

1. Have your work laid out and ready to go 

If you have to spend 20 minutes setting everything up, clearing space, finding materials and pictures to work from etc. before you can sit down to your art, it creates a huge barrier to painting and drawing regularly. You don’t need a studio or even a bespoke room, but if you can find a small space to set out your paints, paper and images in advance, you will find that it is constantly beckoning you over to come and paint or draw or just do a little bit more on something you have started. If you are lucky enough to have a room or studio space for your art, try to get into the habit of leaving it ready for your next painting session at the end of the day. Brushes cleaned, canvas/paper ready on your board or easel, reference sketches and images to hand – that way you will be able to get stuck in straight away the next time you want to do some art.

2. Move art further up your ‘to-do list’

It’s often the case that we tell ourselves that we will get all our chores done first – then we will be free to do our painting. What actually happens is we spend the whole day doing everything that ‘needs’ to be done and then either we run out of time or we are simply too exhausted to do anything else and just aren’t in a painting mood anymore – and just plain grumpy (or is that just me?). But I have found that if I turn this around and get up even slightly earlier in the day to fit in some drawing and painting first, my whole day is improved and I am more than happy to spend the rest of the day doing whatever else is on my list. If the painting doesn’t go well, I feel happy that I’ve had a go and know what I’m going to do next time. But if it goes well – I’m am in a great mood for the rest of the day, all my other jobs seem to be a breeze and I’m itching for the next time I can get back to my painting.

3. Start with something small

Weirdly, knowing that I have the whole day to paint is sometimes harder as I will keep putting off starting because I have ‘loads of time’. To get around this I have a list of small, easy ‘arty jobs’ to do, to get me into the studio. Things like priming canvases, stretching watercolour paper, doing small black and white preparatory sketches from photos that I have taken for larger paintings… and then once I’m in the studio – I’m off! Try to find some small arty jobs of your own that will get you ‘in the zone’.

4. Have a secret sketch book

Don’t feel that every time you sit down to do some art it has to be a full blown piece of work. Sometimes just a 20 minute sketch will be enough to to keep your art practice going – especially if you know that it is just for you and nobody else to see. This can be very liberating. I keep an A5 ‘scribble book’ just for this kind of thing. It’s not posh or expensive, but it does the trick.

5. Work on more than 1 piece at a time

This sounds as though it is harder, but in fact it’s a way of being more productive. I try to work on 3 related pieces (all acrylics or all watercolours) at a time, allowing 30 minutes per piece before moving to the next one. This method stops me over-working a painting and helps me to keep it fresh. I find that by the time I have done my half hour on the third piece I am looking at the first piece again with fresh eyes. Also it stops me getting too bogged down with one piece of work that isn’t going too well.

6. Be consistent

Art is like any other practice – little and often is better than a lot of hours once every few months. For example, if you want to be better at exercising it’s pointless waiting until you have a whole free day to train and then do nothing again for weeks. I find that the art I do in 2 or 3 hour sessions regularly is better than the paintings I’ve laboured over for a whole day at a stretch. So don’t wait for the perfect day to paint – it rarely comes, just do a bit as often as you can.

7. Limit screen time

The internet is full of artwork and art instruction, but try not to look at this for inspiration when you have time to paint. If you start by looking at other artwork or videos when you want to paint you will find that this will take up much more of your time than you want it to, plus rather than inspire you it can drain or overwhelm you because it has sort of ‘scratched your artistic itch’ and you no longer feel such a strong urge to do something yourself. Either stick to doing your on-screen searches outside of your painting/drawing time or find an instructional art video that you can paint along with.