There is an interesting dichotomy that I think exists within most artists. We love to do art, but lots of times we just don’t feel like it. I’m not sure how we can love something yet not feel like doing it, but it happens. Luckily I know a cure… Wow, that sounded like a sales pitch… Ok, I don’t know a “cure” but I do know what works for me, and it may work for you.
Here is what works. Do something, anything. Set a ridiculously easy goal to achieve and do it. Don’t get fancy with it, don’t think you have to make a masterpiece, don’t even think you have to use the best materials. Just make something!
A rolling stone gathers no moss
A simple setup
The most important thing is making it easy and accessible at the beginning. If you don’t feel like painting or drawing than a 30 minute setup time is nothing but a good excuse not to get started. For me I always keep my easel ready, or mostly ready, I can get setup for oil painting in under 10 minutes if I need, sometimes less than 5. But you don’t even need to oil paint, have sketching tools always available and ready to go. As I sit writing this I have my sketch books, pens and pencils within arms reach.
Remember getting started is the most important, so don’t let an arduous setup keep you from rolling.
Super simple goal
You know what motivates me most to do artwork? DOING ARTWORK! Isn’t that weird?
But, if I told myself that I had to make the greatest painting ever today, not only are the chances of that happening super slim, but so is the chance of me getting started on said masterpiece. I have only 1 goal daily, 30 minutes of art. That’s it, no more detail than that. 30 minutes of art is simple and achievable in almost any situation. Basically I have no excuse, if I’m on a plane flying across country it’s nothing to pull out a sketch pad and pen for 30 minutes. If I’m sick with the flu, I’m really thankful that I only have to do 30 minutes a day.
So make a goal, keep it simple and achievable and get started, get rolling, that is the most important. Most of the time once you get started you’ll end up doing much more than the goal.
Track your progress
How do you know how far you’ve come if you don’t know where you’ve been. So many times over the years I’ve felt as though I’m getting nowhere. This is the biggest purpose for my blog, I use it to look back on what I’ve accomplished.
Of course sometimes I look back and think I need to work harder, but that is even motivating. Tracking my progress gives me a clear direction in many ways. Although as a web developer I get a little carried away with the data…
Now, this is a bit crazy, you don’t have to do this. A quick photo from your cell phone and a note will work to track your progress. I just like tracking my time spent each day/week/month and in the chart you can see when my motivation is at its highest or lowest. Just last week I looked at this chart and determined that I produced more work in a month when I focused a lot on still life painting.
For myself I want to get outside of my comfort zone next. I started yesterday by doing my first landscape in a long time. I found today that I was even more excited to get painting when thinking about my landscape painting trip yesterday.
Through this excitement I setup a simple still life and set out to spend at least 2 hours on a small 5×7 painting. Now this is totally inside my comfort zone, but you know we can’t be out doing crazy things all the time.
Also I just read this post from Oil Painters of America and Mary Oliver has some wonderful ideas about how to get outside of your comfort zone. Now I’m wondering how I can get some local Whidbey Island artists involved in a weekly plein-air painting outing, or critique session.
Two oranges still life painting
My humble setup. I recently had the privilege to visit Cary Jurriaans studio and now I’m a bit jealous and looking forward to having such an amazing studio in the future.