How to be disciplined as an artist.

There is a generalization out there about artists that goes something like this: artists are very right-brained, disorganized, and flighty.

estee Janssens calendar photo

In the last years, I have learned that nothing could be further from the truth.

Many, if not most artists, work full-time at another job while painting part-time. And of course, artists have families and partners in their lives as well.

How do they ever find the time for creativity?

My experience as an artist and blogger

If you visit my website, you will notice that I have been blogging and painting without any interruption since June 2015. My growth as an artist has been undertaken in public through my blogging and in 2017, on my new website.

It took me a long time to consider myself an artist. So what changed?

First, I realized, after I had been painting for a year or so, that artists are always evolving, and discovering new techniques. How else can we grow but to experiment and make mistakes along the way?

In the last years, I had been hoping to find a particular style that I could call my own. That hasn't happened yet.

Why not?

Well, I had to accept the person that I was and still am...much too curious about all the creative possibilities and willing to explore all the time. So I had to come to terms with the idea that my art might be eclectic and unpredictable in style.

Estée Janssens photo

I have also discovered that writing is almost as important as art in my life. This was an unexpected revelation after many years of reading, commenting, and grading student papers. For some reason, I thought I was done with anything related to extensive writing.

Ebb and flow in art

As in all endeavours, there is an ebb and flow to the art and the blogging. There are dry spells when no ideas come to mind. At other times, I have too many projects on the go and my notebooks are filled to the brim with potential art and texts for the blog.

I have learned to accept the dry spells and to reflect, take a deep breath, and find some other interesting activities to keep me occupied. In no time at all, I feel the urge to get back to my paintbrushes and my writing.

So here are tricks I have used in the past years to keep working on both the art and the writing. I hope you will find some of these tips helpful for your own practice.

photo by Estée Janssens

Five ways to show up and remain disciplined as a creative

Use a calendar: I know this seems so obvious and yet, many people do not have any kind of art calendar. Yes, we have them for appointments and the like, so why not for time spent improving our skills as an artist?

Slot in time each day when you feel you will be most productive. Be realistic. Aim to be consistent, but don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day here or there. Your time away from art can be just as important as the time you spend working on a canvas.

Know your limits: Does a big project involving many hours of tedious work seem daunting? Are you ready to tackle such a project at this time in your life?

Maybe you need to work on small projects such as a journal page or a very small canvas so that you can see the finished product within a few hours. Maybe you don’t like a mess. Working in a sketchbook with pens or coloured pencils will definitely minimize the chaos in your art area.

Stop working before you reach your limit of patience. Don’t work when you are tired. Be prepared to quit painting when you feel you are close to getting beyond the point where you are enjoying it.

If you push yourself to continue, you might not like the next layers of paint. Stopping before you reach the point of fatigue will make you look forward to the next session.

Make your commitment public: Tell your friends. Join and like Facebook pages or groups with likeminded people.

If you wish, you will receive kind comments and suggestions for improving your skills from other artists.

Or, if you have the time and patience, start an art blog.

Joining a local art organizations will fuel your passion.

Surround yourself with people who offer encouragement, especially if you lack confidence in your capabilities.

Journal or keep track of your progress:

It is motivating to see your evolution as an artist as time goes by. A blog is not for everyone, but it can push you to produce regularly.

I also print my art and keep copies in a binder. I have art that is completed for online courses or other interest groups (vintage art), and other art for practice that I might not show anyone.

Liz Steel, formerly an architect, now urban sketcher, makes a grid of all the possible art she would like to work on in a month.

For example, she has categories such as “What I did see”, “A silly thing”, “Trees, plants, flowers”, “my local area”, as well as “no sketch”. She darkens a box next to the category on the day that she finished one of those sketches. Or, on a day when she doesn’t feel like sketching, she is also accountable with the “no sketch” box. Also check her post, "Ten years ago I couldn't use a paintbrush!".  You will be inspired!

There are all kinds of ways to document your journey as an artist. Find one that suits you best.

Expect to have days when art doesn’t work… and then what?

It’s all part of the process. Just accept it.

Those are the days when I don’t start anything new.

I find other art-related activities. I might organize and clean my craft room, make a list of future projects, get caught up on social media art sites, read about art…you get the idea.

Please share this article with other creatives or add your tips in the comment box below.

What helps you to show up on a regular basis for any type of creative work?

Cheers from the Art Room.

Estée Janssens photo

 

Header photo by Rachael Crowe at Unsplash.  All photos within the blog text are by Estée Janssens at Unsplash.

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