Frustrated with having to spend so many hours of your day at a 9-5 job when all you want to be doing is working on your art? Confused about how to make the jump from working a full-time job into creative entrepreneurship? Wondering if making a living from your creative gifts is even possible to begin with?
Becoming a full-time artist or artistpreneur is definitely possible, provided you establish clear goals for yourself, set up a realistic plan of action depending on your current life situation, and keep working towards your objective, no matter what. It's possible, and there are LOTS of people doing it. Is it easy? NOT AT ALL. Will the first few years be tough? ABSOLUTELY. But as long as you stay motivated and focused on your end-goal you WILL get there.
In today's blog post and YouTube video, I'll be answering three of the most recurrent questions that I was asked during my recent Ask Me Anything event over at www.amafeed.com, which was much more focused on the business side of becoming an artist and how I transitioned from being a full-time employee into creative entrepreneurship. This blog post and YouTube video are probably the most personal ones to-date and I will be sharing lots of tips and secrets that have allowed me to set the foundations for a successful art business.
It's hard for me to believe that it's been a year since I left my last full-time job! I had been working as an employee for almost ten years after having graduated from university, and it wasn't until around three years ago that the idea of becoming a solopreneur started looking like something I could pursue. Even though the idea made me extremely nervous and I was very uncertain about what would happen, I decided to take the leap and have been working extra-hard on my art business ever since.
Though I am not making an income I can live off from yet, I have learned A TON throughout this year and I have confidence that I'm slowly (but surely) building a business that will allow me to live life on my own terms. Aside from finally having time to devote to my personal artistic growth, this year has been full of new and interesting experiences, including meeting people from all over the world whom I share my passion for art with and would have otherwise never met!
Transitioning into Creative Entrepreneurship Questions
Five Ways to Avoid or Fix Watercolor Mistakes
It's important to understand that no mistake will be completely erased with any of these techniques. What you're trying to do is make them less noticeable, so that they don't distract from the great areas of your painting!
Mistake #1: Accidentally covering up your lightest areas (whites)
Make sure that you take time to plan and decide how you'll be protecting your lightest areas before starting with the painting process. You can do this by either creating a "map" for yourself (drawing small shapes around these areas using a pencil) and very carefully working around them as you're painting.
If you're painting a very complex subject with very small areas you want to protect, I recommend using masking fluid, as I did to protect the whiskers of this cougar.
To learn everything you need to know about using masking fluid with watercolors, visit my blog post titled Using Masking Fluid with Watercolors: Everything You Need to Know.
How to fix it:
Use the lifting technique to remove some of the pigment from your paper. If your paint is still wet, simply take your rag or paper towel and gently blot your paper with up and down motions (not sideways as this will damage the paper).
If your paint is already dry, no problem! As long as you're using decent quality watercolor paint, they CAN be reactivated by re-wetting them! All you have to do is rinse your brush well, remove excess water from its bristles and do gentle circular scrubbing motions in the area. Don't go back in with too much water, though, and stay mindful about not damaging your paper.
Remember that the more wet your paper is, the more fragile it is! So once you've removed all you can, just let it go and allow the area to dry.
*It's important to know that different colors are going to have different staining qualities on your paper, and that the quality/type of paper you're using will affect the outcome of this technique.
*Also, the thicker the paper you're working on, the more scrubbing and lifting it will allow without you damaging it. These techniques won't work well if you're using lightweight paper. I love working on paper thats 140 lbs. and up!
Mistake #2: Laying down too much dark paint in the beginning stages or creating flat/stark looking shapes or lines
Remember that a good watercolor piece requires patience! Take your painting ONE-STEP-AT-A-TIME and always start with light, translucent values and work your way towards the darks in layers. Look at your reference and add your darkest values only where you actually see them (usually these spaces are small and have variation in them).
Generally speaking, you want to keep even your darkest values somewhat transparent, and keep obvious lines or tiny shapes only for the areas where your subject really calls for it.
How to fix it:
Went a bit crazy laying down way too heavily pigmented paint mixture in a larger area (or sooner) than intended? Don't fret! Use the lifting technique described in the previous point using your rag to gently blot the area while it's still wet or use your clean, damp brush to do some scrubbing. Be gentle while you remove as much pigment as possible and allow to dry before attempting to do anything else in that area.
You can also use the pulling/spreading technique in order to dissipate the concentrated pigment into a larger area. Of course, you don't want to spread that pigment into areas that are meant to be white or affect other colors you've already placed, so be careful!
I've found, dissipating that stark line or edge into a gradient really helps remove that flatness that we've mistakenly created. Do what you can and leave it. Move on to work on other areas of your painting. Later on, when the area is completely dry, you can go back in and make any overworked areas less noticeable by adding more paint carefully and playing around with values/washes.
Mistake #3: Bleeding colors
It's really essential for you to know the different effects that watercolors allow and when to use different techniques. I wouldn't recommend moving onto a complex piece if you haven't practiced simple exercises that will allow you to know your medium's characteristics.
If you want to know more about the essential watercolor techniques you should be aware of and specific exercises that you should definitely try before moving on to painting specific subjects, I highly recommend checking out my free Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Course.
Essentially, when you place a paint mixture on a previously wetted paper, it will expand/bleed/intermix. This is referred to as the wet-on-wet technique and will lead to a blurred-out effect that you, most likely, do not want in some areas of your painting.
Before starting with your painting process, give thought to what areas you want blurred out, and which you want more definition in. The more defined you want an area, the more important it is for you to wait for the previous layer of paint to dry before applying more paint on top!
How to fix this:
Gently blot your paper with your paper towel immediately when this intermixing starts happening in order to prevent it from expanding more. Allow it to dry completely. If the mistake is small and the color left behind is faint, chances are you will be able to add more definition to the area with subsequent layers once it's dry.
Mistake #4: Creating muddy colors
The very best thing you can do in order to avoid muddy colors to begin with, is to take time to test and experiment how the pigments you're planning to use mix together. Before starting to paint, give thought to the color palette needed for your composition. Pinpoint the exact colors you will be using, and keep your palette limited (3-5 colors usually works for me).
I cannot paint without my scrap piece of watercolor paper beside me that allows me to CONSTANTLY test out color mixtures and transparencies throughout the process.
Know and understand the Color Wheel and the relationships between colors. Explore Analogous and Complementary colors, and decide how you want to approach deepening color values and creating shadow effects. Take time to do exercises before even attempting to paint a complex subject or else you'll end up frustrating yourself more than you need to!
In the third class of my free Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Course, I walk you through several color mixing exercises, which you'll find extremely useful!
*Don't mix more than 3 different colors together, unless you know what you're doing.
How to fix this:
If you've mistakenly laid down a muddy color on your paper, try to absorb what you can while it's still wet and allow the area to dry. There are some cases in which adding a light wash of a brighter color on top, will make the mistake less noticeable.
Mistake #5: Overworking or damaging your watercolor paper
If you're anything like me and you enjoy using techniques like scrubbing, lifting and layering, buy decent quality thick paper (140 lbs. and up). I personally cannot work on thin, flimsy paper! It drives me nuts!
However, even when using thick, quality paper, it's essential to learn when to STOP and allow your paper to dry. The more experience you gain, the faster you'll be able to recognize when your paper needs time to recoup!
In the video included here, you'll notice I jump around A LOT. If I do something I don't like, I absorb/lift what I can, and leave it. I work somewhere else and come back to that area to fix it later. I do not obsess over imperfections and move on with the process.
How to fix this:
Damaged paper simply cannot be fixed (unless you want to cut that part off). Of all the mistakes mentioned in this post, this is probably the deadliest, so stay mindful throughout the process so it never gets to this point.
Try not to get to obsessive over your mistakes, take a learning experience for what it is, and move on with the work you can do.
To finish up this post, I want to encourage you to not get frustrated over small mistakes. There is a certain beauty behind imperfection, and what you should be striving for with each piece is progress. Trying to chase perfection with every single drawing or painting you create is probably going to end up hindering you and not allowing you to move forward as fast as you could.
Thanks so much for reading!
*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.
These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Are you a beginner artist looking to start to sketch on a consistent basis? Do you have a sketchbook or two (or three) laying around, but find that you rarely use them either because you can't find the time or are scared of "ruining" them? Would you like to get past the initial stage of "awkwardness" as quickly as possible, so that you can actually start ENJOYING your sketching process?
In past blog posts and YouTube videos, I've talked about how I consider drawing to be the basis for all kinds of art. It doesn't really matter what kind of visual artist someone is setting out to become, or what level of skill has already been attained, artists must make sketching a habit and continue with this practice throughout their journeys.
In today's post, I will be sharing the top five tips I wish I knew when I first started sketching. By understanding and practicing these points, you'll be able to progress a lot faster, start enjoying your studies and explorations a lot more, and start filling out entire sketchbooks in no time.
Before moving forward, I want to get a very important message across. I believe that smaller sketches and studies are JUST AS IMPORTANT as larger, more polished pieces that may take days (or even weeks) to complete. Learning how to get ideas down on paper in a quicker, rougher way, is extremely valuable as an artist.
It was precisely these kinds of smaller, quicker studies that allowed me to progress artistically while holding on to demanding full-time jobs and going through major life changes.
Few of us are fortunate to know, since a very young age, that we want to dedicate our lives to art and become professional artists some day. And an even less percentage of those people who DO know, are lucky enough to have the funds necessary to live, while solely working on developing their artistic skills. If you're one of those lucky people and you have the money/time to explore both smaller and larger pieces simultaneously, by all means go for it!
However, if you have kids, full-time jobs, a house to keep, and other responsibilities, rest assured that these smaller studies ARE moving you forward, as long as you're making it a point to stay CONSISTENT. Five to six smaller sketches and/or studies a week are going to get you WAY FURTHER than setting out to create one large masterpiece every five to six months, with no activity in between.
I highly recommend checking out my Drawing for the Total Beginner Mini-Course which you can get access to immediately after joining my insider group HERE. This mini-course is made up of three 10-15 minute classes that contain specific drawing exercises for you to complete, as well as direct links to resources that will help you keep developing your skills once you have completed the lessons.
1. Know your tools
For my quicker sketches, I usually like to prepare the following:
a) Three different pencil grades (usually HB, 2B, and 6-8B) *I rarely use the H variety at all!
b) Drawing/sketching paper or sketchbook
c) Soft rubber graphite eraser
d) Basic metallic sharpener
e) Tombow Mono Zero eraser *This has been my favorite eraser to be able to get into smaller areas
These are optional, but useful if you want to start drawing more realistically:
f) Blending stumps or tortillions
g) Kneaded eraser
In terms of paper, it's useful to start noticing how different thicknesses and textures affect your process, as well as the outcome of your drawings.
2. Always start with simplified large shapes and forget about details until later
It's absolutely imperative to learn to visualize your subjects (whether your drawing still life, the human figure, a landscape, or anything else), as combinations of simple shapes like cubes, cylinders, rectangular prisms, cones, etc. Learn to tune out all the smaller shapes and intricacies until after effective proportion and placement of individual elements in regards to each other, has been achieved.
I'm serious! Don't even START adding details, textures, shadows, or ANYTHING of the sort, until your initial base is solid.
I go a lot more in depth about this topic and provide you with several different exercises in my Drawing for the Total Beginner Mini-Course. To get immediate access to it, click on the image below to join my art insider group.
Once you've gained enough practice creating basic outline drawings, I highly recommend looking into shading techniques that will allow you to start creating a believable sense of form.
I have a very thorough blog post (complete with downloadable exercises) in which I explain hatching, crosshatching, scribbling, and other quick shading techniques that you can read here: Guide to Shading Techniques: Hatching, Crosshatching, Scribbling and Others.
3. Learn how to hold your pencil for drawing purposes
When we're writing, we need to be able to create neat, legible letters right-off-the bat. On the other hand, when we're drawing, we start by laying down imperfect lines and we refine them along the way (that's what our erasers are for!). These are two very different activities and we have to make that mental switch necessary to change our approach depending on what it is we're doing.
There are many different ways of holding a pencil for sketching purposes and there isn't one that is necessarily "better" than the next. It's going to depend on what YOU find most comfortable at each point of the sketching process once you have a bit more drawing practice.
Have in mind you'll usually switch between different hand positions and grips throughout your drawing process. However, generally speaking, you want to position your hand further away from the tip of your pencil. You also want to move your entire arm as you draw and not only your wrist (as you do when you're writing).
Try to relax and draw loosely! If you're too tense, warm up by drawing different types of lines and shapes. There's absolutely nothing to be nervous about, especially if you start out with LIGHT lines that you can easily erase (as you always should). Always start lightly, and move on to darker values as you refine your sketch.
Have fun with it and throw perfection out the window! Fearing you'll make mistakes and striving for perfection will keep you from creating art, which will keep you from making progress. Don't ever fear the blank page and, remember, with every sketch you make you'll get better and better.
Here are two different ways that I usually hold my pencil when I'm sketching:
4. Develop observational skills and hand-eye coordination by using references
*Note: With "references" I mean either using photographs or drawing/painting from life, NOT copying a previously made illustration or painting. There is, however, a lot to learn from studying other artists' styles and techniques. If you want to create such studies, or even downright copy an already existing art piece, just make sure it's for exploration/learning purposes and I would suggest keeping it to yourself.
Using references allows us to develop our observational skills AND our hand-eye coordination. It's also impossible for the human brain to hold on to all the visual information that a photograph (or seeing something in the flesh) can present to us. Even if you're intending on developing a cartoonish style in the future, studying how things actually look like in real life, will give you a solid base to work from.
I highly recommend all beginners out there to start working from photographs as soon as possible. There are many awesome free image sources online, so there's really no excuse. You can find a list of my favorite free image sites HERE. Begin forming your own reference library! Learn what makes a good photograph in terms of lighting and composition, and remind yourself to take photos whenever an opportunity presents itself. Soon enough, you'll have plenty of your own original photos to work from!
Once you've gained some confidence using photographs as references, start incorporating sketching from life into your weekly routines. I explain why drawing/painting from life is an incredibly important part of an artist's journey and provide ten useful tips to make these exercises less intimidating in this blog post: Why Drawing From Direct Observation is Essential and 10 Tips to Improve
5. Make sketching a habit
If you want to get better at anything in life, you have to do it consistently.
As I was mentioning in the introduction of this post, taking even 15-20 minutes a day to sketch will get you far, as long as you make sure to continue. I highly recommend buying a sketchbook that feels good to you and getting into the habit of taking it along with you throughout your day so that you can use any free time that pops up.
I hope these tips were useful for you and wish you much progress in your artistic journey!
*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Do you struggle with keeping your art studio as clean and organized as you'd like? Do you wonder how so many artists/creatives manage to keep their working spaces so neat and tidy? Have you ever found the mess around you demotivating to the point that it affects your productivity levels?
Though the act of creating art can (and sometimes downright should) imply making some sort of mess, this doesn't mean we should be okay with our studios being in a constant state of chaos. Of course, people's tolerance levels towards disorganization vary immensely, but our studios are an extension of ourselves and our work, and should be treated as such.
Personally, I like to work in an environment that inspires me to create and helps me be as productive as possible every-single-day. My artwork is important to me (and I hope that your artwork is important to you as well), and staying as organized as possible ensures that it is going to be protected and accessible.
I really enjoy learning tips and tricks from other creatives, and Ali from Cut, Cut, Craft ( www.cutcutcraft.com ) was super helpful to share some ideas with us in the following post!
Hey guys and gals! It’s Ali here from Cut, Cut, Craft! (www.cutcutcraft.com) with some practical and creative ideas on how you can keep your studio organized in order to make the best art you can.
In Erika’s own words, "the environment that surrounds us impacts our mood and creativity". Read her blog post titled How I Find Inspiration as an Artist and Some Ideas to Keep You Going.
This is true for the people you surround yourself with, as well as the sorts of art and entertainment you consume. But it is especially valid in your own art studio, the very place you want to be free to act on your creativity to produce wonderful creations.
If your space is cluttered and disorganized, your mind will spend precious resources distracted by the mess. It will take you extra time to find materials to get started on a new project. Your aim should be to lower the activation energy needed to create art. Spend some effort on organizing your space, so it’s easy for you to dive in when inspiration strikes!
I’ll go through some general tips on how to get your art studio in working order, and give you specific ideas on how to implement each of them.
8 Ways to get (and stay) organized
1. Purge your supplies (and donate them)
But don’t just toss any good markers and paints that aren’t getting use! Donate them! There are so many places that are happy to receive donated arts and crafts supplies: elementary and preschools, YMCAs, community centers, women’s shelters, churches, art centers, etc.
It’s best to donate locally.
So just do a quick Google search, “where to donate art supplies [your city/town/county name]” to find locations nearby.
Make sure that the supplies you donate can actually be used! Dried up paint and crusty paint brushes aren’t useful for anyone. So when you are purging your art supplies, you’ll need at least two piles: one for trash and one to donate.
2. Use containers for writing, drawing, and painting instruments
There’s no need to spend loads of cash on fancy decorative bins.
You can use tin cans and mason jars to store pens, pencils, markers, and paintbrushes (and decorate them yourself if you want). I personally like to use the $1 metal buckets from Target, but they aren’t always in stock. You can also find all sorts of neat containers at dollar stores and thrift shops. These sorts of open containers make sure your tools are always visible and easily accessible.
Make sure to have enough containers that you can actually sort all your creative instruments with plenty of space. This way you don’t have to work to cram pens into overstuffed mugs or spend time trying to find just the right marker.
3. Have a designated place to store your works in progress
This is easiest for 2D art. If you have any adjustable shelving, make a short shelf or two, just a couple inches high, that are always kept clear so you can place your work there. There are also flat plastic ArtBins that are useful for keeping dust, lint, and hair off your work.
For 3D projects, a container on a larger shelf will work. I actually like to use the top bucket-shelf of the rolling Ikea trolley. (It’s called Raskog if you want to check it out.) For larger pieces, I’ll usually place projects up high on top of shelves so my kids don’t wander past and touch something delicate that needs a day or two to set.
4. Take advantage of vertical storage
Install shelves, cubbies, or racks that go all the way up to the ceiling. (But make sure to have a sturdy step stool so you can actually reach things at the top.)
I’m also a really big fan of pegboards for taking advantage of walls as storage, without protruding as far as shelves do. Yeah, the sort you’ll see at discount stores or maybe covering a wall of your pop’s garage. They are super useful for hanging tools and buckets, but you’ll need the right accessories: straight and curved pegboard hooks. You can also get pegboard kit, with a great variety of hanging devices. It’s all super affordable and available at any big hardware store.
5. Use bins and boxes for larger items
Create separate containers for different sorts of materials and tools. Or group together all the supplies for a type of project, so your watercolor paints, brushes, and paper are all in a single box for easy use. Plastic shoe boxes are an affordable option, and they only cost a couple bucks each.
6. Hang your storage
Yes, I love to hang things. It’s incredibly flexible storage you can rearrange as you see fit, which is great if you’re like me and maybe switch to a different art mode every few months.
So past pegboards, which I mentioned above, another of my favorites is using towel rods or curtain rods. You can find affordable ones at Ikea, or pick some up at a hardware store. I use S-hooks to hang buckets with supplies.
You can also hang string or wire across a wall, and use clothespins to display some of your work! It’s easy to rotate out what you are looking at, as the mood strikes.
Another option for hanging storage would be over-the-door storage. No shame in repurposing a hanging shoe rack to hold things like cans of spray paint or skeins of yarn. Smaller over-the-door organizers are great for pens, markers, glues, and paint as well.
7. Label your containers
Before I started meticulously labeling my containers, my organization system would quickly decay the first time I was in a hurry to put everything away and just shoved supplies into whatever bin looked like it had enough space. “I can always reorganize it again later,” I thought. Which I would have to do. Over and over again.
By labeling all your storage containers, you not only know where to find everything, you can also easily tell where to put everything away. Miraculously, all my pens and papers and ribbons and tapes now actually stay separated and useful.
And hey, labels can also be super fun to make! So take some time and make a pretty project out of it.
8. Once it's clean, keep it clean
At the end of the day, or when you are finished working on a project, spend a few minutes to put everything back in its proper spot. Clear off your work surface and put all your pencils or paints back in their spots.
This is time well-spent, and will absolutely save time for your future self (hey future self, have some time!).
Tomorrow, when you sit down to create something, you’ll have space to work and will be able to easily find all the things you want to you.
Best of all, you’ll be more likely to actually make more things, because your creative space will be so much easier to use.
And since it’s so sensible, I’m going to go ahead and crib Erika’s Ben Franklin quote here as well:
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”
For more ways to save time and be productive, check out Erika's blog post
Time Management for Artists: My Secrets for Staying Consistently Productive.
Alright, that’s all the organizational advice I have for you today! Thanks so much to Erika for letting me share my ideas here. I hope you all find some of these tips helpful for keeping your art space organized and functional.
I’m sure you guys have all sorts of things you use to organize your own space, so please share them below so we can all benefit!
Thanks SO much for sharing your awesome ideas with us Ali! I know that I will certainly start using a few of these myself!
If you're a beginner or intermediate artist of any kind, you're most likely spending a lot of time each week searching for tutorials or art classes that will help you improve your drawing and/or painting skills. You may be investing a lot of hours practicing and, while you may be improving, you STILL feel stuck or frustrated.
It's ABSOLUTELY AMAZING that you're taking your art seriously and investing time in developing those technical skills. It's incredibly important to build up abilities that will allow us to produce quality artwork. However, being an artist can be tough mentally and it's just as important to work on having healthy mental perspectives. By working on both simultaneously, there's a greater chance for an artist to reach success AND be able to sustain it throughout the years.
In today's blog post/YouTube video I'll be sharing the top five issues that keep us from progressing as fast as we could be, and are also probably making our artistic journeys a lot less enjoyable! After each point, I'll be sharing some practical tips that you can use when you find yourself falling into these black holes. Most of us are guilty of at least a few of these and, while it's totally normal for us to experience them from time to time, it's useful to have methods which will help put us back on a constructive path.
If you've read more of my past blog posts, or watched any of my YouTube videos, you're probably aware that I owe much of my artistic progress to my mindset and general life habits. As an artist struggling with anxiety, it's incredibly important for me to keep my mental health in check and devote time to my own well-being. Since I've implemented a series of changes in my life, my work and productivity levels have made a huge turn for the better.
Check out my past blog post titled 10 Positive Affirmations for Artists to Maximize Productivity and Happiness.
1. Chasing Perfection + Fear of Failure
Perfectionism and fear of failure are the absolute worst enemies of creativity. Exploration is a fundamental part of being an artist, and, how are we going to embrace it if we are always living in fear of not producing the most beautiful outcome?
It's essential for us to be able to produce large quantities of work and learn to view mistakes as signs of artistic growth. Though in many life situations, quality IS more important than quantity, I don't think this is the case for artists, ESPECIALLY when he/she is just starting out.
At the beginning, production should be constant, and we should expect it to be messy. The more you produce, the better you become. NEVER fear a blank page or canvas.
Art is not meant to be perfect, and chasing perfection all the time isn't going to make you more of an artist. In fact, I believe that it's imperfections that make an artwork special. This means it was created by a human hands and not a machine!
*What to do if you feel you can't get out of this:
Build up your confidence incrementally. Make sure that you've learned and practiced art fundamentals enough. Then, create smaller sketches and artworks, and build from there. Slowly but surely, you'll gain more and more confidence and you'll face greater challenges more organically. Learn to embrace exploration as a fundamental part of the artistic process. Smaller studies are just as important as those larger pieces you're striving to create!
2. Constantly comparing yourself to other artists
No two people in the world are the same and we know this. We have all been through different life situations and have been influenced by combinations of different things. All of us have our own quirks, tastes, strengths and weaknesses, and unique traits that make us....us. And all of this is GREAT because, we can work towards creating unique art that truly represents us! Why would you want to be somebody else, in the first place?
I mean, I get it! It's hard not to compare your skill level to other artists' when you're constantly seeing so many magnificent artworks through social media. However, most of the time, these people aren't sharing their struggles and mistakes and only their finalized successful pieces. Not to mention, you have no idea how long he/she has been working to get to that point. How long have YOU been working at it?
When you see works by an artist you consider amazingly talented, view them as a point that you can get to if you work really hard, and leave aside any feelings of jealousy or insecurity!
*What to do if you feel you can't get out of this:
Limit your intake of other artists' work to only specific days each week. Consider periods in which you aren't actively searching for external influences as periods of "incubation". These phases are incredibly important, as they allow you to truly digest the information you've taken in, think about how you can make it your own, and really bring forth your OWN ideas! I cannot tell you how important these periods are, especially when you're already working on finding your own artistic voice and style!
There's nothing wrong with getting inspired by other artists, especially when we're just starting out and searching for our own artistic style/voice. We're ALL influenced by external factors, whether we want to admit it or not.
Personally, I started drawing by copying Sailor Moon cards when I was a little girl! I think most of us start by copying and we can definitely learn a lot from studying a particular artist's style/technique. However, these are STUDIES and we should most likely keep them to ourselves.
It's important to recognize that constantly copying other artists' work and not giving any thought to what YOU personally want to put out into the world, isn't going to help you progress past a certain technical point. Isn't this the whole point of creating art getting YOU'RE OWN thoughts and ideas out into the world, anyway? This is something we should all be striving for at the end, I think.
*What to do if you feel you can't get out of this:
A while back, I wrote a very thorough blog post explaining the method I personally use to get inspired by other artists while still creating original artwork. In this post, I take you step-by-step through this process and share my end-product with you! Find this post here: How to Effectively Use Other Artists' Work as Inspiration and a Great Method to Start Developing Your Own Artistic Style.
The idea is quite simple. Instead of focusing on copying one artist's work, study several different pieces by three of your favorite artists SIMULTANEOUSLY. This will challenge you to arrive at those characteristics that call out to you, personally, about their works and to combine them all into one new artwork!
4. Being inconsistent in your practice
I know that life gets crazy busy. We have jobs, families and life is unpredictable. However, if your art is important to you and you really want to make something out of it one day, it's imperative to make it a priority. If you don't practice consistently, your skills are going to stay stagnant at best (if you're lucky).
This said, smaller explorations and sketches are definitely ways of progressing! As I mentioned before, sketchbook work and smaller pieces are just as important as larger artworks. The trick here is to stay consistent and keep moving forward in any way you can. Use your creative muscles and get your ideas down on paper as frequently as possible, otherwise, it's going to be hard for you to get to the point you want to be at.
*What to do if you feel you can't get out of this:
Only have 15-20 minutes today? No problem! Get that sketchbook out and create a quick pencil sketch! Not enough energy to concentrate after a tough day at work? Do at least a loose, abstract exploration of color, line and shape! Invest a few minutes of your day into planning a new project and schedule some time in this weekend, when life isn't as crazy. The point is to keep moving forward and keep your end-goal in mind, always!
5. Not making time for exploration
I've already mentioned that exploration and art go hand in hand. It's through exploration that we get to know ourselves as artists and bring new life to our work. Exploration isn't only incredibly important in the beginning of our journeys! Any artist, no matter how talented or established, should continue making time for new challenges because this will help prevent stagnation and take his/her artwork to new levels.
Exploring new mediums and techniques helps expand our knowledge and enhances our work. By making time for exploration, we arrive at ideas that we would have otherwise never thought of.
*What to do if you feel you can't get out of this:
Set aside time, each month, to explore something you don't usually explore. It doesn't necessarily mean you should go out and buy expensive art supplies that you may end up never using again! It can simply mean trying your hand at creating a landscape when you usually focus on abstract work, or finally trying out that gouache paint set you've had buried in your closet for months. You can also collect a few old magazines and create a few collages! Have fun with it!
Here's a video in which I share my favorite method for overcoming Art Block, as well as a time-lapse of an exploratory painting I did a few weeks ago. By the way, follow my YouTube channel if you haven't already because I publish new drawing, painting and art life videos every-single-week! :)
Which of the five habits or attitudes mentioned here has caused YOU the most trouble as you try to progress artistically? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below!
Have you ever gotten more and more disappointed with yourself as you see days, weeks, even months being consumed by daily obligations, and not having the necessary time to move forward artistically? Do you go through your days feeling completely scattered and oblivious as to how you're supposed to make any significant artistic progress with everything you have going on in life?
``Time is the single most important resource that we have.
Every single minute we lose is never coming back.´´
I'd like to start this post off by saying that I TOTALLY, 100%, feel your pain. Even though today I can call myself a creative entrepreneur, I worked as full-time employee at extremely demanding office jobs and teaching jobs for YEARS before even considering this move. So, even though this article is primarily oriented towards the working artist and you may still be working a day job, most of the tips in this article will be useful for you as you plan for your end-goal.
That said, if you're still transitioning (or looking to start), it's important that you understand what it truly means to be a "full-time artist". In reality, making a living from one's art and artistic skills, entails a HUGE list of tasks that take away a lot of time from actually creating art. At least this is the case for us artists who have no assistance and do everything ourselves.
And this is why it's so, incredibly important to be smart about how we're using our time! Whether you're someone still working a "normal" full-time job and dreaming of becoming an artist, someone working part-time building up the platform (and courage) to finally take the leap, or even if you're already making a living from your art. It's essential for all of us to think about our specific goals, so that we can plan and put our strategies to use.
Effective time-management is an invaluable skill that will allow us consistent progress and, today, I'll be sharing the philosophies and specific methods I live by to stay productive and moving the needle forward every-single-day. By applying these tips and techniques, you'll be able to go to sleep each night knowing that you've made progress towards becoming the person you want to be.
Read my blog post titled Art Business: The Importance of Building Local Relationships and Where to Start to learn more about specific actions I started taking to build my art-business.
10 Tips to Master the Art of Time Management
1. Define your personal, professional and interpersonal goals
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
I like to set general yearly goals that I then break up into monthly goals. I then use these monthly goals to plan out my objectives week by week. By having a weekly objective, it's easier to know what you should be working on any given day.
Think of where you want to be twelve months from now in ALL key areas of life. It's helpful to think about what daily habits you have now that require changing, as well as what things you must prioritize from now on in order to make those goals happen.
It's ESSENTIAL that you set goals for all of the following areas:
a) Personal level:
What changes can you make to be healthier mentally and physically in a year from now?
b) Professional level:
What skills do you feel you should improve to become more successful? Think of both cold AND soft skills.
c) Interpersonal level:
Who are those people you value most in life and what actions do you have to take daily/weekly to ensure that those relationships are kept strong and healthy? And, on that note, what people are not adding anything positive to your life?
Though we are talking about being productive artistically, I ASSURE you, that all of these life aspects are equally important and bleed into each other. If you neglect your health and family, your work will undoubtably suffer as well.
It's important that the goals you set for yourself are measurable, attainable and realistic depending on your current life situation.
Here's an example of my long-term goals for the following twelve months:
*These worksheets can be downloaded for free at the end of this post (in both letter and tabloid size)!
Other examples of long term goals in the "Professional" area could be:
-Complete an online drawing course
-Learn how to draw hands
-Fill an entire sketchbook
-Improve acrylic painting skills and produce ten canvas paintings
You get the picture! :)
Once you've decided where you want to be in a year, it's time to break up goals into smaller, sequential chunks! Think about what specific things have to happen month-to-month so that you can reach that end goal twelve months from now.
In number 2, I'll be explaining what time-blocking is and how to create your weekly schedules using this method.
2. Schedule your weeks using time-blocking
“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once,
whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.”
Time-blocking is a scheduling method in which you break up your day into...well... blocks of time. Within each block, similar tasks are grouped together so that you can focus on that specific type of activity in that specific period of the day. For time-blocking to happen effectively, it's important to know yourself and what times throughout the day would work for YOU in order to best fulfill THAT particular kind of activity.
As artists, it's important to experiment until we have a good idea of when we're most creatively productive throughout the day. Once we figure this out, we can plan the rest of our daily activities around these times. Leave the tasks you can do on autopilot (like clearing your inbox or organizing your studio) for moments of the day in which you find it difficult to focus or are generally mentally exhausted.
Personally, I don't follow the time-blocking method super strictly, as I combine it with daily to-do lists. I like creating my general weekly schedules so that I have a sense of what kind of tasks I should be doing at what times of the day. These schedules allow me to have a routine/consistency in the chaotic world of creative entrepreneurship! However, when it comes to specifics, I like creating daily bullet lists that I can check off and write on as things pop up.
Though the time-blocking method DOES require you to spend time doing initial thinking/planning, once you have your schedule set, it's all a matter of sticking to it and being as consistent as possible. By investing some time in this initial planning phase, you'll end up wasting A LOT less time in the long run!
So, make it happen! Take the goals you have set for each month, think of what you have to achieve by the end of each week to reach those goals, and break your days up into specific tasks.
Set your weekly schedule and do your very best to stick to it for, at least, a month.
All this said, keep in mind that life is unpredictable. Though planning IS super important, things will pop up that you haven't accounted for and we constantly have to deal with situations that are simply beyond our control.
Stay calm! Just remain flexible, be kind to yourself, and keep moving forward.
Here's an example of how my ideal weekly schedule looks like currently.
3. Assess and improve your time management strategies every now and then
“Practice without improvement is meaningless."
As working artists, we generally have to keep up with several different ways of making an income. As opposed to having only one "main" job, we have several smaller jobs that can fluctuate from month to month. It's impossible to know when a new event, commission or opportunity for collaboration will pop up, amongst many other items that may require more attention one month than the next.
Nonetheless, it's important to assess our strategies every now and then in order to pinpoint any improvements we can make. I usually like doing this at the end of each month, especially now that my business is growing and more responsibilities/opportunities are popping up. It's imperative to create at least some level of routine to stay sane and healthy! We must avoid burnout at all costs.
I recommend doing a general weekly schedule assessment every month to two months, so you can create any changes and improve your productivity even more. Think about tasks that would perhaps work better in different time blocks, or maybe activities that need longer blocks than initially planned. I know I personally tend to underestimate the amount of time I need to complete certain tasks, especially when it comes to creating art and planning new projects!
Assessing your systems regularly will allow you to keep improving your productivity levels over time. Improvement is the name of the game when you are building a business!
4. Identify personal time-wasters and cut down on distractions
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."
In this world of constant distraction, it's imperative to think about whether those activities that take up so much of our time are actually helping us move closer to our goals or not. Don't get me wrong, it's very important to have time for fun and relaxation, and I think these times should be scheduled in as well so that we MAKE SURE we're enjoying our lives to the max!
However, we should be honest with ourselves! If you find you're wasting hours on end stalking people on social media, constantly engaging in negative small-talk with others, or spending valuable time on activities that bring nothing positive to your life, cut them out!
I'm personally completely unapologetic about cutting activities and even negative people out of my life at this point. I'd much rather be resting in order to be as productive as possible the following day, instead of staying up late and partying constantly. If you find this too hard, at least avoid doing these things at all costs during times that you should be productive. And also protect the time you should be resting because this will affect your productivity levels the following day!
I find it very important to be able to focus and diminish distractions at all costs when I'm in creative mode. Personally, I like shutting off my phone or leaving it in another room when I'm drawing or painting. I also try to diminish multitasking throughout the day as much as I can (studies have found that what we do when we multitask is mediocre at best).
I really recommend giving some thought to what YOUR personal time-wasters are and try to identify when it is that you find yourself getting sucked into them. If there's anything you REALLY enjoy or NEED to do, schedule it!
5. Learn to say NO
“We must say "no" to what, in our heart, we don't want. We must say "no"
to doing things out of obligation, thereby cheating those important to us
of the purest expression of our love. We must say "no" to treating ourselves,
our health, our needs as not as important as someone else's. We must say “no.”
-Suzette R. Hinton
Remember, time is finite resource and every single minute that goes by is a minute you will not get back. Life is short and we have to make sure we're spending our valuable time doing activities that will get us closer to our goals and overall happiness.
Set your non-negotiables from the start and account for that time EVERY day/week. For me, non-negotiables include time to work out, enjoy home cooked meals, and to get decent rest every-single-day. I also like having time to spend with my husband at the end of each work day. If an "urgent" project pops up from out of nowhere, it has to REALLY be something that will get me closer to my goals in order for me to take it. I rarely say yes to projects brought up by people that give me the impression of not respecting my time. I respect other peoples' time immensely, and expect them to do the same for me.
Similarly, I avoid saying 'yes' to every single social gathering I'm invited to. Needs for social time vary from person to person, and as an introvert, I know that I have a limit. Though it's important to have social time, I also need to rest and take care of myself. Any true friend will understand and respect that.
Another thing I like to do, is letting my loved ones know what I'm currently up to and how my schedule is looking. This way, they are aware of when you'll be available and there's less of a chance you'll have to say 'no' to those you really care about.
6. Make time for organization
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned."
A lot of time is wasted when we have to look for things. By keeping your work area, supplies and artwork organized you'll not only be able to find whatever you need faster, but you'll also avoid lost/damaged work, accidents and a lot of anxiety. At the end of each workday, I like to spend a few minutes organizing my studio/office so that the next morning I am inspired to start right away.
As artists, our computers, phones and other devices collect a lot of reference image files, scanned artwork, etc. I recommend keeping these digital files organized and labelled appropriately. Create back-ups every now and then!
Being organized is especially important because, being self-employed, you will have to stay on top of client projects, inventory, and accounting! Set systems in place for each of these that will allow you to waste less time doing admin work and more time actually creating.
7. Consider delegating tasks or investing in time-saving tools
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do."
Like a lot of other work-a-holics, I'm guilty of burning myself out after thinking I'm perfectly capable of doing everything on my own. The fact of the matter is that there are only 24 hours in a day and there's a lot going on that we have no control over. The sooner we accept that nothing will ever be perfect and that we're not superheroes capable of doing everything by ourselves, the better.
Whether it's house chores or business tasks, think of people that may be able to help you out. What do you REALLY have to do yourself, and what can be done by someone else in your current life situation? Is it possible for you to invest in hiring an assistant or in tools that can automize tasks that are taking away time you could be spending creating art?
Once your business takes off and/or you have the resources to get help, I suggest you do it. You can delegate the tasks that don't excite you as much like maintaining your website, cleaning your studio/office, scanning and organizing artwork, etc. This will allow you more time and energy to focus on producing artwork and improving your skills.
Do your best when you can, and learn to let go of what you can't control.
8. Keep pushing and DON'T FORGET to celebrate your accomplishments
“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best."
-Theodore Isaac Rubin
We usually tend to focus on everything that we have yet to do and don't ever take a moment to realize how far we have come since we started. Just like it's essential to keep moving forward, it's important to look back and take note of everything we've been able to accomplish.
Milestones, no matter how small, are important and acknowledging them will encourage us to keep working hard towards achieving our goals. Do your best daily and stay focused on what is important to you. Be proud of yourself for acknowledging your passions and working towards them!
What are YOUR greatest time-management challenges? Have you ever gone through long periods of time in which you haven't been able to produce artwork due to life getting busy/complicated? How has this impacted you, personally? Let's discuss in the comments section below!
In my blog you'll find information and resources to help you improve your art skills. I also share tips that will help you stay happy and productive as your journey progresses.
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email, leave a comment on the site and/or reach out on social media. I'd love to connect!
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