Monday, July 30, 2018

5 Ways to Find Time to Create When You Have a Busy Life

"Disarming Melodies of First Light", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel.
Prints available on, original to be available soon. 

I have a full time job. I am also married and have a child, a house to look after, friends and family I need to stay in touch with... all the usual things that go along with being a middle aged woman today. I also create on a regular basis. I make upwards of 20 paintings a year.

On my most productive year I made 54 pieces (yes, I count... I keep track of everything. See my post from a couple weeks ago). They were all small, and not all good, but I it was the year I realized the painting was helping me deal with all the other crap going on in my life and made me a calmer, more reasonable person. Creating took over a few things like the "keeping in touch with friends" part of my life, so I had to scale it back a bit. Lesson learned.

I have friends at work that often ask how I find the time. To look at me, you wouldn't think I was that well organized. I often look a bit dishevelled. My desk is a mosaic of sticky notes, reminding me of various things from people I need to call to how-to notes for things I don't do very often. It may not be the prettiest system, but it works for me. As for finding time to create, it really isn't that hard if you make it a priority.

Guard Your Time

Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings are studio time. My husband knows it, my kid knows it. I don't answer the phone, I won't look for your {insert missing item here}. If they bug me they get barked at. If I have any other available time during the week I will go into my studio and work instead of surfing online or watching Netflix. I usually do my social media stuff in the mornings before work or on my break, so I don't have to think about it again. I don't let it take over my evenings.

Another of my 100 Square Project. Working in series lets me
work on a few pieces at the same time. The colours then
carry through and they tend to look great together. 
Think Small

Working on a 4x5 foot painting can be gratifying, but when you've only got a few hours a week to work, that can stretch out over months. If it takes you 3 months to finish something, how motivated are you to actually finish it? I know myself well enough to know I will lose interest half way through, and that damn thing will sit there taunting me. This was the catalyst for my 100 Square Project. I know that a 10x10" square will get completed even if I'm short on time, because an hour is enough to do something significant.

Work is Small Chunks of Time

If you're working on a small painting, it's amazing how much you can get done in an hour. I often find the first hour is when I do my best work, because I'm fresh. Even on days when I have all day to work, I break the day up into two hour chunks, doing something else for an hour in between sessions. I know that around the two hour mark is when I start making bad decisions... I'm tired, I've been looking at the piece too long and I can't see the problems.

This, of course, is easier if you have a dedicated space to work in. I totally get how an hour can get eaten up by having to get all your stuff out and put it all away again when you're finished. Which leads me to the next thing...

Keep Your Stuff Organized

One of my drawings from when the Boy was
young. Ink is the easiest to work in when you're
short on time. Cap on pen, pen in basket, basket
on shelf. Done. 
When my Boy was small and I was trying to get back into art, my available time was really limited. I also didn't have a dedicated space. I had a table in his play room (which was the extra bedroom in our home), so I could work and watch him at the same time. I worked in dry media, because it was easy and fast to clean up... usually only requiring washing of hands to tend to something else. These were the years of drawings. I had a high shelf in the closet, and when I was done my tools went into a basket and onto the shelf where the kids couldn't get into it. Paper went into a folder and also up on the shelf. His stuff was there too, so if he wanted to "help", he had his own sketchbook and tools.

I still use a variation of that system. I have an old dresser in my studio where I keep all my gear. When I start a painting, the colours I choose go into a basket so I don't have to go hunting through the paint drawer to try to remember which one I used. My brushes are in containers according to size, so a small painting gets the small brushes and the large ones are out of my way. Paper is in a folder and sorted according to size. Canvas and wood panels are prepped and sorted according to size, stored in a closet. When I've got a big project going my studio can look like a disaster zone... and there is a point where the mess deters me from going in there. It really is easier to find motivation when you keep yourself organized.

Work in Series

I can be working on up to 5 paintings at a time. When I get stuck on one I move onto the next one. I know a solution is more likely to present itself when I'm busy doing something else. Waiting for inspiration to smack me upside the head just leads to a lot of wasted time. Since I do this as a regular thing, I often will have 3 or 4 pieces in a similar colour scheme that look really great when hung together. I've had clients buy the set, because while maybe that one little painting might not quite work, three fills up a hallway or an awkward spot in a creative way.

These are all things that I do to make sure I can get some creative time. I know a few artists read this blog.... What kind of things do you do to find time to create? Got some tips for the rest of us? Leave a comment below and let's start a conversation!

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