This summer in the workshops I have been participating in as a student I have one major take away. That is the importance of some kind of regular and consistent art making practice. Having a routine. Doing warm ups. Scheduling creative time. The artists I admire all have some sort of routine that gets them going, and keeps them inspired and productive.
Have a Routine
How I would love to incorporate all of the ideas I have learned about in the workshops this summer. I am still processing them and figuring out how to add them into my life and creative practice so they feel right for me. The last thing I want is to force myself to start a practice that just doesn’t work for me. Artist Lisa Kennedy starts her day at 5am. Yes, 5 am. She starts with a daily 6”x6” painting of a floral still life and has been doing this for over 10 years! What dedication! What a morning person! I am not able to physically get up that early. My health needs require 8-9 hours of sleep and 5am would just make me a zombie for the rest of the day. I know me and my body. That is a good thing! I know I would like to have a daily painting practice but 5am is just not going to work.
My brain is already starting to think about how I can work daily painting into my day. For me the first step is setting up a work space. I have the perfect little desk in our living room. It has become cluttered with this and that. TIme to clear and organize and set up a small painting area. Having all my supplies set up is half the battle. How can I say no to painting if it is all set up and ready to go? My setup is simple. A lamp for a spot light. A roll of paper towels. A palette. My paints. A couple brushes. A water cup. A still life. I am ready to paint! 5 am may not be my time. That is Ok. Maybe its just before or after breakfast. Maybe it is in the evening. I am going to be flexible and figure out my ideal painting time as I go.
Doing Warm Ups
A daily small painting does not have to be my only creative time during the day. I am fortunate that I have a studio space where I can work on larger and multiple paintings. From artist Bob Burridge I learned the importance of using warm ups in the studio. He paints with mainly acrylics and starts each painting session in his studio making 6-10 small warm ups on watercolor paper. We practiced this in his workshop and I loved this technique as well. I realized I do something similar using a canson xl watercolor sketchbook. In my sketchbook I do small practice paintings to try new ideas for subject matter, color palettes and compositions. Bob’s practice gets him loosened up and his ideas flowing. Sometimes he uses just black and white and others he uses color. Not all of these warm up paintings end up as finished works of art but many do.
I love the idea of doing these warm up paintings. I have started doing them as soon as I get to my studio. I get out big sheets of watercolor paper, gesso them and tear them into about 6”x9”pieces. Then I put black and white on my palette, use a big brush and lots of water. Sometimes I paint floral still life, trees, or horses. I can paint anything. This warm up time is my playtime! After they dry I sometimes go back and add color and develop finished paintings. Most importantly, I started painting right away and this gets me going to be more productive in the studio.
Scheduling Creative Time
The last three months I have also been a part of an amazing group of women artists led by Mati McDonough. This creative business mentoring program has helped me see the importance of focusing my many ideas and scheduling time to create and work. A schedule for a creative person can seem stifling. In reality it is a powerful tool that can help me be more focused and productive. My summer has been far from routine. I do have classes scheduled at regular times which automatically gives me a schedule. This is good because I can schedule my other creative/work time around them. I am calling it creative/work time because that encompasses all the things I do for my art business. This includes making art, writing, business/computer work and making videos. I wear a lot of hats having my own business. This can also make me feel out of focused and stressed.
My schedule is based on setting completion goals for myself with specific timeframes. I have 2 online courses in the works and I set a self imposed publish date. I know when they are due and I prioritize working on them. I also make lists of all my ideas and projects. I rank them in order of when I would like to complete them. I tend to be less overwhelmed this way. I know I will get to a certain project and I won’t forget about it because I have it written down. I also have daily priorities. Mine are painting, writing, teaching and making videos. I do not get to all of them each day and that is ok. At the end of the day I check in with my daily priorities and in a journal record what I have accomplished. This has been an amazing tool. I can see what I actually did that day and relax knowing I am working on my projects one step at a time.
Incorporating the ideas of daily practice, warm ups and schedules is a great way to find focus. Every artist can benefit from a regular and consistent art making practice. The key is making these ideas work for you in an authentic way that motivates and inspires you.