3 easy ways to CREATE A PAINTING PRACTICE… that lasts!

Updated: Nov 1

“The only time I feel alive is when I am painting” – Vincent Van Gogh


Why is it sometimes so hard to just get yourself in front of the canvas and paint? Why do we procrastinate and delay, even when we know how great we will feel doing it. There can be several boundaries to tackling the scary white canvas…. the thought of finding your paints, the energy of clearing a space to paint, the clean-up afterwards, never mind deciding what to actually paint… it can all feel too overwhelming so we often don’t bother….

I wasn’t always good at devoting time to my painting practice. It felt like an indulgence. However, over the past 20 years of painting, I have found ways to keep my painting practice going, even when I was super busy with work commitments, having babies and the busyness of life. I'd love to share them with you...



So here are three ways that will help you to create a sustainable painting practice that will work for your everyday life… whether you have a lot of time to give to your art practice or just a few scattered hours here and there. They are tried and tested, and have helped me to increase my creative output over the years.

 

1. Create an inspiration folder


Create a source of reference material

Whether it be a physical folder of printed photos and magazine cutouts, or a digital folder of images on your phone, it can be really helpful to keep a bunch of reference images that you can easily access when you are looking for creative inspiration.


Research free images to paint from

Websites such as Pixabay and Splash offer copyright free images that are fantastic for reference material for paintings. You can even crop and edit these photos on your phone and make them your own.


Separate your folders / albums

I suggest that you create separate photo albums in your phone or computer (for iphone – Select the photo, click Add to Album, then New Album) to store all of your reference photos together or even split them into categories. Otherwise they can get lost in your photo stream and can be hard to find when you need to. They are also easily accessible for cropping and editing to create the compositions that interest you. I rarely print photos these days but rather use my ipad as my reference and paint directly from the images on it.


Gather physical inspiration

Some artists collect physical objects as reference for their paintings – collage papers, natural materials like rocks, shells, foliage, so they always have inspiration close at hand. Others have a still life set up and ready to go for when inspiration strikes!



2. PREP, PREP, PREP!


As the boy scouts (and girl guides!) say, be prepared!


Carve out time

I highly recommend that you carve out some time to prepare your painting space and materials so you are always ready to go when inspiration strikes or when you have a quick half hour to create.


My painting trolley

Set up some space

Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated art studio. But is there somewhere in your home where you can set up a small space with a folding table, a table easel, a folding chair and a box for your paints? Having a dedicated, comfortable space, even at the corner of the kitchen, can make sitting down at the canvas a much easier transition. Especially if it is somewhere that you can return to easily time and time again when you have a few minutes to spare.



Easy access to your materials

Have your paints laid out, your water/turps ready, your brushes clean or any other tools that you regularly use prepped and ready to use. I have wheely trolley set up beside my folding painting desk with easy access to all of my painting materials so I can grab them quickly when inspiration strikes or I have a spare few minutes to progress a painting.




Adapt to your circumstances

During lockdown, my husband took over my studio space (then a spare bedroom) to work from home. So I set up a temporary studio on one side of our kitchen table, with the other side for homeschooling (yikes!) – so I could be painting and supervising maths at the same time…. Thank goodness that’s over!




Art at the kitchen table!

Batch your processes

Another idea is to batch your processes. This could include prepping all of your canvases in one go (whether you prep with gesso, or paint a coloured ground), or getting materials and references ready for say your next 3 creative projects, or doing the underdrawing for several paintings at one time. This way you are always progressing in your painting process, even if you are not actually painting.


Do-next note

Another trick I use is to make a “do next” note before I finish my painting session. The next time I return to the easel, I can refer back to my note and quickly get going again, and spend less time faffing around trying to figure out where I was at last time!


By maintaining your bank of references and by having your painting area set up, you will always be ready to paint, so there are no obstacles when inspiration strikes or you get a free moment.


3. Create a painting routine that fits into YOUR life


We all have commitments that take up our time… family, work, exercise, caring for others, running a home. And sometimes we put ourselves and our own needs at the bottom of the endless to-do list.


Create a painting routine

However, by creating a routine that includes time for our creative practice, we are giving ourselves space for creative expression, for healing and mental wellness, that takes us out of the mundane and brings us alive. You won’t have to use up mental energy getting yourself ready to create because it will become just what you do on that day or at that time every week.


Is there a time of day when you are most productive? I am definitely a morning person but some people are night owls and can create long into the wee dark hours.


Review your schedule

Have a look at your schedule for the week and make a plan for when you are going to create. For example, you might say every Tuesday morning and Thursday evening I am going to commit to painting. By committing this time, you’ll be more likely to say no to things that other people want to – “no I can’t meet on Tuesday morning because that’s my painting time but I can meet next Monday instead”.

 

On my dedicated painting days, I used to come home from dropping the kids to school and see the breakfast stuff still on the table, the dishwasher calling out to be unloaded, the laundry basket overflowing and think - I’ll just tackle that first. But that was devoting my best hours of creative productivity to tasks that could easily get done later in the day… or even delegated to kids! Now I walk past the mess, go into my studio and close the door!


Remember too that not every painting needs to be a masterpiece. Just the process of creating itself, regardless of the outcome, has huge benefits for our well-being and brings healing, peace and joy to our lives.


I hope that these strategies have inspired you to create a sustainable painting practice that works for YOUR life.


Maybe you could start to keep a folder of creative inspiration, set up a painting space in your home and decide on a time that you are going to make art every week.


Devoting time and energy to your painting practice is never an indulgence. The world needs your art and your unique creativity and is a better place for it.


If you found this article useful, I would love to hear from you.


Much love,

Evelyn x



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