Raise your hand if you are completely satisfied with the amount of painting you do just for yourself…
No? No one?
This seems to be a big problem for so many of us. I recently asked about this in a Facebook post and it seems that so many of us are struggling with similar issues.
So what keeps you from painting as much as you would like to?
Is it finding the time?
Lack of ideas?
Fear of not being good enough?
The cost of the materials?
Too many distractions?
For me it’s probably a combination of of time and distractions.
I paint every day but it’s rarely just for my own sake. I’m almost always working on a commission or designing the next class. It feels selfish to me sometimes to just paint for the sake of painting. That can be the struggle when your passion is also how you make a living. I really wish I did carve out more time for fun exploration of my craft. I’m always put into a good mood when I do.
Painting Is Good For Your Soul
You can think of painting as exercise for your soul. It’s good for you. Once you commit to doing it that day, you just feel better. I can’t be sure, but I doubt that anyone wishes they didn’t do it after they have taken the time for it.
I used to have a Y membership that I never used. Whenever I looked down at my key chain and saw that access card, it made me feel bad for not going but it didn’t actually make me go. Painting is kind of like that too.
Do you have empty white canvases sitting around waiting to be made into something magical? Did you purchase an online class that you haven’t opened yet?
Don’t let these things paralyze you into not acting. You will feel better if you just do it.
What Stands Between You and Your Paints?
So let’s talk about what is in the way. I got so many responses from you when I asked this question.
There were a variety of answers but a few stood out as being a hindrance for many of you.
The common answers were distractions, time, and fear.
I think all of these are related. It’s easy to put your painting session on a pedestal. You want it to be productive and fruitful so you feel like you need to have everything in order to even begin. You want to have your idea laid out, a big block of time to work on it and you don’t want to mess up!
The problem with this is, you never start.
I think the best advice I can give is to not paint so much for the outcome but for the experience.
Everything doesn’t need to be just right. You are far better off painting for the 30 minutes you have free than to not do it at all.
If you are afraid that what you produce won’t be good then don’t go into it with the intentions of showing everyone. Do it for you.
You are probably going to surprise yourself and want to show it off.
Here’s a little pro secret: paintings actually look better when you photograph them!
I think it has something to do with detaching yourself from the problems in the painting that you’ve been focusing so much on. Try it. You will see what I mean.
When you take that photo and post it on social media, you will get compliments. I promise.
Consider sharing it in a group page full of other artists rather that just on your personal page. This feels a little safer and you might get some helpful feedback.
Everyone is their own worst critic.
You might have completely missed something that is amazing about your work but someone else will surely spot it. Be kind to yourself.
If you are a beginner, great! You have so much room to grow. Maybe you’ve been painting professionally for decades but it’s been in the area of decorative wall and furniture finishes. You are just starting to dive into your own art because you are ready to “get off the wall”.
I understand that when you are used to being an expert in a craft and then you experiment with something that is outside of your comfort zone, it can feel intimidating. I think many of us are perfectionists so it’s hard to explore something we might not be amazing at right out of the gate. But isn’t if fun to see yourself get better?
Celebrate your wins!
Finding The Time To Paint
I’m a morning person so my advice when trying to find the time to paint would be do it first thing in the morning. Get up 45 minutes earlier. If you have a home studio, get your supplies out before you go to bed and have them ready to go. Then when you wake up, you can grab your coffee and jump right in.
I also think that starting your day with something that feeds your soul is just good for you. It’s going to make you have a better day when you know that you started it off taking some time for yourself.
You might also create something beautiful that you can then reflect on throughout the day.
If you plan to do it at the end of the day, distractions will get in the way and you will talk yourself out of it or just forget about it altogether. I wish I could use this advice myself, but unfortunately my 5 year old is also a morning person and he is normally up at 5:30am. I’ve tried to creep down the stairs at 5 to get a little work done and it’s absolutely no use. He will wake up immediately. Hopefully this is not your problem.
Maybe you aren’t in a place in life where it’s small children who are taking up your time but rather aging parents. If this is you, let me first just say you have my utmost respect. My parents took care of my grandparents for the last few years of their lives and I’ve seen the commitment that it takes to provide care with grace and dignity.
Have you considered having them paint with you?
I’m no expert on this but I’ve read that working on a craft is so good for the elderly. Not only that, but let’s circle back to the concerns being good. Do you know who are usually our best cheerleaders? Mom and Dad! This has been true in my case anyways. My mom would shout from the rooftops for people to see the things I created as a child. Whether they were any good or not!
I just ordered 40 8″x 8″ panels. I don’t typically work so small but I’m realizing that this is a really good practice.
Not every painting needs to be a grand masterpiece.
Paint a whole bunch of little ones. This not only makes you a better painter because you will learn from each piece, but it also allows you to try a lot of different subjects and techniques so you can find you voice. If space is an issue, painting small also helps with that.
Finding The Space To Paint
Sometimes the set up can be what is keeping us from painting more. It feels like a lot of work to pull everything out and take over a space in your home if you don’t have a studio. I have spent many days painting at the kitchen table. I get it.
I think the best solution if you do not have a studio is to designate a separate space away from the action where you can leave your stuff out for a while.
It will help you to come back to it if you don’t need to set it up all over again.
Get yourself a good easel and if that’s not in the budget, a table top easel is very inexpensive and works just fine for small pieces. There are also some really cute little carts with shelves that will hold all your paint and brushes while giving you a space to set your palette.
Lighting is pretty important so if you are not going to be able to use natural light, you can get a desk lamp with an arm that will clip onto your easel.
The set up doesn’t need to be big and elaborate to work.
If you do have a studio, lucky you! My studio is my haven. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to go there to work every day. It also helps that there are 40 other artists in my building so there is no shortage of inspiration.
Here’s another tip that I am so guilty of not doing. I cannot even believe I am writing this.
Put away your phone!
It will suck the time out of your precious painting session in a heartbeat. Somebody please hold me accountable on this one! I know this is a huge distraction for me.
Some of it is justified. I need to be photographing my work and promoting it on social media. However, I am certain that I spend too much time just scrolling.
Have you noticed that the new iphones will create a report on your average screen time per day and it will pop up randomly at the end of the week? I hate it. I don’t think any of us really want to see that number. When it’s staring you in the face though and you are still thinking that you don’t have any free time for painting, just imagine if that time was used for something that actually brings you joy and purpose! It’s a tough pill to swallow.
We do have the time. We are often just letting it slip away into nothingness.
Let’s end on a more positive note! There are so many reasons to paint more and I hope that these tips have given you some insight as to how to make it happen.
We need to support each other! Let’s cheer each other on when we carve out the time in our schedules to make it happen.
It’s really all about priorities.
You need to take care of yourself in order to be better for the people you love.
I am a better mom because I’m doing the things I love every day. I need this! As Demetri Martin said, “The earth without art is just eh”!
Great advice and reflection! Now to put it into practice! It’s time for me to schedule myself some time to just create no matter how it turns out.
Sherri Hursey says
Thanks Ali. Your timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I always have great intentions but the I let other thing take over my time. As you said, most of the time I’m on my phone. I think mine is fear. Fear that I’m not good enough. But I won’t get better unless I pick up that brush! Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re an inspiration.
Oh my gosh, Ali Kay! You hit the nail on the head on so many levels! My painting for “ me “ time is every Tues when I’m at my Mom’s house taking care of her there. I relish my early morning paint time so much & I get lost in it! I’m so grateful for your online course ! It gets me fired up as I started out as a watercolorist 20 yrs ago when my kids got older . Then opportunity knocked & I started doing murals, which led to wall finishes which eventually led to furniture painting..now I am doing a full circle & getting back to what really feeds my soul! Thank you for your words of encouragement!
Crystal Peplinski says
I work with seniors… well I did and will again post Covid. I want to silence their painting fears (and mine). We are good enough. We do have time. Your style appeals to me. It makes me happy and enthused about painting again. Thanks