Finding Enough Time for Art

Finding Enough Time for Art

I want to talk about time today, and I want to talk specifically to everyone who thinks they don’t have enough time for art.

Or enough time to give art the time it deserves.

Finding Enough Time For Art

I always look at the reasons people give when they unsubscribe from my mailing list. Why? The reasons people unsubscribe are as useful in determining what I’m doing right—or wrong—as compliments and encouragement.

But they’re also sometimes the spark that leads to a new discussion.

That happened recently. A reader unsubscribed because he or she didn’t think they had enough time to do the tutorials and other things presented on this blog. My impression was that they didn’t have time to do everything so they chose—for the time being—to do nothing.

I’m not criticizing this person. I understand getting so overwhelmed with a subject that it’s easier to set it aside. Been there, done that. Lived to tell about it.

I also understand life getting so overwhelming it pushes things like drawing aside. That has been my struggle more than once!

Having said that, I’ll also say the comment took me back to those days when I used to share this former reader’s feelings.

So it’s time to talk about time and how we use it.

Speaking From Personal Experience

Let me begin by pointing a finger at myself with the hope that it will help you.

Back in the days when I was an oil painter, I firmly believed I needed at least an hour to paint. An uninterrupted hour. It took time to set up for painting, and time to clean up. Depending on what I was working on, it might take 30 minutes to clean up. That meant that if all I had was an hour, I’d have less than 30 minutes painting time.

So if I didn’t have at least one hour, I didn’t bother. The result? I never had enough time to paint, and most projects didn’t advance as quickly as they could have. Many projects didn’t get finished until the due date and some were overdue.

What’s worse, I felt guilty every day I intended to paint and failed. Hurrying through projects just to finish them on time left me guilt-ridden, too. Clients paid good money for portraits. They deserved the best, didn’t they?

A personal challenge to paint one ACEO a day for an entire year showed me how much painting could be done in twenty minutes or less.

It also revealed how much time I wasted because of my perception of time.

I Don’t Have Enough Time

For a lot of artists, perception is the biggest hurdle. After all, if we believe we don’t have enough time, then we don’t have enough time—even if we do.

If you think you don’t have enough time for art—or enough time to give it the attention it deserves—I encourage you to take a look at how you perceive time.

Finding Enough Time for Art1

Available time varies from one artist to the next. Family responsibilities, an outside job, outside responsibilities, health, temperament; they all play a role in the time you have for drawing.

If you find just one or two simple things that help, would you be interested? Then you’re in luck!

Ways to Make Enough Time for Art

Draw as Much as Possible

This may seem self-evident, but I’ve noticed a tendency to put other things ahead of art. It starts innocently enough. A blog post needs to be written. A sick cat requires extra care. It’s laundry day. Then the yard needs attention.

A day or two goes by without drawing. Then a week. Maybe two. Pretty soon, I’m bemoaning low production.

Remember, I used to think that if I didn’t have an hour for art, I had no time for art? It’s not true!

On hold with a long-distance telephone call? Sketch on a notepad.

Waiting at a doctor’s office? Take out that little drawing pad and start drawing.

How about that long drive, when hubby has fallen silent. Where’s your drawing pad? (Make sure hubby is driving and not you!)

Finding Enough Time for Art2

Carry Basic Drawing Tools All the Time

I once heard someone say that the thing they did that helped them get so many excellent horse photos was to take their camera everywhere. “No camera, no photo,” they said.

The same applies to art. No drawing tools, no drawing.

Keep a small sketch pad and at least one pencil or pen with you all the time. I have a small spiral bound pad of writing paper in my purse, along with at least three pens.

But I also have a small field kit with a few basic drawing tools in it. I try to take that along whenever we go somewhere.

No purse and no field kit? A lot of modern phones now have sketching apps on them. If your phone didn’t come with one, find one. You can learn to sketch with a phone and the sketching is just as helpful as drawing on paper.

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John Middick and Lisa Clough of Sharpened Artist podcast talked about drawing apps for smart phones here.

Set Short Time Goals

One thing that really helped me understand the value of every minute—besides that painting challenge I mentioned—was setting short time goals. I started doing this to get over the hurdle of getting started every day, but it also helps me use time better.

Here’s how it works.

I promise myself that if I draw for fifteen minutes, then I can quit. For some reason, it’s easier to get started if I know I can quit after fifteen minutes. What usually happens is that I end up working for an hour or more, but even if I don’t, I’ve met the goal and can move on to something else without feeling guilty.

But it also helps me do more drawing. I’ve learned over the years that I can do a complete drawing in fifteen or twenty minutes.

Take this plein air drawing, for example. It took less than half an hour, and I drew it while waiting in the car. It may not be a masterpiece, but I was pleased with it, and I’d turned time spent waiting into into time spent drawing.

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And maybe a saleable piece. Who knows?

Don’t Think You Have to Do It All or Do It Right All The Time

It’s all right to doodle.

It’s also all right to take your time. Just because some people can do complete drawings in an hour or master a skill in a week doesn’t mean you have to. If it takes you a month to work through the steps of a single tutorial, then do it! It’s better that you advance a step at a time (yes, even small steps) than not advancing at all.

Draw as Much as Possible

I know I already said that, but it bears repeating.

It doesn’t matter how many goals you set, or how good your intentions to use time better. If you’re not drawing, none of those things will help. The point of being a artist is making art.

So make art as often as you can!

Do You Still Believe You Don’t Have Enough Time for Art?

I hope not!

I hope you’ll pick one of these tips and put it into practice. Remember, it’s not important that you do everything. It’s more important that you just do something.


  1. Melinda BC

    This post hit home, Carrie. Thank you. I always seem to feel like I have to be working on a Big Project or not at all, and too often that means not at all. Following your advice, I’m going to keep a table5 and pencil close and draw Whatever — momentum, yes?
    And maybe more important, you mentioned cats. You have cats? Do you draw cats? Mine have been wonderful muses since Day 1, but I’d love a new way of drawing them, of seeing them. Got anything?

    1. Melinda,

      I know exactly what you mean about working on big projects. For years, the only art I did was commission work. Nothing for fun! That was the most difficult habit to break. Drawing outside has been very helpful in helping me draw for the fun of it.

      I do have cats. The fact is, I’ve tended so many orphan kittens, I’ve lost count. Five of them still live with us!

      I don’t draw cats very often, but that is one thing I’m hoping to start doing. I’ve been collecting reference photos of our cats for a tutorial.

      Thank you for reading. I’m glad to have been of assistance and encouragement.

      Thank you for the comment, too!

      Best wishes, Carrie

  2. Debbie Conner

    Hi Carrie,
    This really hit home with me! I think it’s just the shot in the arm I needed. I waste a lot of “15 minutes” here and there, and the time adds up.
    My purse is already heavy, so what’s a little notebook and pencil added to it? Good idea.
    Thanks again.

    1. Debbie,

      You’re quite welcome!

      Here’s another tip. If you tend to get bogged down with detail, get a small drawing pad. The pad I carry in my purse is about 4×7. The one in my field kit is 6×9 or thereabouts, so even if I do “get bogged down in details,” I don’t have a huge piece of paper to fill. That makes it easier to get started and a lot easier to finish!

      Thanks again!


  3. Dear Carrie,

    Thanks so much for inspiration.

    I’ve been going through a hard period when I fail doing the most important thing- stay focused. Too many projects in mind and all scattered. I’m self employed and work in two very different areas – art and languages- and sometimes find it challenging to combine art as a hobby/ work with my other job. I usually draw and paint at least two days a week though.

    Now, as I got my two-week vacation, I immediately started feeling pressure that I should dedicate much more time for art and completed a fairly good painting within the first two days. The following two days were not as fruitful and I felt quite bad about it. Started to search what other artists think about time managrment and found your blog.

    So – thank you for your advice and reminding that we do not have to create a masterpiece in a day. I love your 15 minutes rule. I sometimes tend to think that for art I need more time and somewhat special conditions- silence, concentration, etc. as noise or a phone call or simly some thought in my head would distract me. But – to be honest, do many people can afford such special environment and a long stretch of uninterrupted time? Your 15-minute rule and the whole blog entry – hopefully – have brought me back to what I need to focus on. Thank you so much!


    1. Thank you for your very kind comments, Vilte. I’m glad I was able to help you!

      I used to think like you: That I needed perfect conditions and a lot of time to make art. But that is simply not true.

      The 15-minute rule helped me get past that mindset, and I’m glad it has helped you, too.

      The important thing is to have fun and not worry about making every piece a masterpiece.

      I would stick to your normal art schedule even if you are on vacation. There’s no need to stress out during vacation because you haven’t drawn enough!


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