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.

Finding Enough Time for Art3

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.

Finding Enough Time for Art4

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.

2 Common Colored Pencil Problems

This week, I’d like to address two common colored pencil problems. Most of us deal with them at some point in our work with colored pencil. My guess is that they are constant struggles for some of us.

2-common-colored-pencil-problems

But problems need solutions. So I’m going to share some of the things that have helped me overcome these two common colored pencil problems.

2 Common Colored Pencil Problems

How Can I Finish More Drawings?

This is probably one of the biggest obstacles for colored pencil artists—and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been using colored pencils. The nature of the medium means that it takes a long time to do a drawing. Even small ones. It’s next to impossible to “dash off” a drawing in twenty minutes if you love detail (and a lot of us do—that’s what attracts us to colored pencil!).

clocks-time

When I first started drawing with colored pencil, I thought I could do the same types of work I’d been doing with oils. Large portraits full of life and detail.

I quickly learned that if it took twenty hours to finish a portrait in oil, it would take at least 40 to finish the same portrait in colored pencil. It was more likely to take 60 hours or more.

So I scaled back my expectations and reduced the size of my colored pencil work. I started doing more 8×10 or smaller works. I did some miniature work and drew a few ACEOs (art cards, editions, and originals).

So that’s my first tip. Do some small work. You don’t have to do miniature art, but it is a lot easier to finish something that’s 8×10 or smaller. The more works you finish, the more confidence you’ll gain in your ability to finish drawings. As you gain confidence, you’ll be better able to do larger work.

Other Tips for Getting More Work Done

Something else that has worked well for me is having more than one drawing going at the same time. If I get tired of working on one, I switch to the other and work on it for a while. I’ve devised a method for keeping all current drawings in view by mounting them to precut mats and back boards and either displaying them on shelves around the house or hanging them on the wall where I see them. Two are hanging above my head as I write these words.

Keep works in progress to no more than three or four. Any more than that and you risk overwhelming yourself!

I recently wrote an article on this topic for EmptyEasel. If you want more tips for finishing every drawing you start (or most of them), read How to Finish What You Start (The Artists’ Edition).

How Can I Get More Patience?

You need patience for most of life. Raising children. Learning new things. Living life.

You definitely need patience with colored pencils!

So how do you develop patience?

In all seriousness, it takes patience.

I tell you that not to be funny but to encourage you to start small. Don’t expect a huge amount of patience overnight.

pencil-knot

When I’m learning something new or doing something difficult, I limit the time I spend on that activity. For example, most of you know that I write in addition to doing art. You may also know that I went through a long dry spell in 2014-15. Nothing was happening and I got impatient with that creative silence.

When I started writing again, I no longer had the patience—or maybe endurance would be a better word—to write for long periods.

So I started doing 15-minute timed writings. I tried to do at least one 15-minute timed writing every day in 2016. No, I didn’t succeed every day, but I made more progress one timed writing at a time than if I tried to force myself back into the old schedule.

What does that mean for you?

If you lack the patience to work on a drawing for long periods of time, don’t. Start with shorter segments of time. It might be fifteen minutes or twenty. It might be only five minutes.

Why does this work? It’s a lot easier to start something if you know in advance you have permission to stop after a short while.

If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself working past that time limit on some days. That’s great!

Eventually, you’ll discover you’ve developed the patience you need to work on a drawing longer each day. The bonus is that you’re also likely to discover you have the patience to work on drawings long enough to finish more of them!

Conclusion

What all this comes down to is knowing where you are currently in your artistic journey, and knowing where you want to be. Without a known—and achievable—destination, you have nowhere to go and no reason to start out.

But if you don’t know where you are presently, it’s very difficult to map your journey, even if you do know your destination.

Both of the “problems” I’ve talked about in this post can be overcome. It just takes a little bit of time and effort. Begin by assessing the problem, then identify possible solutions, then implement them.

And if you have to implement one little step at a time, that’s all right. The fact is, that’s perfect. None of us learned to run first when we were toddlers. We learned to toddle first.

What’s true for toddlers is also true for artists.

Questions You Should ALWAYS Ask Your Favorite Artists

Have you ever looked at the work of another artist and thought, “Man! I wish I could ask them a couple of questions”? I’m sure you have because I have and I’m just not all that unique.

We all see the work of people who are doing what we want to do and some questions come to mind with no effort at all.

How did you get started?

How did you get where you are today?

What are you doing that would help me?

How did you draw that?

I’m sure other questions will come to your mind, too.

The best way to learn is by studying the work of someone who is already successfully doing what you want to do; studying their methods and tools. Asking questions.

So this week, I thought I’d answer a few of those kinds of questions for those of you who are doing what I just suggested (studying methods) but maybe haven’t quite gotten to the point of asking questions.

Questions You Should ALWAYS Ask Your Favorite Artists

How did you get started?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. The earliest drawing on paper that I still have was drawn when I was 4-1/2 but I know I was drawing before that. Those really early drawings didn’t survive, though, because they were usually drawn in places where they shouldn’t have been. On a wall for example.

I remember my mother tearing open brown grocery bags so I could draw on them with crayons. One drawing in particular that lingers in my memory was a woodland scene. Trees (roots and all). A stream. Deer and other animals. I’ve asked Mom on more than one occasion if she still has that. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did (she saves everything!), but she says not.

I got started as a portrait artist in high school, when a school friend asked me to paint a picture of her horse. She does still have that, along with all the other portraits I painted for her.

How did you get where you are today?

The plain, simple truth is that I started a new painting for every painting I finished. That’s it.

Oh, I set goals and upgraded my tools (better brushes, better oils, better pencils, canvas, and paper), and I read books and studied other artists. But what really got me from that first portrait to the current drawing was just not giving up.

Or rather, picking up art one more time than I gave it up.

Because there were times when I didn’t paint at all. As it turns out, that’s part of the process, too. At least it has been for me.

What are you doing that would help me?

Always learning. If you continue learning—whether you learn new mediums or learn new ways of using the same medium—you’ll always advance. Your work will get better. You’ll become more proficient.

Yeah, I know. I never liked hearing that when I was the one asking the questions. I was always looking for quick fix or short cut that would catapult me forward.

But you know what? There are no such quick fixes or short cuts. Not if you really want to improve your art and always enjoy it.

How Did You Draw That?

The answer to that is what this blog is all about. I’ve picked up so many tips, techniques, and tools over the years, that I can’t answer this question in a paragraph or two, even if you asked it about a specific drawing. Just chalk it all up to years and years of drawing, looking for better ways to do things, and striving to make each drawing better than the previous one.

You know what? You’ll find the same is true for you if you draw long enough!

Two Other Questions You ALWAYS Want to Ask Other Artists

I answered two more questions in this week’s EmptyEasel article, Two Questions You ALWAYS Want to Ask Other Artists. What are those questions?

What inspires me?

How do I begin a project?

You can all about that on EmptyEasel.

So did I answer one of your questions? If not, go ahead and ask your question in the comments. That’s one sure way to get an answer!

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

Life rarely proceeds without interruption from beginning to end. For the vast majority of us, there comes a time when we have to change course in life. Changing course in life as an artist is almost as certain, in fact, as death and taxes.

I’ve been an oil painter for most of my artistic life. I’ve also been painting portraits of horses and other animals most of that time. Had you asked me just three years ago what I’d be doing the rest of my life, I would have told you I’d be painting oil portraits of horses.

Point of fact, whenever I asked when I’d retire from painting portraits, my usual response was “when I fall face first in my palette!”

In other words, until I drew my last breath.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist Brushes

How times change.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

It’s been a long couple of years creatively. I’ve written about the challenges of creative silence on EmptyEasel and here, so won’t go into all of that again. But I can say that it was one of the signals that my artistic course in life was about to change. After all, it’s somewhat difficult to stay on course with anything when everything shuts down.

As it turns out, though, creative stillness was a good thing. The slowing—nee, ceasing—of forward momentum on a path that was no longer the right path.

I’d come to see creative stillness as more of a blessing than curse long before it was over. Now, I see that it was no curse at all. Merely a redirection.

Changing Course in Life as an Artist

I was also troubled by a lack of joy in the creative process—what others often refer to as passion. There simply was none. Everything I did was a labor and most of the time, there was little or no love involved. I painted because I had to. People had paid me for portraits, so I painted them.

But in all honesty, it was simply easier not to paint at all.

It’s more difficult to see the loss of joy in the creative process as a blessing because I still wrestle with it, sometimes on a daily basis.

But I’m surprised by glimmers of joy more and more often with every step along this new path. So it, too, has been good for me in the long run.

5 Signs It’s Time to Change Course in Life

This week’s article on EmptyEasel digs deeper into how this change of course happened with me, including five signs you should look for if you suspect you may be facing a course correction. Read 5 Signs It’s Time to Change Course in Life on EmptyEasel.

And if you find yourself mired in any of these things or anything similar, I encourage you to be patient and be encouraged. Not so long ago, I thought my life as an artist was over. I know today that wasn’t a accurate assessment of the situation, thank the LORD.

Maybe you’re simply not aware of the larger picture yet, and what’s really happening is that you’re being positioned for changing course in your life as an artist.

How Race Horses and Artists Are Alike

Race Horses and Artists

If you have any interest at all in horses or sports, you know that one of horse racing’s premier events began yesterday and concludes today—the Breeder’s Cup series.

In recognition of that event, I’m reaching back into my archives and republishing a post that first appeared on my writing blog a couple of years ago.

How Race Horses and Artists are alike has been around the track several times since it was first published. Although there are a lot of things I can compare myself to as an artist, showing you how I am like a race horse is my favorite.

Race Horses and Artists

So what do race horses and artist really have in common?

Let’s take a look.

Race Horses and Artists - How They're Alike

The Race horse….

A race horse spends its early days alone with its mother. All of the basic lessons are learned in this one-on-one relationship. Standing. Walking. Running.

Race Horses and Artists - The Baby Race Horse Alone with its Mother

After a time, the little race horse and its mother join other mothers and babies. The youngster learns to play with others in its natural environment. It learns to do what it does best; run fast.

After a few months, the baby race horse learns how to be a grown up race horse. It still runs and plays and grows and matures, but it’s still mostly untutored, learning with its band of buddies.

Finally, it enters training. It learns about bridles and bits and saddles. It learns to carry a rider. Life seems pretty regimented, and the horse doesn’t do much running.

When the young race horse has learned all these things and is reasonably good at them, then it goes to the track. The first time it sees a track, it doesn’t know what the track is for. But let the rider give the horse a little rein and tell it to go, and the race horse knows what to do. Run! Oh boy!

But there are rules to learn. Rules about running with other horses in close quarters and about not running all out all the time. Rules about listening to the rider and about the starting gate. More rules about standing quietly before the running begins.

It can take a good trainer with a good student up to two years to get the race horse ready for its first race. A lot of time spent learning things that seem counterproductive to the purpose the race horse was born with…running fast.

Race Horses and Artists - Horses in a Race

But a good, solid race horse that’s well trained steps onto the track for the first time with natural ability AND a knowledge of the rules basic enough to get the job done.

If the race horse is good enough, it gets the job done faster than any other horse in the race.

Eventually, it might even find itself in the winner’s circle with a blanket of roses over its shoulders on Kentucky Derby day.

The Artist…

When I started drawing, I drew to please myself. I did what came naturally and I did it over and over and over. I learned about colors and how to use them. How to put lines together to create shapes, then how to shade those shapes to create form and so on.

I finished a lot of drawings before I started painting, learning something new about art and myself as an artist with each one. Then I graduated to painting and repeated the process.

And then I started taking art classes in school.

Then I found art magazines and subscribed to them.

And I started learning rules. Things like fat over lean, aerial perspective, color temperature, and the color wheel and value scale.

I even signed up for a popular correspondence art school. I wasn’t very creative at that point, but everything I learned contributed to becoming an artist.

Race Horses and Artists

Human beings are the only part of God’s creation that aren’t able to care for themselves within a short time of birth. That race horse I mentioned earlier can stand and walk within minutes of being born. It can run within hours. We humans, on the other hand, need years of care and instruction before we can do the most basic things for ourselves.

So it’s only natural that when we decide to make art, the first thing we do is seek out the help of others.

But if we haven’t taken time to play with our talents, we’re a blank slate. Everything we hear influences our art and the way we see ourselves as artists. We try to make everything work, even when one piece of advice directly contradicts another. That way leads to no personal style and no distinguishing characteristics.

We sound like no one because we sound like everyone. Consequently, our art looks like no one special because it looks like everyone.

Artists (and most creative people) need the same kind of time to play with their talents, to explore, learn, and grow that the baby race horse needs. In my opinion, artists should already have a solid knowledge of their artistic style and what they can do BEFORE attempting to learn the rules.

This is, however, only my opinion; based on personal experience. Each person is different.

But don’t be so eager to jump into training that you forget playing. Whether you learn by playing first, then seek training, do both at once, or something else, make sure you take time to learn about yourself as an artist.

And wherever you are in your artistic journey, don’t forget to play! Both race horses and artists need time to play.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

The heavens declare the glory of God;

The skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out to all the earth,

Their words to the ends of the World.

Psalm 19:1-5

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

No event is all bad if it causes a person to look upward. Personal challenges. Financial crises. Creative silences or just difficult days. Most of those sorts of events do turn my gaze off myself and upward.

But I don’t always need a life-altering event to look up. Sometimes the sheer glory of a sunrise or sunset is enough.

Or towering thunderheads or a sky peppered with stars that look close enough to touch. The heavens declare the glory of God in so many ways to those who are in tune with Him.

Artists are often asked how they get or stay inspired. The answer for me lies in all of life. How can an artist enjoy her surroundings—even the less than perfect ones—and not be inspired?

Feel free to share this image. All I ask is that you keep it intact, including the watermark for my website. Thanks for your courtesy!

8 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was a Beginning Artist

I’ve been an artist for a long time. Long enough to have learned many lessons that come only with experience.

Long enough to also know that there are many things I could have learned from other artists had I known where to find those artists (I started before the days of the internet).

Most of those tips have less to do with art than with attitude. They’re the sorts of things we all need to be reminded of periodically.

8 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was a Beginning Artist

Be prepared to persevere.

I don’t know about you, but when I started painting, I thought all I had to do was paint the portraits and get them in front of people. They’d sell themselves and they’d sell themselves quickly. I’d be an overnight success.

The selling part is a discussion for another time (if you’re interested in that, let me know. There’s lots to share.)

The overnight part? Let’s just say I’ve been painting for nearly forty years and I’m still waiting for the overnight success.

Making art is not easy, even when you love what you’re doing. Building a livelihood around it is even less easy. Even when it’s your passion.

The real secret to success is getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, plain and simple. The world doesn’t owe you a living. Neither do the people around you. You may be the most talented artist since Rembrandt, but even he persevered.

Keep going. Be persistent.

Don’t.

Give.

Up.

Develop a thick skin.

From the first drawing you draw to the last, there will be critics. You will have to learn to deal with people who criticize your work, your methods, your marketing—probably even you. They are as much a fact of life as the sun rising in the east. Learn not to internalize it.

How? Ah, that’s the hard part, isn’t it.The Beginning Artist Needs to Develop a Thick Skin

The thing I did that helped me most in this area was deciding with myself what I wanted to paint, how I wanted to paint, and for whom I wanted to paint.

Once those things were settled in my own mind, the criticisms that came because I was painting horses or painting them too realistically or painting for clients didn’t matter. Sure, they still sometimes stung—especially those delivered by artists whose work I admired but whose vision was different than mine—but they didn’t sting as much.

You may need to make the same decisions.

Then go forward with confidence.

Learn to learn from criticism.

Some of the criticism may be warranted, so you can’t automatically discard it all. When an artist whose vision was similar to mine commented negatively on something I’d done, I paid more attention. Maybe they were right.

If a client had a complaint, I definitely paid attention to that. After all, they were paying me for my artistic skill. If they weren’t happy, neither was I.

But I still had to learn to be gracious.

I also had to learn to analyze those criticisms at face value and glean the comments that improved my skills as an artist and in dealing with people (and let’s face it, most of us like nothing better than to shut ourselves up in our studios and make art). Toward that end, I asked myself

  • Was the critic an artist more skilled than I?
  • If so, is this criticism a learning opportunity?
  • What can I learn from it?
  • Was the critic a client?
  • If so, is the complaint legitimate?
  • How can I improve the painting?

In other words, find ways to learn, to improve your artistic craft. Make every criticism an opportunity to learn and grow.

Draw every day.

Don’t fall into the habit of thinking you need to wait for inspiration to strike before you make art.

Don’t accept the lie that you need large chunks of time, either.

It's Important for the Beginning Artist to Develop a Daily Drawing Habit

I’ve lived both and know they are not true. The best way to be an artist is to be an artist. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you have the time or not. Even if it’s just a few minutes to sketch on a napkin, make use of it. Nothing is more discouraging than waking up one morning and realizing it’s been a year since the last time you drew something.

Set goals.

I didn’t have to hear this very many times before I got tired of hearing it. Sick and tired!

But you know what? It’s true! When I came to grips with that realization, I also discovered just how valuable goals can be.

And easy. Start small. The first time I set painting goals, I decided to paint one painting a month plus two for a year. I was painting evenings and weekends then, doing art shows and horse shows when I could, so painting time was limited.

But it worked and for years, I created at least twelve paintings a year. Most of them portraits.

You might also try a time goal. Maybe 15 minutes of life drawing every day. Or even just 5 or 10. Keep a small sketch pad with you and sketch in doctor’s offices, while waiting for your order at a restaurant, or wherever you happen to be. Make it a habit! Have fun with it!

Develop a system to monitor goals.

Goals work best when you have a way to track your progress. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it needs to BE.

The Beginning Artist Should Find a Way to Monitor Progress

A calendar is great for this. One with big squares for each day works for me. Find a method that works for you. Decide how much time you want to paint each month, then decide how much you need to paint each day to reach that goal. For each day you paint, record the amount of time you spent. You’ll be surprised how quickly the time adds up.

For some projects, I keep a spreadsheet.

The important thing isn’t how you monitor your progress; it’s THAT you monitor your progress. Seeing how much you’ve done toward a particular goal is a great way to get or stay motivated to keep up the good work.

Don’t let your goals rule you.

You may be thinking this is a contradiction. It’s not.

Life happens. There will be days when, despite your best planning and intentions, you just can’t paint or draw. Don’t let it stress you out. That’s part of the reason I like weekly and monthly goals in addition to daily goals. If I miss a day, I can make it up somewhere else and the weekly or monthly goals provide the incentive to do so.

Have fun.

For the longest time, my art was my small business and I treated it that way. Every line I drew was for a portrait in some way. I never drew for fun or just because something interesting caught my eye and wanted to be drawn.

Don’t do that!The Beginning Artist Needs to Learn to Have Fun

Whether you paint for personal pleasure or as a livelihood, have fun. For some, creating art will become like a job and will require you treat it like a job, maintaining regular hours and behaving like your own employee.

If that describes you, try not to lose sight of the joy of painting (as I did). Keep in sight the reason art drew you in the first place. Take time to nurture that, to grow it as you grow your career. You won’t regret it.

By the way, it doesn’t hurt to learn to have fun apart from your art, too. We all need down time to refresh and revitalize.

Which of these resonant most with you? What advice would you add to the list?

What I Do When I’m Under the Weather

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

We all experience times when we’re under the weather physically or creatively.

I’m in the second week of a two-week cold (today is day eleven). My colds usually last about two weeks whether or not I see a doctor, so I use a variety of home remedies to deal with the symptoms while the process runs its course. Lots of rest, lots of fluids, and a reduced schedule. A cough suppressant or decongestant as needed.

I’m not in a very creative place at the moment. Fiction writing—yes, I do that, too—has ground to a halt. The plain truth is that almost everything has. I have enough energy to do what must be done and that’s about it. Blogging (although this post took most of the week to come together) and EmptyEasel articles. Maybe a bit of drawing one or two days in the last week.

So what do I do with all that “spare time”?

(By the way, lest you get the wrong idea from the illustration above, my cold isn’t that serious. I just love lightning and had to use that image! Now, where was I? Oh, yeah.)

What I Do When I’m Under the Weather

These are a few of the things I do when I’m in the middle of a cold or any other illness that sidelines me temporarily or long-term. Maybe these things will help you. Maybe they’ll prompt your little gray cells to other ideas.

1. Read

My first recourse is always reading. When I’m under the weather and lack energy for the usual routine, I have lots of time for sitting around or lying in bed. That means lots of time for reading.

Usually, hubby makes a trip to the library and lugs back an armful of books. Favorite authors include Agatha Christie, Jan Karon, Chris Fabry, and Joel C. Rosenberg. There’s nothing like holding a book in my hand, so although I have a lot of selections on my Kindle for PC, I still prefer books with real pages and actual covers.

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

Sometimes, I read some of my stories. The older the better, usually. Otherwise, it’s too much like work!

2. Look at Photographs

I especially like looking at online photographs. One of my favorite places to browse is Pixabay. Pixabay images are published under a CCO license, which means they’re free for use in any commercial way. The images in this post come from Pixabay.

I don’t generally think of these images as reference photos, but you can never tell.

What I do often find is grandeur, beauty, awe—and sometimes sheer whimsy.

(This photo of colorful tomatoes reminds me of a drawing I once considered. It involved horses of different colors galloping across a black background. Drawn in colored pencil, of course!)

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

3. Surf the Web

Just this week, I happened upon a YouTube Channel for the Longines Masters. I spent an hour watching the speed challenge of the 2013 Longines Hong Kong Masters. Show jumping on the clock. Did you know there was such a thing? It was fascinating to see world class show jumping riders and horses racing the clock on what looked to me like an impossible course. Lots of jumps and lots of big jumps.

The amazing thing was that there were three clear rounds of the 18 competitors. Amazing!

Needless to say, I bookmarked that channel for future reference, along with the channels for the FEI and American Endurance Riding Conference.

But I also watch videos on making art, some of which I’ve shared here and some of which I will be sharing in the future.

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

4. Watch Movies

I don’t do this much at home, but when I was in the hospital for nearly a week in March of last year, my husband and I watched at least one movie every night for the duration. Sometimes two or three.

What do we like to watch?

  • Almost anything with Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne.
  • The Thin Man series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Avengers series
  • Dreamer, Seabiscuit, the Black Stallion, etc.

The hospital room had a VHS player, so we pretty much went through the part of our collection that hasn’t yet been replaced by DVDs.

God is good and provided for me for this cold. Shortly before it got bad, my husband came home from a regular church meeting with a package of CDs. A collection of 44 episodes of an old radio program, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, starring Bob Bailey. I’ve been listening to one CD a day for the last several days and I must confess, I’m hooked!

What I Do When I'm Under the Weather

The Common Thread when I’m Under the Weather

The most important part of the process for me is the realization that I’m not a machine. I don’t create on demand (though I often behave as though I do) and I don’t control very much at all in life or in the studio.

Times likes these remind me that taking time to slow down and take a step back are just as important as all the time and work I put into art, stories, even this blog. If I don’t stop to recharge physically and creatively, pretty soon, the battery runs down.

And so does the mind and body.

So the best advice I can give you for dealing with your under-the-weather times is to find ways to recharge. Everything I’ve shared here recharges me in some way, preparing for the day with the lightning stops, the rain goes away, and the rainbows appear again.

Living With Creative Stillness

Creative stillness is usually one of the worst things that can befall an artist. But I’ve been living with creative stillness for many months and have discovered some preciously silver linings among the clouds.

Today, I want to share those silver linings with those others among us who may also be living in creative stillness.

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t worked on a painting since putting the finishing touches on a large and complicated portrait on June 24, 2014.

In the months since, I’ve lifted a paint brush only to illustrate a lesson for an online oil painting student. Nothing started. Nothing to finish.

I’ve worked a little more with colored pencils, but the last major drawing I attempted got no further than a finished line drawing. Again, the only work I’ve done since is making illustrations for online drawing students and EmptyEasel.

In fact, had it not been for the online art courses and writing articles for EmptyEasel, I probably would have done nothing at all with drawing or painting.

The confession is that—for the moment—the lack of activity in the studio doesn’t bother me. Sure, I feel a twinge of guilt every now and again, but I’m enjoying the lack of pressure so much, guilt doesn’t stand a chance!

It used to be impossible to foresee a future when I wasn’t painting. Even the one time I deliberately took six months off, I never doubted that I’d paint again, although the six months stretched into a year by the time I went back to the easel.

Now?

Living with Creative Stillness

It’s been seventeen months since my last major painting and the thought has crossed my mind more than once that that portrait may truly have been my last portrait.

You know what?

That idea doesn’t raise terrible specters.

Nor does it cause guilt or pain. A little sadness, maybe, but nothing more.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved portrait painting. I loved my clients, the places I traveled and the horses I saw, touched, smelled, and was awed by. Nearly 40 years of painting pictures of other people’s horses for fun and profit is a great experience and I’m grateful for it.

But if it’s over, I’m okay with that, too.

Why?

Because the studio isn’t the only place I’ve experienced creative stillness. Fiction writing went on hiatus, too. The silence in that creative arena wasn’t as long, but it was no less silent. From January through August 2015, I didn’t work on a story. Not. One.

Not My Own

I learned through the months that my ideas about what I do with “my” talents and interests isn’t always up to me. Sure, my personal interests have an impact on what I choose as subjects and how I do drawings, paintings, and sketches based on those choices.

But there is also a greater Source—the place from which all good and noble ideas come—and He wants a say in what I do. In fact, He demands it.

Personally, I think I got to the point where I was too comfortable in my ability to paint pictures. I got too full of myself, you could say.

So I was taken outside of that place of Adequacy and Ability and put in a place of stillness.

Learning to Embrace the Stillness

The time has been well spent. As I’ve thought about, prayed over, and explored the creative silence, I’ve come to realize how much control I exerted over the studio and how closed I’d become to doing anything outside my comfort zone.

And believe me, this creative silence is so far outside my comfort zone, I can’t even see the comfort zone!

Living with Creative Stillness - Embrace the Possibilities

I learned to just be. Not to push so hard or demand so much.

I’ve also learned that I can teach others what I know. Talk about a fresh and new idea, something I only dabbled with before the creative silence. Now, it’s a primary source of pleasure and income. There’s something about seeing a new student gain skill and enjoyment in his or her work that painting a well-crafted portrait could never provide.

Do I miss portrait painting and everything it entailed? Yes. Even the hard stuff.

Will I be sad if I never paint another portrait? Yes.

But I no longer grieve. Why? I believe with every fiber of my soul that I will be given something to replace portrait painting. Something far better and far more exciting. Something for which living in creative stillness has been the preparation.

You know what?

I can’t wait to see what it is!