Over the past 15 years of painting, I have discovered some helpful tips on getting more studio time. These ideas have worked for me and I hope they help you spend more time in the studio. Because if you’re like me, creating is something I just have to do, like breathing, and I’m a happier, more balanced person when I can spend time creating.
1You’ve probably heard this one before, but it works. Schedule time in the studio. And then honor your commitment to yourself. But here’s the trick to making this work, don’t over schedule yourself. Like any goal you set for yourself, make it an attainable goal.
Start small. For example you could commit to two hours two evenings a week. Or a Saturday afternoon. This will depend where you are in your art journey, but give some thought to how much time you really have and want to commit to your craft.
I remember years ago reading an interview of a portrait artist who said she was in her studio in front of her easel every morning by 9:00 a.m. Really? Are there no dogs to walk, no grocery shopping to be done, no exercise, laundry, nothing? I suppose it’s possible but that (in my mind) is a good example of an unattainable goal.
I’ve also read that the late Lucien Freud, one of my favorite figurative artists, would paint in his New York studio in the morning, break for lunch at a nearby cafe, then back to his studio in the afternoon. Break for dinner and then sometimes even paint a model in the evening. So it can be done, but he is an exception and I only mention this because if find it fascinating.
2Short periods of time in the studio can be very useful. I spent years thinking I needed a good 3 or 4 hour block of uninterrupted time to get anything accomplished in the studio. I was wrong. Thirty minutes here and a other 45 minutes there can eventually add up to a completed painting. Or at least chores in the studio taken care of like cleaning brushes, organizing, and getting things ready for the next painting.
This is especially useful when I’m in the middle of a painting or I have in my mind exactly what I’m going to paint next. To be very productive, I’ve learned that painting a series is a great way to eliminate decisions and planning time and just get down to painting. I can walk in the studio and start painting almost immediately.
A few years ago I did a series of 18 portraits. Easy. I would stand in front of my easel and my only decision before I started painting was – whom shall I paint today? I could start painting pretty much immediately. That was a productive time for me. And isn’t that the point, to get more painting done?
(Well it’s unfortunate that my last example of painting a series was “a few years ago”. Time for another series.)
3I’ve learned to get in the studio and get to work. I used to wait for inspiration, or a great idea, for the planets to align, or I would need a big plan (well sometimes I still feel like I need a big plan, but I’m working on that).
Chuck Close says it best:
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”
So there you have it, my three tips on how to get more studio time. Schedule time, even if it’s in 30 minute bursts, stick to your schedule (think of it as a commitment to yourself and your craft) and just get in that studio and get to work. Good things and great discoveries come from covering lots of canvas with paint. And remember to enjoy the process!