Making Art A Habit
I got a comment on an old video of mine asking if I’d made any videos on productivity and how to overcome laziness as an artist. It turns I’ve made several videos on these topics, which I directed the commenter to. Here's my playlist of them if you're interested. But, anyway, I don't mind making another post.
I find that the best way to overcome laziness is to make what you want to do into a habit. For example, before the pandemic, I would get on the bus and go to a mall, that had a branch of my gym in it, and workout in the morning. In a very short amount of time, I didn’t have to muster the motivation to do this, because it was part of my routine. I even continued working out during the pandemic, even though I wasn’t going to a gym, because I’d already cemented the habit.
I’m going to share three tips for developing a painting and drawing habit, the first two of which are inspired by the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. The first is the two minute rule.
The Two Minute Rule
Instead of telling yourself you’re going to sit down and paint for an hour, pick a habit that takes two minutes, or less, to complete. This may mean you don’t even paint. You might just set up your paints and brushes.
Now if that’s all you end up doing, fine. You’ve completed the habit. But, you might find that once you see your paints and brushes set up, it feels natural to start painting. Before I had a place dedicated to painting, I would just tell myself I’m going to set my stuff up, set up my camera, set up my paints, everything. I wouldn’t even think about what I was going to paint. But once everything was set up, it was so easy at that point to just start painting.
Now, when you’ve gotten to the point where setting up your paints and brushes no longer takes an effort, you might add another two minute or less habit on top of it. You might put some paint out onto your palette and just make a few strokes on the paper or canvas. If you’re drawing, you might draw some lines or scribbles on the paper. Remember, what you make here doesn’t have to impress anyone. You don’t even have to like it. This is just to get in the habit of making art. Writers swear by the two crappy pages a day rule to keep up their writing habit and we artists have to have our equivalent. I really believe if you actually start painting though, you’ll want to continue beyond two minutes.
The second tip is habit stacking. That just means you take a habit that you already do and tell yourself that after you complete this habit, or during it, if that’s convenient, you’re going to paint. For example, you might decide every evening after dinner, I will paint, or when I get home from work, I’ll paint.
I personally find habit stacking an easier way to remain consistent with a habit than trying to do it at a certain time everyday, but if painting at the same time every day works for you, then do it that way.
Make It Part Of Your Morning Routine
That brings me to my last tip, which is to incorporate it into your morning. A piece of advice commonly given is if you have a goal, to carve out time in your morning routine to do something that gets you further towards that goal. For example, someone who wanted to be a writer might sit down at their computer and write a couple pages before they go to their 9-5 job. If you want to improve your painting, maybe even get to the point where you’re doing it for a living, then getting up a little bit earlier and painting for just ten, twenty minutes before work maybe just what you need. To make things easy on yourself, set up your work area than night before, just like if you were going to go for a run, you’d put your work out clothes and shoes by the bed.
On the note of setting your stuff up the night before, I'd like to mention another version of the two minute rule and that's that any habit you want to do shouldn't take longer than two minutes to start, ie, remove as much friction between you and it as possible. For example, I remember Youtuber Thomas Frank saying that he kept his guitar out of the box because it made it super easy to pick it up and start practicing. The best advice I give for someone who wants to start painting or drawing regularly is have a special place to keep maybe a sketchbook and pencil. Don't have them behind or underneath something. That way, when it's time to do art, you can just grab them and get started.
You could combine this tip with the last one by doing it after a morning habit you already do, like making your bed or making your coffee. Or you could combine it with the first tip and just paint for two minutes in the morning and call it done.
Choose your painting time based on when you have the most energy. If you’re a morning person, don't tell yourself you'll paint in the evening after work. If you tell yourself you’re going to paint at a time when you’re not naturally energetic, you won’t be consistent and consistency in developing a habit is essential.
This brings me to the most important part of this whole video and that’s that when it the time comes that you’ve set aside for your painting, you need to paint. Whether or not you feel like it. Whether or not you’re inspired. Like I said at the beginning, what you make during these sessions doesn’t have to impress anyone. If you just take your brush and move it across the paper for a few strokes, that’s fine. As long as you do something.
The two minute habit tip is for if you have zero motivation and you’re dragging your heels. Just commit to setting up your art supplies or something similar. You could spend two minutes looking up art classes or tutorials online.
Habit stacking and morning routine are for when you feel motivated and excited to do art, but can’t seem to find the time to. I hope that helps.
On June 29, I went on Pixabay and looked for pictures of storm clouds for the Halloween painting I’m planning. I found some with bits of orange that I think are very fitting. The clouds are going to be behind a crow and a pumpkin for a painting I’m doing for Halloween. Here's a doodle of clouds I did.
That's all for now. If you found this post through Google, why not sign up for my email list? That way you'll get all my posts sent right to your email.
Learning To Establish A Routine
I’m learning that, when it comes to productivity and success, it's vitally important to establish a routine. I have a somewhat loose routine, but I want to develop a stricter one.
What Does A Routine Include?
A routine includes,
What Exactly Am I Trying To Do?
My goal for my routine is to establish firm working and resting hours during the day as well as times during the day or week for personal tasks, such as shopping and making appointments. Oh, and here’s the thing, not online shopping or watching entertainment based YouTube videos during times I’ve designated as business hours.
I don’t buy the whole “you need to wake up before the sun to be successful” maxim. There is a reason to wake up early if you’re one of the people who’s a true morning lark. Likewise, if 5 am is the only time of the day you can fit in quiet time, then you might want to get up then. But I don’t believe waking up early is magically going to make you more productive, because if you’re getting up early, you also have to go to bed early, so you’re not really getting more hours. That is, unless you want to skimp on sleep, which I don’t recommend.
Some people are night owls and there’s nothing wrong with that. If waking up at 7 or 8 works for you, then do it. I personally wake up before sunrise because I live in a hot climate and it gives me time to walk in the morning before it gets too hot. Ultimately, though, it’s not when you get up that determines how productive you are. It’s how you use the hours that you are awake.
Why I've Struggled
I'm Autistic and a lot of people like me can be very rigid when it comes to routines. I know a routine is impossible to stick to all the time, nor would I really want to. I want to be able to allow myself the occasional spontaneous lunch out or trip to a museum, for example. I also will inevitably have to go to appointments, which will cut into "work hours". My routine is just how I will aspire to spend most of my days. Nevertheless, I fall into the trap of feeling like if I can't stick to a routine 100%, I don't want to establish one at all. I know, logically, though, that having a routine I follow 70-80% of the time will get me much farther than following a routine 0% of the time.
Even without establishing a firm routine, I have no doubt we can get a lot more done by cutting out time wasting activities. Let me say, though, that resting is not a waste of time. What I’m talking about are things like mindlessly scrolling social media, checking my email a dozen times a day, and just mindlessly picking up my phone when I think I have nothing better to do.
What Got Me Thinking About This?
There are two series on Youtube that were a big inspiration to me to start thinking about this. One is “I Tried Writing Like” by Kate Cavanaugh and the other is an untitled series by Nathaniel Drew. So far, in her series, Kate has done the routines of Stephen King, Harauki Marakami, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, VE Schwab, RL Stine, Brandon Sanderson and others. In his series, Nathaniel has done the routines of Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Pablo Picasso and Maya Angelou. By the way, Picasso was a late riser.
All these people either had a set number of hours that they worked each day or a quota of words (for writers) or other tasks that they required themselves to complete. True to my bullet list above, most of them also had set times they completed these tasks.
This Week’s Painting Progress
I was adding layers and layers of dark color to my anhinga’s body, but no matter how much I added, it didn’t feel finished. I decided I needed to include these feathers.
I’d already gone over that part of the paper with paint, though, so I broke one of the watercolor rules and painted over my watercolor with white acrylic paint, so I could paint on top of it. Even after going over my white paint with gray blue watercolor though, I still wasn’t satisfied. I’ve learned that if you’re unhappy with a piece, it could very well mean that you’re not finished. I went back and added even more titanium white. I made lines going the opposite way to the ones I’d made before and just little marks that I’m not even sure what to call. My goal was to cover the majority of the black in that area. I wanted the white spots grouped very close together. Now, I still need to go over these white spots with the blue color of the feathers, but just having them there, I feel makes the painting look a million times better.
I’ve come to realize that if I want to have themed paintings done in time, I need to do them in advance, somewhat. To that end, I’m thinking doing something with this black bird
for Halloween. I’m sure I want a pumpkin in the painting, but I haven’t decided what other elements, if any, will be in it.
I might also be painting a dog for a client soon. By the way, if you want to commission your own painting, check out this page.
If you found this article through Google, please consider signing up for my newsletter. That way you'll get all my future posts sent straight to your inbox.
Painter of portraits and wildlife