6 Ideas to Help You Start (and Keep) Making Art / by Vanessa Longacre-Wilcox

Hands down the question I get the most about the blog, the art, and having three kids is, “Where do you find the time?”  I wrote about this in The Right Time Phantom back in March, but since I continue to get the question, I thought I’d revisit the highlights and add the things that are keeping me going now. 

Work in progress.  Oil on wood panel.

Work in progress.  Oil on wood panel.

Here are 6 things that are helping me right now, I hope they will help you.

  1. Make art your main part (or one of them anyway):  My son's school has this thing they say at lunch time, "Start with your main part." Basically, eat your sandwich before you eat your chips. Make art a main part, a habit, like healthy eating, or getting enough sleep.  Prioritize it over T.V., Candy Crush, or Blog reading…oh wait…finishing reading this first, then do that last one. Switching art from something I’d “like to do” to something I plan to do each day, has helped me stay creative.  I might not make something every single day but I come close.

  2. Stop the deliberation:  I’m a former project manager, I love planning but you have to know when to quit and just get started.   If you’re always thinking about what you are going to do and not actually doing it, stop. Your planning is getting in the way of your doing.  Try something different.  Just start making.  Pick up the pen, brush, laptop, lump of clay, or whatever and just get going.  This has been especially helpful for me in between larger projects.  The image at the start of this post is a painting I'm working on while I'm thinking about what I'm going to do next.  Instead of putting away my supplies, and running the risk of getting out of the habit of making something, I'm using painting as a tool in my planning.  Working on it is giving me ideas for what I want to do next.  

  3. Start where you are:  I didn’t paint for years because I didn’t have the space for oils.  I was stuck in the disappointment of that for a long time and because I couldn't do exactly what I wanted, I did nothing.   For me, I just needed to start something, anything, to get the ball rolling.  If you don't know where to begin, don't think it has to be perfect.  Try something new, unexpected, or even downright silly.  Check out local art classes, or a life drawing session at your local art store or invite a friend over and get messy with art.  Do something creative, however small, and see where it takes you.

  4. Simplify what it takes:  Keep your equipment ready.  I create art during the kids’ nap times or after they go to bed.  I work in 10-15 minute increments whenever I can.  I leave everything set up.  If it is a blog post, I leave Word open.  If it's a painting, I have a palette case that keeps paints wet and snaps shut and keeps the paint out of reach of the kids.  I can be painting in less than a minute, I can be cleaned up again in two minutes.

  5. Stay connected with what you are working on:  I try to utilize unexpected free minutes throughout my day.  Dryer needs heating up before folding? That’s 6 minutes of art time.  Waiting for the elevator by myself? Review pictures on my phone of what I’m working on. This serves two purposes, it keeps the project moving and keeps me connected so that when it's time to work, I’m excited and know just what to do next.

  6. Find inspiration:  We all need inspiration in different areas. For me, it’s not WHAT to make, it’s how to keep doing it.  What do you need inspiration for?  What inspires you?  Whatever it is, look for it.  Find it in everyday life.  Look for it everywhere.  Here are two simple ways that I do that:

    • Local art: I try to notice art.  It's everywhere but a lot of the time it blends into every day.  I try not to let it.  The artwork for sale on the walls of the shops and restaurants I frequent inspire me.  It’s not as much about the art, it’s about the grind.  The effort involved in creating the work and finding a way to show it.  When I look at that art, I see determination and I am motivated.

    • Social Art: Browsing social media inspires me on a global scale.  All over the world people are making art.  How cool is that? I follow artists, museums, and galleries from all over on Twitter, someone is always making something.  Someone is always talking about it.  Sometimes I search #makeart and just see what people are up to.  Always interesting.

Life is complicated.  There will always be competing priorities and trade-offs to be made.  Find your inspirations, prioritize your time, do your best, make art, one minute at a time.