Daily Habits Of Artists – How To Stay Creative and Productive At The Same Time
It can be difficult as an artist trying to balance creativity and productivity. If you are not feeling that creative, your productivity can come to a screaming halt. It may not be long before you have not created any new artworks for weeks, months or sadly years for some people.
On the other hand, you may be feeling overly creative but crippled by a mass a thoughts, not sure what direction to take.
Successful artists seem to have similar daily rituals to help them remain creative and productive. Whether it be a surging caffeine addiction, waking up early to fit in some creative time or carrying around a sketchbook everywhere they go. They seem to just make it work, despite life’s adversities.
Here are some daily rituals which you may want to consider adopting to stay creative and productive as an artist:
1. Try to complete at least one creative task a day.
It does not have to be a demanding task. It could be as simple as selecting your reference for your next artwork. The purpose of this is to keep the ball moving. Otherwise you may find yourself frozen by inaction, waiting for the perfect time to start your next artwork, which may never come. If you are not sure what to do, you could:
- Write a blog about your most recent artwork
- Apply the background layer to your next painting (if you don’t know what you are painting yet, then just apply a base tonal layer)
- Take reference photos of your local neighbourhood
- Add to your sketchbook
- Update your art website if you have one
- Finish that incomplete artwork which is sitting in the corner of your room
- Research some artists for inspiration
- Read a book (preferably about art)
2. Try and block out a period in your day for uninterrupted artistic time, preferably a few hours at least.
This will be your most productive time of the day, when you are 100% focused on your art. If you are struggling for time, consider waking up a bit earlier (the morning is probably the best time for your art – when your mind is fresh).
If you spread your artistic time throughout the day, your productivity will be limited and you will struggle to actually complete anything. You need these block periods to get the bulk of your work done.
On a personal note, when I am writing for this blog, if I put aside a few hours of writing, everything comes easily. However if I try and write in short periods throughout the week, all I end up with is a heap of unfinished blog posts. I struggle to find any direction if I do not have any significant block periods.
3. Plan your next day.
Before you go to bed, write down some goals you want to complete in the following day. Keep these simple and achievable so you do not overwhelm yourself. For example, my goals for tomorrow are:
- Write a new blog post
- Research new blog topics
- Pick a reference for my next painting
Simple and achievable. At the end of the day, I will review my goals and see what I have and have not finished.
4. Plan long term strategic goals.
Where do you want to be in one / three / five years? Do you want to be a master of oil painting? Do you want to be a commercial success in the art world?
Your long term strategy is extremely important as it will determine what your day-to-day goals should be. For example, if you want to be an oil painting master, your day-to-day tasks should be more so focused on improving as an artist and studying art. On the other hand, if you are happy where you are as an artist and want more commercial success, then you should look more towards marketing and networking in your day-to-day activities.
5. Do not procrastinate on that last 5% of a given task, be it your artwork, a blog post, setting up a page on your website, completing your artist statement, etc.
So many times have I completed 95% of a given task only to have it sit there for months or forever incomplete. Make the effort to put in the finishing touches and tick it off as completed.
6. Research other artists.
I try to ‘uncover’ at least one new artist each week. I learn so many different things from different artists, to the extent where I can feel my own style being influenced the more I learn, for the better.
This could be as simple as a quick Google search and then looking into the first artist you find that appeals to you. You never know what you will find.
If you have your own art blog, then you can even use your findings as blogging material.
7. Document all your ideas throughout the day.
I never know when a good idea will strike. I could be driving, on the train, sitting at my desk at work. But one thing is sure, those ideas will not stick around. I will not remember them later in the day. They are fleeting, so it is important I write all of them down.
I use the notepad on my phone pretty much every day. I will write down blog post ideas, ideas for my next painting, interesting artists I find during the day, cool new websites, etc.
At the end of the week, I will run through my notes and write down any good ideas into a master list, which is saved in Google Documents which I can access from any computer. If you do not have a Google Documents account, I strongly recommend you sign up. It is completely free.
8. Take your sketchbook everywhere and keep it active.
If you ever have some downtime, pull out your sketchbook and just sketch anything you find interesting. Try and make your sketches quick and loose, whilst capturing the general values and shapes.
9. Spend some time looking over your completed works – reflection time.
Take note where where your style is going, what improvements you have made and what improvements you would like to make.
10. Write down a list of things you think you have done well over the past year.
Far too often we get tied down with negativity. Positivity can be a powerful thing, but often hard to come by. In a world were criticism and negativity runs strong, it is important you do what you can to keep your mindset strong.
11. Contact an artist you are inspired by and introduce yourself.
They may ignore you but who knows, you could become friends? It is important to try and surround yourself with inspirational people.
12. Read inspirational quotes by famous artists.
You will be amazed what kind of inspiration you can garner from reading famous quotes. There is some real great stuff out there. Some artists to check out – Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet & Pablo Picasso.
13. Don’t skip meals.
Brain functions take up a significant amount of your daily calorie requirements, so it is important you keep the tank fueled. Keep healthy snacks handy if you need, such as nut mix, trail bars, protein bars, etc.
14. Set the mood – put on some calming music and ready your studio.
This will encourage you to break out your art tools and get started. If you want some great background music for your art time, check out this website – http://tabletopaudio.com/. I often find if my canvas is all set up ready to go, I do not procrastinate on starting the next painting.
15. Do everything in your power to fight procrastination.
If you feel you are procrastinating on a certain task, then make that task the number one priority to complete. Tunnel vision that task until it is done.
16. Buy new art materials – retail therapy!
This may be more a personal thing, but I feel a burst of motivation whenever I buy some new art materials.
17. It is ok to say enough is enough – you don’t need to make everything perfect before you call it finished.
Some people refuse to finish a project in search of the elusive sense of perfection, which is unlikely to ever come. Sometimes it is ok just to say that’s good enough. Also, to keep your creativity flowing, try and mix in lots of small study artworks between your larger studio works. These study pieces are all about brainstorming ideas, getting a feel for different techniques and learning more about the fundamentals.
18. Invest some time into mastering your productivity tools, such as excel, calendars and phone applications.
One fantastic application which I have recently discovered is Evernote. It syncs between my phone and computer and allows me to record notes, reminders, photographs, sketches, basically anything I want during the day.
19. Exercise – this one is no secret.
Without needing to mention the obvious physical and mental benefits, exercise can be a fantastic time to clear your mind and plan. If you are ever finding yourself lacking clarity of mind, go for a decent run / walk / gym session / whatever suits you and clear your mind. Make sure you really push yourself if possible to get the most benefit.
20. Meditation – this is one which I struggle to put into practice myself, but can be hugely beneficial in a similar way to exercise.
In my lackluster attempts to meditate, if you can even call it that, I would put on some calming music, lay flat on the ground and focus on my breathing in and out. I would do this for about 20 minutes. You would be amazed how much this resets the mind. I found it particularly useful whilst I was studying for my accounting finals.
Remember, the mind is a powerful thing. All your art is dictated by the mind, so don’t neglect it.
If you want to read more about daily habits of artists and creative people, there is a great book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It covers the daily habits and rituals of many famous creatives.
Below is an example of the kind of information discussed in the book. The main point I think the book shows is the lengths successful creatives go to improve and create. No excuses and remarkable effort.
Do you have any daily habits which keep you productive and creative? Feel free to share in the comments.