by Fiona Valentine
As you are learning how to paint, time management & habits are probably not the first things that jump to mind, right? Building these 10 creative habits will actually make your learning to paint journey much more successful!
Here's to your art success, friend. Let's get into the How To of 10 habits of a successful artist.
Learn to Paint Habit #1: Show Up
Getting started is half the battle! Just showing up is powerful.
Know when and where you are going to work and stick to it. Use small rewards, timers, appointments booked in your diary, an accountability partner, whatever you need to be clear about your plan and then just keep showing up.
Learn to Paint Habit #2: Do The Work
You are an artist if you make art. So, you need to be doing the work of making art. Simple, but easy to avoid. There will always be something else that needs to be done.
Once you have shown up, be clear on your most important work and make sure you are doing THAT work, not fiddly unimportant work.
Prioritize the art that is your unique, most valuable work and spend your time on that.
Learn to Paint Habit #3: Value Inspiration
There is an important difference between putting value on inspiration and waiting for inspiration.
If you wait to be inspired, you’ll never get to the work.
By the same token, if you don’t respect and capture inspiration when it appears, it will be wasted.
Experiment with what works for you to record inspiration when it comes. A notebook. An app on your phone for capturing ideas. Snap a photo of something that prompted an idea for a painting.
Get in the habit of putting these all in one place to come back to. If you will nurture and value inspiration, it will grow.
Because you recorded it, it’s easy to come back to when you are ready to plan new work! Inspiration and painting don’t have to happen at the same time and I find they don’t, usually.
This awareness will help you not to have an unreal expectation of feeling continually inspired, but be free to just get on and work hard.
Learn to Paint Habit #4: Focus
Know what you want to create & stay in your lane. There isn’t time to do or be everything, so choose your favourite, your most inspired, what feels easy, simple, true to you and get really good at that.
Leave all the other stuff.
Learn to Paint Habit #5: Practice
Repetition of a specific, focused action is the way to build skills.
Practicing little and often works best.
From 10 minutes up to an hour or two maximum. Doing this 5 days a week on the next skill, you need is the way to make lasting progress.
If you aren’t sure what to work on, get some help to understand which basics you need to conquer first.
Oaks grow come from acorns and develop slowly. Small steps toward progress are so enjoyable. Unrealistic ideas of overnight mastery just lead to frustration.
Learn to Paint Habit #6: Paint
In addition to practice time, paint the idea you are most excited to paint NOW.
Do your best. Don’t wait until you can “do it justice”. Just have a go and try your best to paint whatever it is to the best of your current ability. Be sure and press through the ugly "middle miles" and finish it. Not perfect, but done.
If you don’t like the result, don’t be afraid to try again and see if you can improve.
We have to paint as we can and not as we can’t. As long as you are doing your best and not holding back until you can get it “right” or “perfect” you will grow. It's easy to spend all our time preparing to paint or learning to paint and we need to have a go at actually painting despite the fear of getting it wrong.
It’s often fear of making mistakes that keeps you from painting. As Vincent Van Gogh said If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Have the humility and courage to paint badly at first. This is where we start and in time, with practice, we will improve.
Learn to Paint Habit #7: Share
Most people love to hear that you are painting. Experiment with sharing what you are working on.
You’ll learn who NOT to show (because they make careless remarks that sting) and who is encouraging and who offers truthful feedback that helps.
You’ll find the balance in time, between protecting your vulnerable, sensitive creative self and having courage to say “I am painting.” “I made this” without offering justifications and explanations as to why it’s not better and self protective comments that criticize the painting before someone else has a chance to.
These small acts of bravery will help strengthen your ability to own your journey. Be brave while your skills are not what you wish them to be.
You’ll slowly find your tribe and take these friends with you on your journey of growth.
Learn to Paint Habit #8: Mindset
Be kind to yourself and say encouraging things.
Notice the limiting ideas that you have.
Work at replacing overly critical self talk with affirmations.
Read great books by artists who "speak your language" and encourage your heart and help you see how everyone struggles with these internal battles to creativity.
Try “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron and "Creative Authenticity" by Ian Roberts. "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown, "Real Artists Don't Starve" by Jeff Goins and "The Compound Effect" by Darren Hardy are also great reads to help grow a positive mindset.
Learn to Paint Habit #9: Manage Your Life
Your life affects your painting.
These are all habits to foster that will help you paint.
Sometimes, managing your life for painting success is as simple as moving housework, shopping, appointments and catch ups to the afternoon, leaving morning time free for creative work on the days you are at home.
If you are working full time, it might mean making time early in the morning before work for 20 minutes of art.
Perhaps setting aside one night a week for uninterrupted work might be the answer.
Whatever your life looks like, spend some time thinking about how you can manage things (and people!) so as to maximise your studio time.
Learn to Paint Habit #10: Be You
sThere is only one you! Spend time finding out what you like, what works for you, thinking about your goals and objectives and make your own path.
Don’t copy another artists, but learn from many artists.
There isn’t one way to make art. Become a student of your own freedom and joy and notice the things that delight you and the things that you dislike. These will be a much better guide to your path than an “expert” who says things that don’t really resonate with you.
Find mentors who help you discover your path rather than insist you do things their way. There isn’t one way to make art and arrogant opinions that shut you down don’t deserve your time and attention.
Look for artists and experts whose words make your heart say “yes! I love that” and who inspire excitement and a feeling that you are understood and that you’ve got this.
Of course, you will have much to learn, but never belittle your intuition. It will help you find your path.
May these habit suggestions speed your painting journey and help you recognize that organisation and productivity are essential elements to productive, profitable, satisfying art making. Creativity isn't all freedom and mess!
For some simple affirmation of your creativity, my free pdf "Your Creativity Matters" is a good place to start. You can get it here.
Hi, I'm Fiona. I'm an artist and art coach. I help aspiring artists build a creative habit and conquer the basics of painting so they can make beautiful art.
You have more than enough creativity and talent. You need knowledge, practice and a creative process that really works.
I'm here to help!