Making Time for Your Art

Making Time for Your Art

Want to hear a funny story? I used to think I never had enough time for art, but then I had kids. :)

I used to spend a lot of time thinking about art, daydreaming about how nice it was going to be when I finally got around to making some, but I rarely ever picked up a pencil or paintbrush.

I constantly felt disappointed in myself for missing out on the satisfaction that comes from creating. It wasn’t until I had a new baby that I felt this enormous pressure and fear that I would never have time to myself again.

It forced me to prioritize the small windows of time I did have and spurred me to take action during those fleeting moments to make art.

Prepare for Creativity

One of the most useful; things I’ve learned about managing my creative time is that you have to prepare to be creative. It’s not enough to sit down and decide, “Now I will make some art!” You; need to make a plan.

If you anticipate having an hour to work on something later in the day, and you’re not prepared. You’ll end up spending that time trying to figure out what to work-on.

When my son was a baby, I knew that when he went down for his nap. I would have some uninterrupted art time. But, I needed to decide ahead of time what I was going to draw.

Otherwise, I would spend an hour or two daydreaming or scrolling Pinterest for ideas. And before I even got a chance to make a mark on my paper, he would be awake.

Many creatives, I know, recommend keeping an ongoing list of ideas in a journal or a notes app on your phone.

I keep lists of things I want to draw or paint and projects I want to work on or if I’m working on a big project, I’ll break it into small steps in my bullet journal so that I always know what my next task is. 

I look at my lists often so that I always have in mind what I’m going to work on next.

I find it helpful to spend a few minutes each evening going over my lists and mentally planning my creative time for the next day so that I’m prepared to dive in right away.

Simplify Your Medium

I used to only paint with oils. Between the setup and cleanup, I needed about 3 hours of uninterrupted time to paint.

You can guess how often I’ve painted with oils since I became a parent. As a freelance artist and stay at home mom, interruptions happen all day long.

I’ve also watched my toddler suck down a tube of red acrylic paint like it was a pouch of applesauce, and I’ve spent days removing sharpie scribbles from the walls and the couch, so I don’t like to keep toxic, staining substances lying around.

I knew early on if I wanted to be a parent and an artist, I needed a medium to fit my lifestyle. When my kids were tiny, the iPad was perfect. There was no mess, I could take it anywhere, pick it up and work a little even if I only had five minutes.

Sketchbooks are also low maintenance. I now love using watercolours since they dry fast and are easy to clean up. My five-year-old even has his own set and constantly invites me to paint with him.

I’ve heard that gouache is popular with animators because it dries quickly, cleans up easily. A concept artist can make a quick landscape painting on their lunch break. 

The best medium for you is the one you will use. If you’re having trouble making time for your art, consider whether your medium is getting in the way and see if you can simplify. Maybe try pencils or markers.

Analyze Your Time Usage

I don’t watch much television, but I do have to be very careful about how much time I spend on the internet and social media. 

In the last few years, I have become conscious of how much time I spend scrolling my phone in the evenings and reading stuff on the internet — a habit that was making me anxious and unhappy.

So, I decided to turn my phone scrolling habit into a sketchbook habit. In the evening when I am tempted to pick up my phone, I try to pick up my sketchbook instead. Sketching makes does make me happy and less anxious.

Chances are you have some time during your day that you are spending on some activity that’s not serving you—time that would be better spent making art.

If you don’t know where you can cut something out, spend a few days making an activity log of your day, broken into 15–30-minute time blocks. Write down everything you’re doing.

After a few days, analyze your activity log and see where you can make changes. Even if you only have 15 minutes, that’s enough time to do a quick sketch or do some colour mixing. Small, consistent, frequent efforts will add up over time!

Put Art-Making at the Top of Your List

I’ve never been one of those people who eats dessert first. And I always did my homework before playing. Now as a stay-at-home mom, I often feel like my duties around the house should come before my art.

I tell myself, “I’ll work on art after I finish all of these chores.” But when the day ends I often feel frustrated and resentful that I didn’t get to my projects. Then, the next day there are more chores and the cycle repeats.

If you want to have time for your art, you have to stop telling yourself that you’ll work on it as soon as all of those other tasks are finished, because they will never be finished. 

If you have a job that requires you to leave home, when it’s time to go to work, you just go. It doesn’t matter if the laundry isn’t folded or the dishes are dirty. You’ve committed to doing a job from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. so that’s what you do. 

If you want to make art a priority you have to schedule it. Set a time for it and then honour that time by saying no to other things that come up, including your phone, social media, etc. 

Are You Avoiding Something?

Occasionally when I get wrapped up in doing some mindless activity it’s because I am actually avoiding something that’s hard. Sometimes it’s a problem I don’t know how to solve, or a drawing of something that is complicated. Or I might have an idea, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to execute it well enough.

If you find yourself too busy to work on art, ask yourself if you really don’t have time; or if you’re not making the time because you’re avoiding something. And remember that doing something imperfectly- is better than doing nothing at all.

Give Yourself Grace

In my mind, I am incredibly slow at making art. I struggle and noodle and get caught up in details. To me, it feels like everyone else does it faster and easier. But then my friends will tell me that they don’t know how I get so much done. Remember that we are always hardest on ourselves and- you might realize how much you are actually accomplishing. 

Occasionally, take time to gather all your art in one place to reflect on what you’ve created. You might even be doing better than you think.


Kristin Wauson is a children’s book author/illustrator and certified yoga teacher based in Austin, Texas. She’s a wife, mother of boys, a chocolate lab and a dragon (a bearded dragon, that is). When she’s not making picture books, you’ll probably find her fermenting something, baking or cooking up a new recipe. She is represented by Adria Goetz at Martin Literary Management.
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