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Sophie Ploeg painting portrait
A small corner at home to paint a portrait

Many creative people struggle to find the time to actually be creative. I suppose we have that in common with most people, arty or not! There are just never enough hours in the day! If only we had seven lives like cats do. Yet we can help ourselves a little and try and prioritise what needs time spending on and what doesn’t. How high does painting rank on that list of priorities?

This article will give you some top tips on how to organise your time to paint.

The other day I asked my Facebook community what their biggest frustration is when it comes to art. Clearly the one thing we all struggle with the most, is finding time to paint.

Most artists I know, from amateur hobbyists to successful professionals, have got other things to do in their life besides working on their art. They have full time jobs elsewhere, they are parents, they are doing up houses, they travel a lot or they suffer from a poor health. The list goes on. Yet they love being creative and battle to find that little pocket of painting time in their busy schedules.

I figure here are a few problems that we all have in common:

Too many disruptions!

Sometimes it seems everybody wants you, at the same time preferably. The post man knocks, the phone rings, your kid is ill and your spouse asks if you can do the grocery shopping. And when you do finally sit down behind the easel, the cat throws up, your mum skypes you, and a friend calls for a catch up. You are never going to paint anything this way!

Not Enough Time!

Interruptions aside, you must actually make it to that easel in the first place. Sometimes it seems too hard to even get there. After a long day in your regular job, there is housework, chores, shopping, kids, partners, parents and friends to spend time with. Nobody would blame you if you are too tired to get your painting materials out, set up and paint a masterpiece! No matter how much you want to, there is just not enough left in you.

No Space!

Being creative takes time and space. Many underestimate the space arts and crafts actually need. A craft table is one thing, but what about all those craft materials? An easel is huge, and where is the canvas going to live? What about the brushes, bottles, paints and other bits and pieces? Most people do not have the luxury to have their own study or studio. So it is a matter of getting your materials out of the cupboard, setting up on the kitchen table and putting it all away when you are done. After all, dinner is ready. While we eat our pasta we dream of that garden studio….

Too many Distractions!

A disruption is not the same as a distraction. A disruption is something that comes from outside you, something like your friend or neighbour, the cat and the phone. A distraction comes from within yourself. And yet distractions can be a huge pain! If you live a busy life you probably recognise the thoughts popping up in your head: I must sort the insurance, did I top up the fish food? what time was that appointment again, I am hungry/thirsty/cold/hot/in pain/I can go on.

When you finally sit down for that precious time to paint and you have made sure nobody is going to bother you; a million-and-one things keep you from focussing on your creative activity.  Annoyed, you get up and start tackling the list that just kept you from doing what you love.

Sophie Ploeg painting still life in the kitchen
Painting in the kitchen

The Solution

Hah! I am no Ophrah! Or life coach! I don’t have the answers!

What I Do

But I can share how I organise my time to paint. And believe me, this is a work in progress. This is no perfect thing. And as far as it works, it works for me. Well, most of the time. It wouldn’t work for my husband or my friend.  And it probably won’t work for you. But I am going to tell you anyway, as you never know; it might help.

I cut out the crap. Whoops, excuse my language. But it clearly says what it means. I also give myself a break. I mean, if you have a full-time job it is quite normal to have little time or energy left for hobbies. Leave it for the weekend. It’s ok.  If your health is playing up, then take a break. You’re no good to anyone or yourself if you are unwell. Take a duvet-day (or week) and forget about the rest. If your young child is ill the same applies! Give yourself a break. I do.

I often don’t paint for a long time. Other times I am really going for it and cutting out other things.

But if you really want to create a quality creative corner (nice literation eh?!) in your life then help yourself get it. So cut out the, well, the distractions and interruptions, the chores and appointments, as far as is possible, even if it is just now and then.

Sophie Ploeg painting in the garden
A moment to paint a little in the garden

3 Tips for Making Time to Paint

Create a Little Space

Create a corner in your house where you can leave out your materials. This way you don’t need to spend time getting it all out and putting it all away. When I just had my kids this was a life saver. Without the hurdle of all that setting up and putting away, it is so much easier to continue where you left off. To pick up that brush again. It doesn’t have to be a big corner. Just a little bit of space to do what you want to do. A small table easel and a few drawers might be all you need. If it is ‘just there’, it will be much easier to get to.

Make a Little bit of Time

Set aside a fixed time every day or every week (or every month) that is your creative time. Don’t plan anything else in that time and try to stick to it. If disasters happen and you can’t make it every week, move the slot to another day. Remove as many distractions and interruptions as possible: ignore/turn off the phone, tell your friend/neighbour/partner this is your creative time.  Eat, drink and go to the toilet beforehand. Make sure that insurance is organised otherwise it will just nag your brain.  Whether it is half an hour in the evening with a sketch book on your lap, or an hour a month of plein-air painting in the woods; planning in a fixed time to create will help getting a routine and will help you getting it done.

Give Yourself a Break

If it is too hard to find that hour a week/month/whatever then consider joining a club. Many art clubs have weekly or monthly painting sessions. They will also have trips, lectures and events. Or book yourself into some workshops somewhere (mm I know of some nice workshops). Book yourself a painting holiday.

Be OK with taking breaks. You are doing a million things and you can fit your creative pursuits around it. It is ok to not paint every day or every week. It will give you time to think about what you have on the easel. It is ok to slow down.

Leaving the house means you cut out a lot of potential interruptions and distractions. Being with other people doing the same thing will most likely encourage you. And going somewhere for the sole purpose of painting will make you focus on what you came to do: paint. I regularly enjoy taking workshops and classes just so I can have a few hours of practice without any interruptions!

I hope this helps a little. Happy Painting!

Sophie Ploeg painting time.
Some time to enjoy creativityPhoto by Alfred Leung

Sophie Ploeg lets get organised for artists

Further Reading …

About the author

Sophie is an artist, art historian, tutor, author and blogger. She writes on oil and pastel painting, art history and the life of an artist. She paints portraits and still life and specialises in painting drapery and lace.

More to Read...


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  1. It’s not just all the chores, working out, walking the dog and at home stuff for me. It’s running the business side of my art. It’s purchasing materials when I run out. Running downtown to blick for more paint. Then going again next week when my canvas stock runs low. Then it’s making my fine art reproductions. It’s buying more pigment ink for my printer. It’s buying the right kind and size of paper, and then 4 kinds of foam core boards and 4 kinds of bags, printing each print and cutting them by hand, then making info sheets and price tags for the back of them and mounting them to foam core and bagging them. Photographing my work and uploading and editing it and putting it into photoshop to make 4 sizes of prints. Then it’s uploading all those images to my website and listing each one as a new product. Next i have to design and make show cards for each Solo show I have planned, having those scheduled and printed. Then making and updating more business cards when I run out. It’s updating my CV with new information, and updating my website with print releases, events, email blasts and social media. It’s apply to shows, running down leads for show opportunities and contacting curators about those opportunities. Then I writing descriptions for each piece to make a certificate of authenticity, and price cards with the same information on them. After that’s done, I print them, cut them at home and I have them laminated at a local shop. When shows come around, it’s emails and invites and then attending the events. For art fairs, it’s packing the car with everything from my studio, a grueling set up and long 3 days after that. Plus promotion and artist brunches. I wish I knew how to manage my time better so I could paint more. Sometimes my inventory is too low for all the shows I have booked and I stress about making enough art for all the wall space. How do I manage my business Side and have time to paint? How do you all manage it??

    Reply

    1. Oh you are so very busy! I regularly read in marketing books that we should spend a huge chunk of our time on our business, but I suppose it is up to all of us individually. There’s no point running a business if you don’t get time to actually create your product. You’ll end up marketing nothing! So I suppose we all need to find a balance between the business side and the creative side. Perhaps set aside a few days for just certain tasks. It can be tricky, I know all about it! At the moment I am mainly teaching and don’t get much time to paint but I am planning on things shifting next year when I have laid the foundations for my online art school. I suppose you’ll need to find the perfect balance as well. If you have the budget, you could consider hiring some help perhaps. Plenty of small businesses use VA’s for websites, filing, databases, writing etc. Good luck!

      Reply

  2. Thanks, I don’t feel so bad now for not being able to relax with my canvas. Getting up earlier before everyone else might be best for me. Thanks .

    Reply

  3. I have been thinking about doing a painting workshop and wanted to look up some information. I really appreciated how it talked about how sometimes it seems everybody wants you, at the same time preferably. I agree that finding a place where there are fewer disruptions is a great idea.

    Reply

  4. Thanks for your ideas. I paint in a small bedroom and when I do get the time to paint the lighting is not always good. Have you any tips for artificial lighting? Thanks.

    Reply

    1. Hi David, thanks for your comment. I so know what you mean – I painted at night in a corner of the living room for years. You can buy easel lamps with daylight bulbs at most art stores, and they are pretty good. Or you can put a daylight bulb in a normal light fitting and use that. I use that at the moment.

      Reply

    2. I found a 3 light plug in Track light and bought an extension cord and mounted it on the ceiling. I took out the lights it came with and ordered compatible Hue bulbs white ambiance GU10 2pack. You have to buy 2 of them but you end up with one extra. They’re expensive but they’re bright and white. I only needed one light but you could easily buy 2-3 to put on the ceiling. Unfortunately they don’t daisy chain but it’s the cheapest option

      Reply

      1. I love Philips Hue and I’ve done my whole house, including my studio with it. When painting, I can set it to daylight and when not painting I set it to warmer light. They are great.

        Reply

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