Maybe you want to improve your art skills. Or maybe you want to challenge yourself to create more regularly. You’ve probably heard that practice makes perfect. And you might be wondering how to practice art as a daily (or at least regular) habit to improve your skills.
There are lots of ways to practice art. But before I dive into them, I want you to keep the biggest rule in mind: HAVE FUN.
RULE ONE: HAVE FUN.
Regardless of what you do to make art a regular part of your life, if it’s not fun you won’t do it. At least not for long. And shouldn’t fun be part of the goal anyway? If it’s drudgery, you might as well stop and go clean the toilet or something equally un-fun! Even a serious pursuit of art should involve curiosity, wonder, excitement, and FUN!
So first, breathe deeply. Think about the reasons you like creating. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in one of those perfect moments when you’re creating something and it’s turning out better than you could have even imagined. Ahhhh. Is there a smile on your face right now? I hope so!
There are just a couple more easy rules…
RULE TWO: STAY REALISTICALLY CONSISTENT.
By this I mean, once you set a goal to do some sort of creative activity (daily, weekly, even 15 minutes at a time), remind yourself that the second you set your goal, something will go sideways. The dog throws up on your white sofa. A wind storm knocks your power out. The car gets a flat tire. Life happens. Plans derail. And the first thing that goes is your newly formed creative goals.
Be proactive. Go into your creative plan with a realistic backup plan for when life doesn’t go as planned. This isn’t an excuse to flake out. It’s a plan that builds grace into the structure.
For example, if your plan is to spend Saturday mornings doing art and your sister and her 4 kids drop in unexpectedly, taking off one Saturday isn’t the end of the world. Just make sure you don’t skip TWO Saturdays in a row.
If you plan on spending some time every day creating, and life trips you up, skip a day. Just don’t skip two in a row.
Having a skip-one-session-but-not-two-in-a-row policy will keep you from feeling defeated when life happens. And nothing kills creativity quite like feeling defeated!
RULE THREE: THERE ARE NO OTHER RULES
A bunch of rules to follow is NOT FUN! (Remember the first rule!?) Come with your curiosity and with the mindset that you’re on a treasure hunt. You’re looking for the little nuggets and ideas that will work well for you in your creative practice.
Tips for integrating more Creativity into your life
I’m going to give you some helpful ideas on how to integrate art-making (and by this I mean any creative pursuit) into your life on a regular basis. Pick through the suggestions. Try the ones that seem interesting. See if they fit. If they do, yay! You’re on your way. If they don’t, well, come back to the list and pick a few more to try out.
What works for one person might not work for another. We’re all unique individuals and finding that sweet spot in your creative habits will make all the difference for you.
Ready to get started?
- Get really clear on what you’re hoping to accompish in your pursuit of an art practice.
It doesn’t have to be anything heavy and serious. Maybe you just want to have fun. But being clear on your purpose will help you remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Especially on those days when you’re not feeling creative at all.
- Find an accountability partner
Bonus points if this person is also trying to make a regular habit of art–but any person who is willing to help you counts. An easy way to keep up with your accountability partner is to agree on a time to send a quick text to say whether you accomplished your goal or not. (For example, you’ll both text each other by 9pm on Sunday night with a short note stating how you did that week.)
- Dedicate a space to create in.
Maybe you don’t have enough room to create a studio space for yourself and the best you have is the dining room table. That’s okay. Grab a box (or better yet, create/decorate one) that is a good size to hold all your supplies. Keep it easily accessable and when it’s time to create, clear the table and bring out your box of supplies. If you don’t have to hunt down your stuff every time, it makes creating regularly much easier.
- Set a ‘trigger event’ to remind you to create.
A trigger event is just something that you do regularly that you can pin your resolve to. For example, if you’re wanting to create daily, the trigger could be, “I’ll start painting every morning after I take the dog for his morning walk.” Those trigger events are concrete, predicable and add some boundaries around your goals. (They also make them harder for you to justify not doing them on a given day.)
- Join free challenges to help keep you going.
I hang out on Instagram and there’s always a challenge or two going on somewhere. Anything from a 100-Day Project where you create art daily for 100 days (which starts in February every year), seasonal challenges (fall, winter, advent, Christmas, etc), and Folktale Week to name a few. Then there are challenges the flow around color (like the #coloricombo lead by Este McCloud where she delivers color combinations weekly for you to create your own art in your own style with) or food related (like the They Draw and Cook #theydrawtober challenge).
Even if you don’t participate fully in the challenge (say it’s a daily challenge and you’ve commited to doing art weekly), you can still play along at your own speed and find all sorts of inspiration from participating as well as from seeing what others create as well.
Another similar kind of thing is finding contests to enter. These generally have both a theme and a deadline which can help you stay on track with your creating. (If you like to create patterns, Spoonflower as a weekly themed contest for fabric, for instance.)
- Save and date the first work you do as you start this process.
Saving your early work and pulling it out from time to time is a massive dose of encouragement. You’re sometimes too close to your art to properly see your progress. (Kind of like when you’re losing weight and get discouraged because (in your eyes) you still look the same…but then someone who hasn’t seen you for a couple of months comes by and notices it right away!)
Pull that work out when you need encouragment that you are, in fact, improving.
- Show your work to others.
This might not seem like a way to cultivate an art habit, but it really is! Art doesn’t just happen in a vaccum and then stay there. It’s meant to be shared with others.
- Don’t give up too soon.
Realize that creating a habit takes longer than 21 days, regardless of what you’ve been told. In fact, a study published by the European Journal of Social Psychology studied 96 people trying to create a simple daily habit. The time it took for the participants to feel like this daily habit became fairly automatic ranged from just 18 days, up to 254 days. Creating a new habit takes time. Don’t give up!
(Interesting to note: this study also found that folks skipping a single day at a time didn’t significantly hinder their habit-forming process which fits in with the skip-one-but-not-two days suggestion.)
It’s not always going to be easy to keep practicing your art. Some days you just won’t feel like it. Other days, life has you by the scruff of your neck and it’s hard to find the time. But the more you do it, and the more consistently, you’ll realize it’s as vital to your survival as a human being as eating and sleeping. And once you discover that, it becomes a habit. Because you like how it feels. Even on the bad days.