Do you spend any time standing still in your daily life or are you constantly rushing around like the White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? If you’re always in ON mode, never disconnected from a device or other people, it’s harder to justify spending time making art. If you believe you don’t have the time to stand still, or to make any art then it will never happen.
“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” — The White Rabbit, Lewis Carroll
But the truth is you don’t need a huge block of time to make art. A 2 minute investment each day is all you need to get started (and it adds up significantly over time). We think we need to spend a bigger amount of time to make it worthwhile, otherwise what’s the point – Surely 2 minutes isn’t enough to make anything significant? But your art don’t need it to be significant for it to be a worth the time or effort investment. It’s much more important something gets made and that you had fun doing it.
Significance is overrated and is entirely subjective so it’s far better to judge how you feel once you’ve spent 2 minutes making art something compared to only thinking about it. Taking action brings feedback and clarity while thinking can bring fear, excuses and procrastination. So find a pocket of time to stand stand still and make something.
“Dig deep and return with a new interest”
“Let yourself be silently drawn to the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” — Rumi
How can you use your strange curiosities as inspiration for your art? Find robots fascinating? Draw them. Obsessed with a song? Play it while you make something. Got a favourite colour? Use only that colour. Hooked on a tv show? Draw while you watch.
If you don’t want to draw fruit in a bowl (because you’ve decided that’s what you should be drawing) then draw your passions. Make things that interest you. Don’t believe you have to draw or make art a certain way.
Whatever your loves, let them help pull you closer to your creativity.
While making art with no fixed rules or set objectives can be a freeing experience, sometimes you don’t know what to make next which can hold you back from starting anything at all. Setting yourself a project could help with getting unstuck because there’s a clear focus for making. When you know where you want to head, it makes it easier to make decisions along the way. And if the infinite possibilities of making anything feels too overwhelming, then a project approach to art making could be for you.
In the Art For All podcast, Danny Gregory and Ros Stendahl talk about the power of projects: “A project is a blueprint for your free time, a series of assignments that will add up to something grand when it’s done. But more important, will be really fun doing, getting there, making.” Stendahl explains “Whenever I do a project, I like to set parameters because I find that parameters not only focus you and make it more likely that you’ll achieve your goal of doing it every day, but they also help you discover more clearly what it is you’re looking for… you can create something substantial in a very brief time period.”
If you’re feeling even more adventurous, consider having multiple projects in the go at once. They could be similar and interlink or be vastly different and you rotate through working on them depending on your mood and interest each day. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Creativity describes how a E. O. Wilson “typically works on several projects at once, using different methods. This again is a common pattern among creative individuals; it keeps them from getting bored or stymied, and it produces unexpected cross-fertilization of ideas.”
One project or several, it doesn’t matter the number of projects so long as you find it a helpful approach to get you regularly making your art.
Is a painting that took weeks to complete any more important than a sketch that took five minutes? You could argue the painting demonstrates more skill and labour because of the extra time spent but when it comes to creativity, more time doesn’t necessarily mean more reward.
Carolyn Schlam in The Creative Path explains “A sketch that takes five minutes to make can be more complete, expressive, and satisfying than a painting worked and reworked over months. In five minutes you don’t have time to steer too far away from a single idea if you’re on, you can capture the essence in a few strokes, which will make your inspiration vibrantly manifest.”
Don’t underestimate the power of small and don’t assume you have to spend hours working on something for it to be labelled ‘good.’
Carrying a notebook wherever you go can change how you interact with the world. When you make notes or sketch anything that catches your eye, you start to pay closer attention to your surroundings. Your senses for spotting small unusual things become sharpened because you’re training yourself to take notice. This skill of mining your everyday life for inspiration feeds back into your art making practice and allows you ultimately think more creatively.
In 1903 the writer Jack London gave advice still is as relevant today “Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” Making a note on your phone isn’t the same as the experience of pencil on paper and won’t seal in the memory as strongly. In a digital world, the notebook is a safe space to collect all the weird and unexplainable interesting thoughts and things you encounter.
Rule one of a notebook: don’t judge the importance of what you write down. Who knows what it could spark in the future: ideas, poems, sketches, paintings, collages, songs or any other creative endeavour. Write it down.
Using a notebook allows you to get curious about your world, which is something London also encourages: “Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.”
“The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.” — Albert Einstein