Keeping motivated in the studio

Whenever I meet people and tell them I am a professional working artist, they are always curious about the way I work. They have this idea that an artist goes into the studio when they feel like working, something moves them to paint and then the magic happens. That is not how I work at all, and after interviewing lots of artists for articles for Professional Artist magazine, I have learned that is not the way most artists work.

I head to the studio most weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — 3 is when I pick up my daughter from school. When I have an upcoming exhibition to prepare for, I put in my calendar each week what I will work on and when it needs to be done. I find it very easy to finish everything necessary as long as I make a schedule. If I am not able to complete things on time, I will go into the studio on the weekend to finish, but most of the time that is unnecessary.

When I am at the studio, I may not be painting the entire time. I do filler stuff, such as computer work (which includes writing this blog) sanding sides and sealing work. I can only work straight for two to three hours at most, then I need some downtime. The emotional intensity I use when I paint makes me exhausted. While I take that downtime, I am always looking at the work and mentally preparing myself for the next pass. Most of time I am working on more than one painting at a time.

When I don’t have an exhibition or work that needs to be done for a gallery, keeping motivated is a little harder. So this is when I set new goals for myself and schedule them just as I would when preparing for an exhibition on my calendar. I work very well with setting new goals to achieve and following through. No matter what it is that I do, perhaps working on a canvas on the wall instead of painting on a panel, or painting many small paintings at a time, it is usually things that I normally don’t do. This teaches me something new, and when I go back to do things the way I usually do, my work shifts. Whatever may take me out of my comfort zone is what I look for and the examples above do that.

For me, a schedule is the thing that keeps me motivated, and there are many ways to be creative within the schedule. When I don’t create a schedule is when I have trouble being motivated. So if you are trying to figure out how to keep motivated in the studio, try creating a schedule. Examples of this may be something like, “I will paint 5 paintings over the next three weeks.” Then break it down to “I will work on a 30 x 30 and a 30 x 60 this week and complete them by the end of next week.” Then write this down in a calendar, and cross it off as it is completed. This may seem counter-intuitive to the whole idea of painting and being creative, but it truly works! Always give yourself the flexibility to change things, though, if necessary!

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