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Make Your Art a Priority

by Keith Bond on 9/21/2009 10:23:58 AM

This Post is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I enjoy swimming laps 2 to 3 times a week. When I first started, I was frustratingly slow and I needed many rests. It was almost embarrassing to have swimmers twice my age lap me over and over. Yet, I had made goals and over time I improved. I reached several milestones and would then set my sights on new goals. I wonít be winning any swim competitions any time soon, but I look back on where I started and I see tremendous improvement. 
This past week, however, I have had a cold. Prior to my cold, I had a few conflicts which prevented me from swimming. So this morning was my first time swimming laps in a couple of weeks. I noticed a marked difference in my performance. I could not swim as far nor as quickly as I had just two weeks ago. Granted, I may still not be totally recovered from my bout with the little virus, but it is also true that when you stop exercising for a period of time, you lose ground. The longer the absence, the more is lost.
The same holds true with art. 
Neglecting Your Art Results in Lost Ability
Perhaps you have devoted years to your art. Maybe itís been only a few months. Donít risk losing the progress you have made by neglecting your art for a period of time. You must continue to work at your art or you will lose it bit by bit. This is true of both the technical skills and creativity. You must work on both constantly, just like exercise. 
Have a Productive Routine
Also, just like with physical exercise, the rate of improvement will depend upon your routine. Do you spend adequate time? Do you practice specific exercises to work on certain areas which need improvement? Do you have somewhere to do it? Is the set-up hindering your ability? Are you giving it your all? Do you push yourself? Or do you just dabble here and there once in a while? 
Even When You Donít Want To
Some mornings I didnít want to swim because I wasnít up to it or I didnít feel like it.  But when I made myself do it, I found that I got into it within a short time. Even if I didnít get all the way into it, I felt better afterwords and it helped me maintain what I had worked so hard for.  
Likewise, you may have those days when you just canít find your muse or you just arenít in the mood. But if you just make yourself do something, you will find that you will usually get into it and your creative juices will begin to flow. At least do something related to your art.
Conquer Your Excuses
There are many, many reasons why we put off doing things. Why do you neglect your art?  What prevents you from getting into your studio? Identify what obstacles you have and then set up a plan to conquer them. If art is truly a priority in your life, you owe it to yourself to let it take its rightful place. Donít use excuses. Conquer them. Rearrange your life to make art a more prominent part of it.
Make Time
If you truly want to make progress with your art; if you truly want to improve; you must set aside time to work on it. You must make those times productive. We could all use more time. But consider everything you do in the day. EVERYTHING. Iíll bet you could find things that occupy your time that arenít as important to you as art. Some tasks you cannot remove from your to-do list right now. But many can be removed. Artist Scott Christensen wrote:
Donít use [time] as an excuse! I really advanced as a painter when I was ďdistractedĒ by another job! I taught in a public school and coached two sports. Athletics took up most of my time on weekends and my family was very important to me, but I painted.
I want to take away your excuse by giving you one simple truth: we all have the same amount of time at our disposal. How we use that time is very important! (Note: I cut this quote out of a magazine several years ago. I wish I knew which magazine, so I could give proper credit. I want to say that it was International Artist, but I may be wrong.) 
ďYes,Ē you say, ďbut my situation is differentÖĒ STOP! That is another excuse! Donít use excuses. If art is truly important to you, you will find the time. If everything else on your list is more important, then focus on them, not art. Either way, donít use excuses! Yes, I am being blunt. Sometimes we need a kick in the behind. Sometimes we need to hear it like it is. Do you want to improve in your art? Do you want to maintain what you have worked years to achieve? Then make your art a priority.
Best Wishes,
Keith Bond


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I struggle daily with this priority thing, and doing the art even when the muse is on vacation. I often use the demands of motherhood as an excuse...but I have the same minutes in a day as anyone else. To many are often spent on my computer, rather than with a brush in hand! I'm a swimmer, too, so the analogy is helpful. Thanks for this.

Especially liked Keith Bond's article on making art a priority. Need to set up a schedule for myself and draw daily and work with color by studying it more and playing with it. Definite food for thought and ACTION. Doing even when I don't feel like it is the key. Thanks Keith

Charlotte Herczfeld
Keith, couldn't agree more with most of what you write. Make it a priority, lock the door, unhook the telephone, and get to it. Procrastination gets one exactly nowhere. But there is one little funny phenomenon, and that is that the painting 'muscle' in the mind doesn't shrink from being unused during an illness or a weeks vacation -- provided one normally keeps it exercised regularly. In fact, a vacation might let your mind 'get it' (whatever that 'it' is), and you'll be better when back at the easel.

Often the problem is to start, but once you're in the 'zone' it is hard to stop. As someone near and dear says: "The most difficult part of going for a walk is the bit between the couch and the front door".

Diane Donicht Vestin
Pertaining to Keith Bond's article:
You hit the nail on the head when you say to keep painting, drawing or whatever you do that pertains to art. I set aside 4 to 6 hours a day to paint. The reason? I had used colored pencils for many years and had the technical skills you would need to make a great colored pencil painting. I was winning awards like crazy. I was selling art. Wow! I was really getting somewhere. Then, a rock dropped on me from outer space or somewhere and I came down with degenerative arthritis. I had both of my knees replaced. I've had my feet operated on which still need operations. I have arthritis in my hands. Oh no! My hands! What was I going to do now? I could no longer work in colored pencil because it took extreme effort on my hands for blending and shading. I boo hooed for 6 years. 6 years down the artistic drain. Then I heard a still small voice from heaven. God told me, hey girl, I gave you talent, use it! So, I thought, what could I do that would be easey on my arthritis and could still put out some artwork. I dove right into acrylics. Why, I don't know. But, I fell in love with them and at first I wasn't very good, but as time went by, I felt myself getting better and better. So, as Keith said, don't put off your art work. Even for a day. Set aside some time and stick to it. You'll be glad you did. I still am not selling like I used to, but I am happy when I paint. It's the best therapy you can get.
First, I'm a housewife. I have to cook, clean, launder and all that stuff. But don't fool yourself you can do it all if you put your mind to it. So take Steve's advice and put your artwork at the top of your to do list. You'll be glad you did. And the rewards, whatever they may be will come zooming in like a rocket!

Diane Donicht Vestin

Dorothy Siclare
Yesterday morning I was angsting over the commitments that I have gotten myself into this and next month. Library Exhibit for a month requiring 25 framed pieces, three art show and sales within three weeks, two new galleries ( granted nothing has sold yet) and some up and coming shows in Nov.

Everything has to be inventoried, framed, priced, labeled and packed and I have committed certain pieces for certain shows and am getting tired, confused, annoyed, stressed with absolutely no time for painting (which is what I want to do first and foremost).

So.....this morning after spending 2 hours creating part of the inventory list (another fun thing....measuring with frame?, without frame?, whatever) I got so stressed and depressed that I sat outside on my deck staring into space trying to decide whether it was worth it all and whether to chuck the committments, settle back and just paint.

Couldn't make a decision, so I did my usual thing and went to read my emails, a great procrastination tactic. Low and behold there was Alyson's essay on just the thing I was stewing over. I suppose she is right, just bite the bullet and do what needs to be done. RIGHT???

Debra Russell
Very timely, Keith! I recently had right shoulder surgery and was told I would be unable to paint for 12 weeks! At first I considered just working on the business end of my art for the recuperation period, but that lasted about 6 days! A friend I share a studio with suggested trying to paint with my left hand just to keep my art going. I remembered your article on doing exercises and challenging yourself with new techniques. By doing these with my left hand, there was no pressure to succeed at them and my art actually improved when I was able to resume right handed painting! Had I not continued with the daily painting...I feel my work would have suffered.

Denise Hall
Thanks Keith for the encouragement!

Could you tell me where to find or what arm and hand exericises to do. Front of my right shoulder is hurting ~ stretching helps. Any additional info appreciated.

Diane Donicht Vestin
In response to Mary's question regarding her hurting muscles. I too, Mary have the same problem, but it's in my hands. What I do when the pain starts to come is to hang my arms limp at my side for a minute or two. It really helps me. Then I can get right back into my drawing or painting. Hope this "trick" works for you. Good Luck!

Diane Donicht Vestin
Hey Mary, I forgot to ask you a question. Do you have a website I can go to so I can look at your artwork. I'm always curious as to what others are doing. I'd appreciate it! Thanks.

Diane Donicht Vestin


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