Eliminating Excuses From Your Studio Workflow
by Daric Gill
So you’ve binge-watched another series from start to finish instead of applying to that exhibition call. You played “just one more level” on your favorite video game until there’s no more to play. You’ve told yourself that “Once the kid’s soccer season is over, I’ll really set aside some time for my art.” Once you finally sit down to work, you don’t know what to make. Maybe hitting up Pinterest one more time might help. After going down that rabbit hole, you look at your clock and it’s too late. You’re tired… tomorrow you’ll do it. You mean it this time.
Are you this person? If you’re having a hard time finding your way into the studio, this article is for you. In it, I’ll map out a few helpful tips to help you eliminate the excuses from your studio workflow. Read on for more.
There’s not enough time. The space isn’t set up right. Your website isn’t set up so why bother? And what would you make even if you did start working?
Yep, that’s procrastination.
Each of those statements are pretty reasonable alone, but together they make a theme: ‘excuses to talk myself out of it’. Why do we do this? Mostly people procrastinate from fear of failure, laziness, or perceived exhaustion. Maybe all three. Take a hard look at yourself and consider which one(s) you employ? And then try to fix them.
“I just don’t have enough time!”– Right?
There’s an unavoidable truth to this, but is that the whole truth? In reality, we make time for the things we really care about or we settle for the convenient activity. Example: A binge watching session from time to time can be nice, but that time can add up rather fast. At the time of this article, a newcomer to the Game Of Thrones series would need 9.1 workdays to get caught up, Grey’s Anatomy = 25.5 workdays, and Law & Order: SVU = 46.8 workdays! Mark how many hours you watched TV each day in your calendar and see where you can trim the time back.
Art Calendars: Like A Boss
Add significant art-related information, tasks, available free times, or submission deadlines into an existing calendar. Feel free to create a separate art calendar altogether. Try adding alerts to a digital calendar so that you have a day or a week notice before something crucial. I particularly like how many digital calendars now can calculate approximate drive times for entered addresses.
Additionally, calendars can be used for logging what you did and not just what you will do. As you wind down for the evening, write down any art accomplishments you had that day. It can be anything really: meetings, studio work, type of research you did (online or other), art-related emails sent, or contacts you’ve made, etc. This not only gives you a snapshot of the day when looking back, but it can also help see what areas need improvement and which areas are getting adequate care.
Screen Time Timers
Between video games, texting, TV, and social media scrolling, screen-time can really get between us and our art. Many apps (like Instagram) now have features that can remind you to take a break. There are also a handful of apps that restrict access to social apps until a task or timer is completed.
Unlock The Mobile Studio
Whether it’s writing a project proposal, editing images in Photoshop, or retracing line-work, there are times when we just need to do tedious office work. Continuously working from home and/or studio can lead to stagnation. Instead, prepare a small list of attainable goals that can be achieved from a mobile location. Set aside a little time to work from a new place. The simple act of separating your day into mobile/non-mobile tasks may be just the time management that your schedule needs. Coffee shops, parks, libraries, museums, and other public hangouts are perfect for this.
A Clean Space For Today & Tomorrow
Many artists (myself included) have a creatively messy work space. However, it’s also important to be clear minded before approaching new work. Making adequate room to begin working helps prevent silly errors and lower anxiety level during the art making process. This is a productive studio practice that mentally prepares you for the new task at hand. Consider ending each session by preparing the space for the next day before leaving. This could be setting out tomorrow’s brushes/paint or clearing off a spot to place a list of important tools you need the next day. It’s much easier to ease into the work groove tomorrow if there are already plans and incentives laid out.
This topic comes up all the time. In my articles, “Blowing Through Artist Block” and “5 Tips for Building Your Creative Tool Belt”, I discuss plenty of ways to jump start that idea-making process. Among other suggestions, those posts cover topics like: how to create a list of 10 things you don’t want to be asked about your work (and see how you can fix them), sketching the old fashioned way, explore new inspirations by going outside, and locating themes within your work. I encourage you to look those over if you need further advice.
Additionally, I’d like to talk about the over-editing mind. This is something I’ll probably expand into its own article later, but in the mean time–let’s talk about it. Imagine you have to write an essay. You start typing out a sentence, only to erase it out of dissatisfaction. You begin writing again, and once more you erase it.
You are no closer to making an idea happen then when you started. This over-editing can become stifling and discourages any forward motion. This is exactly the same when we discuss making artwork. Allowing some errors to pass through just so you can have something to round into a better idea is a mandatory part of the process. Don’t edit yourself to the point of a constant blank page. It’s very important to make some bad art so that you can have something to react to.
This is particularly why setting aside time to produce artwork is paramount. Errors feel more important when they are accentuated by long distances between studio visits. Building momentum helps create a healthy continuation of productive studio time so that you can work through those issues rather than be blocked by them. At the end of the day, it’s really about training your brain to make excuses to begin art making rather than to avoid it. For more help, check out more on my Artist Resources page.