Why is it so hard to stick with a new habit? When you decide to start a regular art-making practice, you’ll unknowingly have to battle your brain to keep going for more than a few attempts. You’d think the brain would be on your side and help you on your quest to become more creative. But unfortunately it’s wired to be against change so you’ll have to be prepared to face inner resistance. Srini Pillay in Tinker Dabble Doodle Try explains “Your brain likes to maintain the status quo. It’s most comfortable cruising along, in habitually, familiar behaviour. Trying to make a meaningful habit or attitudinal change causes a kind of stress in the mind, or cognitive dissonance which is visible in brain scan. Your brain is trying to reconcile two things here. You want to change but you can’t change without psychological discomfort.”
How can you overcome this mind-battle? Make art regardless! Decide and then take action. But how can you commit to regularly practicing? Pallay says it’s not likely you’ll automatically carve out time for something new and suggests using an alarm as a reminder: “An alarm can act like your coach, reminding you to do what you really should do. Start small and set an alarm for one period of unfocused activity. Prepare to obey it when you hear it, no matter what.”
Setting an alarm overrides deliberating over whether or not to make art and gets you focused for action. You don’t need to make art for long. Start with 2 minutesand aim to build up the time spent as your habit-building muscle grows stronger.
1. Carry a small notebook/sketchbook and pen/pencil wherever you go
Write down your ideas, make notes of things you like as soon as you see them, practice making art on the go or in fringe time that normally gets swallowed up looking at your phone. Get curious about your daily surroundings, mine your life and record your discoveries. The scrappier and cheaper it is, the more likely perfectionists will actually use it instead of keeping it ‘unspoilt’ in its perfect original state!
2. Make something everyday
Make something, ANYTHING to practice exercising your creativity muscle. If you can find a spare two minutes, then you have enough time to make something. If you think “what’s the point of only spending two minutes?” It adds up to an hour after a month and creates a small pile of art. Spending two minutes is better than spending zero minutes (especially if the myth of having to spend hours making art feels overwhelming and is stopping you from making anything at all).
3. Focus on quantity not quality
When you make art for yourself, you can let go of it needed to look ‘good.’ You’re not in school trying to please the teacher anymore. You get to make bad, messy and imperfect art because you ENJOY it. That’s the only important reason you need. By focusing on quantity, it helps to shift focus from worrying if you’re not doing it ‘right’. And when making quantity can actually accelerate creativity, quality can be so overrated.
4. Start making art right now
Don’t wait for the start of the year/month/week to roll round. Start NOW. You’ve heard you only need two minutes so pick up a pencil and paper and make some marks immediately!
In a technology-driven world where internet access can be constant and mobile, every waiting moment or fringe time can be filled. The word ‘busy’ is now a common adjective to describe daily life but how much time do you consume media (internet, social media, tv, movies, audiobooks, podcasts, radio etc.) versus time you spend on a hobby or being creative? Being constantly in consuming mode, you miss the opportunity to create your own entertainment and develop skills through the habit of play as a adult. If you feel life is already full to the brim and there’s no time for a creative project, know you can always choose to find time. If you can find 2 minutes, you have time to be creative. Use the fringe time – time on the edges of your main duties – to quickly make something. Tap into your creativity on the move or on the fly by setting a 2 minute timer (check out ”Experiments” from the menu for artmaking ideas).
Lack of time is a myth and busy is a choice. You can choose to make space for creativity as Jessica N. Turner in The Fringe Hoursargues “You make time for what is important to you.” And “You are never too busy to make time for what you love. It’s just a matter of prioritizing—evaluating how you spend your days and dedicating time for what you value. If something is really important to you, you will find a way to fit it into your life.”
Don’t believe the story about there not being enough time when every day is filled with fringe time moments. Decide to make something, grab 2 minutes and make it.
“Activities and passions pursued during the fringe hours make a life more beautiful and the participant feel more alive and more uniquely herself.” — Jessica N. Turner, The Fringe Hours
Trying a completely foreign way to making art allows us to step away from convention and embrace a new messy way to making art. Switching from your usual way to make marks – i.e. using your dominant hand – to a unorthodox approach forces you to be uncomfortable because you loose control technically. But this is a wonderful thing for your creativity. As Mary Lou Cook encourages, “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.”
You will need: paper and a pen, ideally one that doesn’t require you to use much pressure. Felt tips work better than a biro.
Hold paper in place with your hands either on a flat surface or against a wall
Clean drawing tool and place in your mouth
Clean drawing tool when finished
Ideas to try:
Experiment using more colours
Hold your head steady and move the paper instead
Use a paintbrush and paint
It’s going to feel very strange at first, especially if you’ve never tried drawing with your mouth. Be careful you don’t push too hard to avoid injury. This unusual way of making marks forces you to make messy, imperfect marks and the quicker you accept your lack of control, the more you can enjoy the process. The artist Alberto Gioacometti describes drawing the unknown “When I make my drawings… the path traced by my pencil on the sheet of paper is, to some extent, analogous to the gesture of a man groping his way in the darkness.” Loosing control and experimenting in the unknown is a wonderful tool to help unleash your creativity.
“It’s when I draw conclusions, that they end up looking like a bunch of jumbled squiggles on a piece of paper.” – Anthony T. Hincks
If you dream of a day in the future where you’ll make some art, know that there’s no better time than right now to start. This very minute. You don’t need much time, you don’t need fancy materials. You can take a pen and a scrap of paper and draw something, anything immediately in just 2 minutes. Seth Godin encourages us to merely begin: “With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared.”
Some day most likely means no day. Today is the best day for you to take action.
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.
Collage is easy and fun process to make art out of existing art. While this experiment focuses on using just images, you can also collage with paper and typography. By using preexisting images, you don’t have to worry about drawing anything from scratch. If you are a beginner and worry about your art being messy or imperfect (which are vital aspects of art-making), this might offer you the freedom you need to get started creatively. Rod Judkins in Figurative Painting with Collage quotes Nita Leland: “Collage is like a hall of mirrors. Every direction you look, you see something different and visually stimulating.”
You will need: photographs or images from magazines, books or any paper source. Scissors or scalpel knife. Optional glue or sticky tape and a tray to put things on or work from.
Cut out images that catch you eye. Don’t overthink: cut out and create a pile.
From your pile, pick images and start arranging. Play around with different combinations without thinking of a final look.
If you like a combination, take a photo or fix it in place with glue or tape.
Optional: Set a timer for 2 minutes to force quicker decision making so once the time is up, the work becomes finished by default.
Ideas for further experiments:
Cut out words or letters to add to the images.
Draw over or around images to add details.
Take photos of selected images to create digital versions and play around with layouts on the computer.
Have a jar/box/folder/somewhere to keep all the images you cut out as anything unused can be used at a later date. Sometimes you might spend your time cutting images and other times you may spend your time arranging. Having an image bank to draw from allows you to get creating much quicker in the future.
The artist Max Ernst in Max Ernstbelieved “Collage is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them.” Collage quickly allows you to bring together unexpected images and arrange them however you like. The process is one of trial and error but also very ‘low-risk’ because you don’t have fix anything in place. Because there are so many strange and different possibilities with collage, you’re only limited by your imagination.
“The only way to be creative over time – to not be undone by our expertise – is to experiment with ignorance, to stare at things we don’t fully understand.” – Jonah Lehrer