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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to Establish a Daily Painting Habit

'A Good Day'            5x7                   pastel             ©Karen Margulis
I wish I could be so disciplined in other areas of my life. Daily Painting is a habit that came easily for me. I have stuck with it since 2005. I rarely miss a day of painting. Some days I'll paint two or more paintings. Some days I don't get into the studio so these extras make up for my lost time.

Daily painting has been the key to my growth as an artist. As you all know there is no substitute for time spent at the easel. No amount of reading or studying or watching art videos will make us better artists if we don't put this book learning to practice.

It's a new year and a great time to establish good art habits. I have been writing about art habits this week. By now you probably have some idea of the goals, resolutions or habits you want to start in 2016. Starting is good. But the trick is keeping the habit going! How is this possible?

a piece of scrap paper works great for a daily painting
For an action to become a habit it needs to be done on a consistent and regular schedule. It also needs to be done consistently for a period of time. Three weeks of consistent work on the habit is generally accepted as a good start. You also need a couple of other ingredients for the habit to stick. I'll break them down into three simple steps:

a quick underpainting on Uart paper

  •  Step One: Know the Habit you want to establish. Understand exactly what you want to do. Ask yourself why you want to do it. What results do you expect. Commit to the habit. You have to truly WANT to do it. It can't be something you do because someone tells you it would be a good thing. You have to be invested in successfully adopting the habit.
  • Step Two: Make it Simple to do the habit. So often Daily painting habits fail because we get in our own way. We make it too difficult. So it is too easy to make excuses. Make it easy to paint. Set up your supplies in a place where you can leave them out. If you have to set up and clean up every single day....it gets tiresome. Excuses will be made! Prepare paper in advance. Have a stack of reference photos ready (choosing subject matter can be such a time killer!) Get set up for success! Note: it isn't always easy to find time to paint every day. Find a schedule that works for you but realize that a painting session of just 15-20 minutes is better than nothing. If you don't have time consider doing quick studies rather than big masterpieces.
  • Step Three: Reward Yourself! Habits are formed because the action we do rewards us. If done on a regular basis our brains will begin to anticipate the reward....we will start to crave the reward so we do the activity. We will do the activity no matter what is in the way. Think about runners who still need to run in the rain. Think about smokers who smoke despite knowing it is bad. They crave the reward so they do the activity.  This is important! We need to be rewarded for doing the daily painting....what's in it for me? why should I paint everyday? Figure out what  makes the daily painting satisfying. How can you reward yourself? I discovered that for me, my reward was the satisfaction of doing a blog post and recording my progress. It was my reward. The feedback was a bonus. It kept me going and still serves as my reward. Find your reward and get ready to make daily painting a habit!

If you'd like to read more about habits I recommend this book: "The Power of Habit "by Charles Duhigg


Susan Richardson said...

Thanks for the great advice! Deciding what to paint has to be one of the biggest obstacles I face, and need to take your advice on keeping it simple. I am looking forward to your blogs in the coming year and especially the ones on working in two mediums. Happy New Year Karen!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year! Thank you for sharing your wonderful art with us!

Chris Lally said...

Your advice is taken to heart. Thank you for your all the effort you make in this generous blog. Your beautiful artwork is icing on the cake.

Wishing you a safe, joyous New Year, and continued success!

robertsloan2art said...

Great article - and yes, being able to post it online is a reward for me too. I am currently frustrated because I haven't been able to get photos off my Kindle into my new machine, it's not precisely a laptop and hasn't got a hard drive as such. Will be working on that. Did art today but haven't been able to post despite getting great photo.

Ah well! That's what I get for moving and replacing laptop at the same time!

Trisha Adams said...

I enjoyed your post on habits. I was just writing a blog post about the same thing -- and I am reading the same book, "The Power of Habit!" I am hoping to use the information to reshape my habits. Have a wonderful 2016!