“Fire” Copyright Ruth Armitage 2009, Watercolor 11×15″

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This post is a reblog from April 22, 2011. Seth Apter at The Altered Page has an annual event in which he invites bloggers to share a post from the past.

This is what Seth has to say about Buried Treasure:
So many blogs…so little time. With so many wonderful art blogs to follow, it is difficult to always find the time to keep up with every new post — let alone have the time to visit the posts that were put up before you discovered each blog. 

So…three years ago I started an annual treasure hunt. 
Buried Treasure is about digging deep to uncover some hidden gems. The premise is simple. On Wednesday, July 11th all participating bloggers will re-post one (or more) of their favorite posts that ever appeared on their blog.
So without further ado – here is one of my favorite posts.

Yesterday I had an email from a reader asking for more advice on Making Time to Create. She writes:

It’s mind boggling to me how the days go by without my so much as getting my paints out. As you can imagine, it makes  me feel pretty sad. Makes me question just how much ‘passion’ I have for  creating, etc. I always thought of myself as an artist, but if I can’t find the time to create, am I really?

Thanks so much for the question… I always appreciate reader comments!

First of all, I’d like to say… Don’t beat yourself up! Don’t worry about whether you are an artist or not, just decide that this is how you want to spend some of your time. I would  like to substitute the word ‘determination‘ for ‘passion’. It takes discipline and drive to make the time available to create. It has very little to do with your identity and a lot to do with how organized you are and your priorities.

I know plenty of very creative people who make art occasionally, call themselves artists and rarely get anything done, just as my husband is still a golfer, even though he rarely gets a chance to play. Will you get better the more often you make time to practice? Yes! Are the realities of life such that we can’t always do what we want? Yes.

I look at it like this: even golfers have to schedule a tee time :)We might as well do the same! Also, golfers approach their challenging game as ‘play’. They don’t go out saying they’re going to go for a hole in one… they are going to shoot a ’round’ of golf, taking each hole as it comes, bad shots and all! We could learn a lot from them, pros & duffers alike!

I think there is a misconception that successful artists are always driven to create, always inspired, always productive. Personally, I go through periods of productivity and other periods of slumps. I think most artists do. The slumps sometimes really help my artwork. During that time, I am often considering my next piece, gathering inspiration, or working like mad on the other facets of my life so that I can set aside a block of time. I find I work best if I can have a few un-interrupted days. That takes planning, not passion!

Another thing that a mentor once taught me is to have a dedicated place to create. It is so much simpler to begin if one has everything at the ready in a tidy room that is only dedicated to art. I think I am going to begin to call my ‘studio’ my ‘playroom.’ Every time I enter it, I am stimulated by seeing all my things ready to go! I have my work all around me, and I immediately start to think about what I can do next. I get excited to start ‘playing.’

But making art is not ‘play’. It takes dedication, hard work, and intense thought and problem solving. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m passionate about creating. I’m driven to create somehow, and I’m often thrilled and stimulated by the process, but that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly trying to find a way to procrastinate in the studio. (Snacks are my favorite procrastination technique.) I saw a segment on the news this morning that procrastination is actually fueled by perfectionism. ‘I want to do this but I don’t know exactly the way to go about it… I may not make anything worthwhile, etc.’

I think paying attention to my impulses  is my best key to making art though!  If I don’t feel like cleaning/weeding, etc. I go make art. If I don’t feel like making art I go do errands/weed/do laundry etc.  At some point it all balances out, as long as I’m working at my capacity. Again, deadlines keep me in line.

I know I have to put in a certain amount of  hours in order to make things happen. I actually like to log my hours spent in the studio on a calendar, kind of like giving myself a star or a sticker for working 🙂 If you feel like you’ve been slacking in the Art Department you can actually ‘schedule’ some art days on the calendar. It’s easier to say no to last minute offers if you can say you already have an ‘appointment’.

My next tip is:  “Don’t push the River.”

What happens when you push water? It sprays out in every direction or overflows its banks. A river flows, just like your creativity. It will take the path of least resistance. It will fluctuate with the weather and the terrain. Each artist is at their own place on the river. You may be traveling down rapids one day & in a dead calm the next. It can be unpredictable, but is always more enjoyable if you don’t try to force it. It’s about the journey, and the journey is best undertaken with a sense of adventure, not one of guilt.

Another thing that keeps me creating and motivated is learning. I love to take a class to jump start my creativity. The quote above I gleaned from a 2-day watercolor class with Ted Katz. Each instructor has something unique to offer, and I would encourage artists to study with a variety of teachers and to try to assimilate that knowledge into one’s own style somehow.

Passion is wonderful. When it comes your way, grab its full potential. But when it isn’t enough to get you in the studio, try goal setting. List the things you will need to do to achieve your goal and set a time-table. You can even make a checklist & post it in your studio. I find my most passionate moments in art are after the work is done! I can sit back and share the paintings with others, looking forward to the next ones!

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