Do Less, Make More.
Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
One of the things that has fascinated me most about art over the last few years is how powerful it is when we create space. I find the less I do, the more I make. For me, and my students, it’s about creating space:
- Physical space in which to create
- Mental space that is dedicated to dreaming about art
- Time in which to create slowly
And I also love creating space on the page.
While fullness can be emotional and beautiful, space can be equally so. The white spaces have so much to say. They speak to me about the space I make for art in general. It reminds me to give my work room to breathe.
At an art retreat I attended several years ago, the facilitator suggested that we invite a sense spaciousness to our weekend. I loved this invitation, and I’ve carried it with me since, in both my art and teaching.
For me spaciousness means that I don’t need to rush, or push, or fret – but rather allow … and watch with curiosity as things unfold. Of course I mess this up sometimes and get frustrated or pressure myself, but when I realize what’s happened, I come back to slowing down and creating space, and things always improve.
Creating space in my art work means giving each element a sense of honor. It honors the process of exploration, and the inspiration from nature that brought me there. Space gives the subject of each page an opportunity to speak clearly – unencumbered by other ideas. When I work this way, I feel less pressure to produce, and have more fun exploring.
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We can create space for a different kind of practice. We don’t need to create for hours and hours a day if that isn’t possible or isn’t nourishing. We can work small, create simple things sometimes, work in layers and shifts, and let the work build over time.
Creating large work, pressuring yourself to spend hours in the studio, thinking you need to fill every space – these are pressures that keep many of us from making anything at all. (Tricks of the inner critic and a society obsessed with busyness.) I think it’s part of what drives many artists to jam pack their pieces such that the subject gets lost and they feel frustrated with their work. There is an easier, more generous way to work.
Make space for:
- Creating more often in shorter bursts
- Keeping less materials in your studio so there’s space to begin
- Moving slowly and letting things unfold
- Inviting imperfection into your art – what walks in along with the mistakes is wild, beautiful, uniquely you, and will keep you coming back for more.
How are you creating space in your art practice? Will you tell me about it in the comments?
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I’m lucky enough to have a room dedicated to my art and crafts. But, I don’t always feel like going up there. I keep a separate little kit with everything I need to do slow drawing or a small painting. I can take it anywhere in the house, or out and about. Also, I have a weekly art date with my sister.
I agree that the portable art kit really helps make space for art making. So glad you shared that here! xo
I‘m currently weeding through creations which have been put aside for future work, but because I‘ll be moving soon, I have a hard time parting with some of some of my artworks. Taking them out of frames to reduce weight is a solution; also taking photographs of drawings and paintings helps me to decide what to put into storage or give away.
Discarding old brushes or pencils and pens is another method to create extra space…only keep high quality items, I tell myself. When I had no money for art materials, I painted on recycled cardboard – those paintings have a raw and bold character to them – hard to recreate that same verve on expensive H2O paper.
Hi Susanne – YES – the taking photos idea is so good. When things are small, somehow they are so much easier to see. Good luck pairing down. xo
I can see when I’m not motivated to create it’s because I have too much clutter in my brain and on my work table. I’m doing a big clean out and gifting some art supplies that I don’t use and are taking up space.
This is a good reminder. Thank you Amy.
HI Aleta: YES! Clutter really gets in my way too. Hm…maybe some clearing is in order in my space again – even a small part. So glad this spoke to you. xo
Thank you, Amy, this is so helpful as I find ways to make room for artmaking in my life- with both time and space. What is most helpful, but challenging for me, is to remember that I can make art when I have just a bit of free time, and not wait for that whole afternoon to open up. I love your slow drawing sessions in FB, often watching them at night when my day is done. Thank you for your generous spirit!
Hi Debbie: I’m so happy to hear that this reminder is helpful. The Slow Drawing really is a great way to wind down, too. Here’s to much fun play.
Thank you for the article. Space is a funny one. I always find that if my mind is full of other stuff ie my children’s routines, work, admin, domesticity then I cannot create. I literally can’t. So it’s always an incentive to clear some of these things or navigate them in an orderly fashion before I can think about what I want to do creatively.
I also only use a small sketchbook 4×4 or 6×4. Less space means more to me! It focuses my mind. I feel I can be precise and I can create in a relatively short time as there is less page to work on. There is a sense of satisfaction and a sense of achievement that I can finish what I started.
Yes, I agree on both counts! Working small is obviously something I really value as well. It just makes it all feel so doable. Thanks for being here, Laila!
Space is my new obsession: I need it in my mind, in my rooms, in my everyday routine! Space for giving me the permission to take time, breathe and slowly draw. Thank you Amy for your words, they’re always an inspiration and a help!
Love from Italy 💙
I love the way you are welcoming that spaciousness Virginia. Thanks for sharing it with us! xo
I am so overwhelmed with different media, ideas, finding the “perfect” time to creative. I know I’ve hit a wall when I stop a painting halfway and throw it away. I would love to hear more about simplifying a studio and establishing boundaries and space. Thank you for the timely post!
Hi Susan – Oh I know what you mean. Sounds like you have a clear sense of what you need, though, and that’s a great start. I think you’ll get a lot out of this post on 12 Ways to Make an Art Studio at Home. I also think my free class, How to Be a More Productive Artist might help. For me it’s about working smaller, more portable, and in smaller chunks of time. Then I actually do it! And it leads to longer, more joyful sessions too. Hope this helps xo
Jan on August 7, 2021
I know I am registered but my printer lost its mind yesterday and now I can’t get back to the syllabus to print out the missing pages. Help please. ~Jan
HI Jan: Oh I’m sorry about your printer issue – could you let me know which of the many classes and experiences you are trying to access so I can help?
I have a space for my creative life, I put on my working_life schedule blocks that say ME TIME and have a list of work in progress, list of thing I want to try. sometimes in between appointments I work on my pattern sketchbook. I´m enjoying so much your sharing so beautiful, inspiring and so needed slow down way of living. Thank you
This is so beautiful to see Rossana! xo
Gorgeous works of art and such a timely and fitting post for me! I’m so pleased to read that there is hope on the other side of SPACE!
As DCLA mentioned some time ago, I also have a space dedicated to creating but I was suffocating in the amount of stuff in that space not to mention the dust.
I’ve since purged that space and am working to embrace the area as it is. A sacred space. I’m looking forward to your upcoming one month challenge (Simplest Things Challenge). Maybe I won’t be so lost in my new little space after that. 🙂
Thanks for a fantastic post.
HI Shawni: Oh I’m so pleased this post speaks to you. I’m pumped about the challenge too! Narrowing down supplies to a few good ones is one of the most powerful creativity boosters I know. Happy purging and creating! Until then, if you haven’t already, you might enjoy this free class. How to Be a More Productive Artist
This is an amazing blog! And this is a very bright article about inner harmony.
I love the idea that you need to remove internal and external pressure and move in creativity according to your own internal personal rhythm.
After several difficult years in my life with constant work on the stream, for a long time I felt like a squeezed lemon. Then more space for art began to appear in my life. I went into painting because I didn’t owe him anything. I drew just to draw. Over time, this process began to become more complicated, requirements and limits appeared (we always start to drive ourselves into limits if the external level of stress is very high). Then I took a break from work. A new stage began in my life – the birth of life and the expectation of a child.
So my creativity began to become slower, it became intuitive, meditative, I began to experiment. I watched how the material was transformed on the surface of the canvas, how new textures and textures were created. I began to contemplate.
I am now a full time artist. Often you have to work on deadlines, if we are talking about commission work, to plan something. But contemplation is often present in my personal work. And when the stress level builds up, I give myself a break, I align my inner harmony through color and work.
My journey to inner harmony began 2 years ago with this work:
That’s a lovely story, Anna. I’m so glad it spoke to you. xo
Im one of those people that cant seem to slow down. I feel I have to fill each minute of the day doing something constructive. Ive been painting in watercolor since 1984, and now at 75 years of age I find that I have to supplement my income by trying to sell some art. Lots of pressure. Im trying very hard to let your words seep into my soul. I think you may be a Godsend. Thank you,Amy, for all you do.
Oh Barbara, I hear you. I hope that the right words reach your inner wisdom to guide you well. big hugs