Do Less, Make More.

How to make more art, do less make more art

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?

Creatively Yours,

Amy

14 Comments

  1. DCLA

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      I agree that the portable art kit really helps make space for art making. So glad you shared that here! xo

      Reply
  2. Susanne van Helden

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      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

      Reply
  3. Aleta Jacobson

    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      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

      Reply
  4. Debbie Ruisard

    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!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      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.

      XO

      Reply
  5. Laila

    Hi Amy
    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.

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      HI Laila:

      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!
      xo

      Reply
  6. Virginia

    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 💙

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      I love the way you are welcoming that spaciousness Virginia. Thanks for sharing it with us! xo

      Reply
  7. Susan

    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!

    Reply
    • Amy Maricle

      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

      Reply

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