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Making Time for Art : Making Time for Anything!

Lee May Foster-Wilson / May 27, 2024

As we roll ever faster towards the half way point of the year I have been reflecting on the amount of art I have managed to make this year. I have had some client work on which has been good and a fair amount of art made there, but a large part of my practise is personal work, mulling over ideas and exploring the world through art.

Sometimes, even though art is the underpinning of this job I have created for myself, I find it hard to fit in around other business jobs or sometimes I’m not in the right space for it…after what I like to call a ‘creative winter’ that lasted a cold hard 6 months at the end of last year I started this year determined to come out the other side and make some space in my life and head to make more art.

I thought a lot about when I might be able to fit it in, after all, running a shop and having an illustration job too take up quite a lot of time, sometimes I feel like I am running three businesses rolled into one! But when I was thinking about how to fit it in I was reminded of something my dad used to say to me a lot (and still does on occasion) when I said that I hadn’t had time to do something, he’d say, ‘no, it’s not that you haven’t had time, you haven’t made time’. It used to annoy me, probably because I was a teenager but also because I knew deep down that he was right. How long had I spent distracted with something trivial when I could have been doing the other thing that apparently I didn’t have time for, especially if that other thing was something I really wanted in my life.

I think of this sometimes when I have school events to attend for my children, which quite often happen in the middle of the working day. As a self employed person I recognise the privilege I have of being able to just take time off to attend the majority of these events, but it also made me question the fact that if I can find the time to do that, often with not a great deal of notice, then why am I struggling so much to find time to make art, that thing I profess to love and need so much?

There are many nuances here I think, in terms of art being hard to start sometimes (I have written on this and creative resistance before) and in turn it can bring about a great deal of procrastination for example, but sometimes I think we tell ourselves that making art is something we need a great deal of time for, and because we can’t find a nice long stretch of upwards of an hour or more to make it, we just don’t.

One thing I have been trying to let go of this year is that exact notion. Quite often I feel that if I don’t have enough time, I just won’t get into it so I don’t bother at all. Or if I don’t have any ideas straight away to work on then I might spend all the time I do have procrastinating on what to make and then feel bad that I’ve not laid down a single line. But part of art making is thinking, coming up with ideas, writing notes and researching. I’ve been leaning more into that, and trying to remember that at least if I have made progress on my ideas and know what to bring to the next session, then I should consider that as art made.

I have also become less hung up on the idea that we need an entire afternoon or day to make art. If we only have one day to make our art for the week then so much pressure is applied onto that session, I find personally anyway, and when I feel that sort of self imposed pressure the art I make isn’t as good, and I get frustrated and it feels like time wasted. I’ve found that by spreading out my making time into smaller chunks throughout the week that I actually get more done. In between those times I am thinking about what do do next to make the piece I am working on better than I left it.

So I am trying to build smaller bits of art making time into every day - by every day I mean working day, I find it hard at the weekend with family responsibilities - but having said that I could do it at the weekend. When my children were small I used to have a pencil case of pens and a sketchbook and work from the sofa while they were having some telly time or when they were in bed. For a long time all I used for my art was Sharpie markers (which actually got me a deal to write my first book -  Creative Marker Art and Beyond!)

I think making art in and around a busy life is all about find time in the nooks and crannies of your day. Half an hour while the sauce for tea simmers, sketching and doodling while a comforting TV show is on in the background to relax your mind. Or even as my husband does, spending half an hour drawing with pencils in the evening rather than scrolling aimlessly on social media.

I also think that finding time to make art is the same as finding time for anything, if we really want something we can make time for it and make it into a habit. We all make time to brush our teeth every day, twice a day (at least I hope you are!) it’s something we were taught to do as children and it became ingrained as a daily habit. I think making time for hobbies is the same, you have to make it into a habit, part of your daily routine and make space for it in your life. I am as guilty of not managing to do this as the next person but when I look at my screen time for the week and the average amount of time I have spent on my phone each day it makes me feel a bit ill, how could I have better spent that time?

And if you are still struggling to find time, ponder the question of how much do you actually WANT this? How much are you prepared to give up in order to find the time and energy to make it happen? Personally in order to give myself more time (and at the risk of sounding really bloody smug) I have given up television during the week. Instead, when the kids are in bed I do 20 minutes of yoga. This means that I am not trying to fit that in during the day (I do try and get out for a walk in the day just so I’m not sat on my backside ALL day) but fitting the yoga in during the evening rather than watching something I’m not really that invested in and that probably won’t have any bearing on my life in the long term, means I have that little bit of extra time in the day to do other things.

And I REALLY want to do yoga, it irons out the kinks in my back (caused by making art, ironically!) It keeps me strong and calms my mind and most of all, doing yoga and making art go hand in hand…I need them for my wellbeing, they relax me, and even fitting in just a tiny bit most days makes me feel like I have accomplished something towards the person I want to be. And being a better me makes me a better person for the people that are around me.

So tips specifically for finding time for making art that could apply to other things too?

1. Put down your phone! How much time is spent there when I could be spent making art or doing other hobbies and interests?

2. You may have to give something up to make the time, but have a good think about which you actually WANT more and what is more important to you?

3. If you are making art or crafting, make a space where you don’t have to tidy up…it’s harder to find the time and satisfy the inclination if you have to get everything out and then put everything away again at the start and end of making anything, especially if you only have half an hour here and there. The corner of a table will do…my husband keeps his sketchbook and pencil tin on the end of our dining table. It’s small enough to sit there unobtrusively but easy to pick up and use every evening.

4. Failing that a pencil case of dry media and a sketchbook is an easy sofa companion. You can draw while the kids relax with a bit of telly time (and inspire them to draw too!)

5. Don’t feel like making art has to be about putting down marks. Thinking, researching and being a creative being in the world is as much a part of it. Hash out ideas in your mind while you’re rolling out the pie pastry or boiling the kettle for the pasta then next time you sit down to make the physical art the ideas are there to work with.

6. A little bit every day goes a very long way. Just committing a little bit of time every day will have a huge accumulative benefit to how you feel about making time for art. It takes time and consistency to make a new habit stick…66 days apparently and missing one here or there won’t affect your trajectory just so long as you pick it up again within a day or two.

So I hope that if you are struggling to find time that this inspires you to find those moments where you can MAKE time and I hope that eventually the consistent habit of making time to make art or do your hobby will just be second nature, built into your life as much as brushing your teeth twice a day is. And one day I hope you’ll look back and wonder why you didn’t get around to it sooner!

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