Have you thought about starting a daily art practice but haven’t quite managed to turn those thoughts into action? Or have you started a daily practice but found the habit slip away from you?
There is a plethora of advice available online surrounding how to start & maintain a daily art habit. Mark your art first thing in the morning before anything can hamper your creativity recommends some advice. Or create art of an evening when others in your household have settled for the day so you’ll have a better chance to create uninterrupted. How about Make are depending on the phase of the moon or before you’ve eaten your largest meal or had a coffee and on & on it goes.
But you know what? Sometimes you’ve got to decide to do the thing & do it. Or, in my case, unconsciously decide to do the thing & realise some time later that’s what I’d gone & done, created myself a daily art habit.
For a number of years I’ve known I’d wanted to create a habit of making art every day. I knew practicing daily would improve my skills but I also knew it would help improve my mental health. On the days I’d make art, even if that art was somewhat difficult to make, i felt mentally better afterwards. But everything I read about creating & maintaining a daily art practice left me feeling meh. There were too many rules, & none of the advice I read felt like a good fit for me.
One morning, as I was making myself breakfast, I remembered times when I was on holiday, eating breakfast in a cafe & sketching in my travel journal. Those unhurried mornings are some of my favourite. As the world around me hums with people getting take out breakfast as they head to work, or people are settling in on tables around me, conversation ebbing & flowing, I find something to sketch & settle into a flow of my own. Words often come to me so I jot them down, a reminder for future me about how I was feeling along with what I was seeing. If I could do that on holiday, could I replicate it at home? There was only one way to find out.
I grabbed a pencil & my journal / diary / hybrid book (I must settle on a name for it one day), & sketched what came to mind. Truthfully, I have no memory of what that was. Of course I could look in my completed books to find out, but what I sketched was irrelevant. What mattered was the feeling it gave me & still gives me today. That feeling? A sense of ease with the world & my place in it. With my mind as anxious as it often is, that’s no small feat to achieve.
Finishing breakfast & finishing sketching, I noticed that feeling & wanted it to stay. So the next morning, I sketched again. And haven’t missed a day since.
After a while I felt like sketching wasn’t enough. I needed more art in my life. So I began making Japanese inspired wave art in my book, which lead me to filling a pocket notebook centred on this one theme. When it was finished, I moved on to making abstract ink art pieces, like in the photo below. Eventually I decided the only rule to abide by was to make whatever I felt like making. I’ve stretched my definition of art a little, to encompass photography & writing. Because some mornings that’s what I’d rather be doing. When you make the rules you decide what goes.
I rarely set out with an intention of what to create. Oftentimes when I’m walking my dogs (the very first thing I do when I wake) an idea will come to me, so I’ll make a start on it once I settle in to create. I work Monday to Friday so those mornings I only have about 10 minutes to spend on art. It doesn’t sound like much but you’d be surprised with how much art can me made in a short space of time. It’s not uncommon for me to continue the art later in the day, once work is done & chores are completed.
So why not give it a try yourself? Give yourself a short amount of time one day, & make some art. Then do it again the next day. Don’t worry if you can’t do it at the same time every day. The very act of sitting down & making art is enough, regardless of what time of day it is. And repeat, repeat repeat. But also, be kind to yourself. Cannot be bothered making art one day? Fine. Cannot be bothered for an entire week? Well that’s fine too. Sure, it’s a lot harder to get back into the daily practice if you take a break from it, but if you’ve done it once you can do it again.
And also, don’t set out to make a masterpiece every time you create. Actually that should be a given for any time you make art, not just as part of a daily practice. But if you’re a perfectionist like I am, that can be easier said than done. Many of my favourite things I’ve made have come about during the short 10 minute space of time I have whilst eating breakfast on a work day. None of my art are masterpieces, but they make me happy & that’s enough for me. Know that sometimes you’ll create art that you’ll be proud of & other time’s that art might end up in the bin. What matters more is that you’re making art every day, improving your skills & possibly calming your mind.