There’s a reason why every other pin on Pinterest seems to be something motivational about enjoying the process. {Or maybe that’s just the kind of boards I follow. :)} The gist of the message is, if you want to be happy with the outcome, make sure you enjoy the journey.

After many hours in the studio, {and, you know, living in general as a human being,} I can certainly attest to this. Usually a crappy journey does not lead to a joyful destination. It’s a rare journey that has no challenges, but generally speaking the path of relentless pain and struggle does not tend to result in arriving at the palace of joy, peace and delight. You may still get what you want, but at what cost?

I am pretty much constantly thinking about process, partly from personal obsession, and partly because my work revolves around making expressing yourself through art more accessible and more rewarding.

 

Focusing on process is an excellent way to love making art AND love what we make.

 

Process comes first, after all, so it’s a good idea to be making sure ours is right for us and likely to reward us with a joyful journey and an outcome that satisfies us in some way.

{Note! Happy process doesn’t guarantee art you love, just as it doesn’t mean being in bliss the whole way through. Sometimes the satisfaction comes from knowing you pushed through sticky bits and made it to the other side, and perhaps learned some new moves in the process. Heh.}

I had a little think about what makes my art process feel good for me, and am sharing those thoughts with you today. It might be helpful to think about your own process in a more conscious way, so you can be more intentional about it and set yourself up for more frequent good times in your creative space.

Obviously even with everything in place there will be times when it all goes to shit, or just feels blah for no discernible reason, and that’s how it goes sometimes. In my experience, allowing that as part of the process itself is what makes the difference between frustration and inner critic flare ups, and more of a cruisey ride.

So here are six suggestions for consciously creating a process that you will enjoy more, because it fits you like a glove {with some room for growth}. Seriously, know thyself. It solves all problems.

 

create the right atmosphere {for you}

 

You want to start off on a good foot. For me, that means a few things need to be in place for me to set myself up for the best possible time:

  • I prefer to work in daylight, and if it’s not too cold, have the windows open.
  • I almost always stick my iPod in the speakers before I start; music doesn’t distract me the way podcasts do, and the background sound helps to quiet the internal backchat, as well as providing different tempos to paint to. I also like to break for dancing.
  • I often like to have a reference image to use as a springboard; generally within the first few minutes I’ll depart from it, but I know that I usually need that little spark to get started and have some focus.
  • I lay out my chosen materials beside me, although they’re actually all within easy reach if I have a sudden need to add something I didn’t begin with. I always make sure I’ve got a jar of water, some charcoal, the pot of gesso is open, and my favourite colours are right next to me.
  • Lately I’ve taken to laying out my most recent paintings all around me, to help me keep in the flow of something I’m exploring and stay focused on developing things I love.
  • When working on paper I’ll tape off the edges, knowing that that will upgrade the look of anything I make right away. :)

What would set you up for a lovely time making art? A candle? A few minutes of meditation? Writing a focus word or intention for that session? Scrolling through your favourite inspiration board on Pinterest for a minute or two? Turning off your phone? Having a specific time or day for art? Doing it with a friend?

 

make it a conversation

 

By which I mean a conversation between you and what you’re working on, and within the painting itself. All paintings can be seen in terms of a conversation, and I find this very helpful while I’m painting. It keeps me moving forward, provides enough tension to motivate me to push it further, and keeps the whole thing dynamic and fun.

From the first mark you lay down, each new one will add to the conversation. How are the marks talking to each other? Is it like an awkward party full of shy introverts who don’t know each other, or are they all getting along like a house on fire? Awkward is fine if it’s intentional. Keep checking for balance, value range {darks and lights}, and how everything sits together within the space {composition}.

Related: See this post for more ways to help bring a painting together.

 

permission, permission, permission

 

For things to not go how you’d hoped, for learning to take time {I mean years}, for process to be ongoing and ever evolving, for YOU to be ongoing and ever evolving, for sticky days and frustrating days and uninspired days, for all of it to be part of the process, not a reason why it’s going wrong, or that there’s something wrong with you. {Tip: there’s never something wrong with you.}

If necessary, make yourself a motivational poster or put up a post it note or have a mantra, or whatever is going to serve as a comforting reminder that whatever happens, it really is ok, including the times when that doesn’t feel true.

Related: Artist Encouragement Audio 

 

know that the inner critic will always have something to say

 

And carry on anyway! I know this isn’t always that easy. For me, learning that that voice in my head was always going to be commenting and judging {whether negatively or positively} really helped me place it in such a way that it stopped ruling my experience. Yes of course I have days where it’s louder and more uncomfortable, but I’ve learned too to navigate that to minimise fallout.

When it comes down to it there is no way I’m going to give imaginary negative backchat from inside my own head priority over doing what my heart wants me to do.

 

only share when you’re happy with it

 

This might seem difficult and/or counterintuitive, and I know lots of folks like to share works in progress {myself included}, and sometimes ask for feedback or help moving forward with a painting. To me this is not necessarily as helpful as it might seem.

For one thing, people will often assume a piece is finished unless you say otherwise {and even then insist they love it as it is}, and it can be confusing to have people respond positively when you didn’t feel it was finished and in your heart know you’re not complete with it. And when it comes down to it, no one can suggest what to do next in a way that will truly translate into your unique process, especially if they’re not experienced artists themselves.

If you’re going to share a work in progress, my advice is to be very clear within yourself that it’s not finished and that you will be able to complete it irrespective of what anyone says. It teaches you to trust yourself about what YOU like in your work, and to get to know your own process on a much more intimate level.

 

join a challenge

 

This one’s a bit of a double edged sword, but can be very helpful when you know others are doing it ‘alongside’ you, and there’s a place to share the ups and downs and talk about this thing we all love so much.

Sometimes being part of a challenge can feel like just too much pressure, so be aware that there will likely be days when you might not feel like it and that can have an effect on your process. Overall though, I’ve found it to be a great way to keep going, to help me push myself further than I might on my own, and therefore to make discoveries in my process that can be very exciting and lead to new directions in my work.

 

What do you think? Have I missed anything crucial to promoting a joyful process? What do you do to enjoy it more? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

If your process doesn’t feel like it’s quite as aligned with you as it might be, Touchstone covers this in depth. Over four weeks we dig into all the ins and outs of you and your art, so that you can integrate it more easily into your life and cultivate the artist lifestyle that fits who you are and the art you want to make. The course currently runs once a year; if today isn’t that time, you can still sign up on the same page to get on the waiting list. I’ll alert you when doors open!

 

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