9 ways to make the most of studio time as an artist

How often have you finally got some precious studio time, then found that you frittered it away?

Maybe you didn’t know where to start… so you just kind of didn’t, and then ran out of time.

Or you got in there, saw all the half finished projects and different art supplies and felt overwhelmed and ran back out again to make an emergency cup of tea. {Ask me how i know about this one.šŸ˜‰}

Or you got in there, sat down, or stood in front of a blank canvas… and went blank yourself.

Or you had the time set aside, and didn’t even get in there because the procrastination demon had you doing laundry and tidying up that random cupboard that ‘really needed sorting’.

This is a thing.

It happens to all of us sometimes – and some of us often – but it doesn’t have to be that way, if you put a few things in place to help yourself.

Most of what I teach around becoming a happy artist is to do with setting ourselves up to win – and that’s going to look different for each of us.

So it pays to take a few minutes to consider what will work with your temperament and way of doing things, and then start testing some theories!

Here are 9 suggestions to help you make the most of studio time, so you don’t end up feeling bad about it, and also get to enjoy making the art you love!

1. Put it on the calendar

Underestimated and sounds so basic, but it’s surprisingly powerful – when something’s already ‘in the diary’, it’s psychologically so much easier to stick to it.

{There’s probably some science somewhere to back this up, but the only proof you really need is to try it.šŸ˜‰}

Put your studio time on the calendar alongside all the other things you’ve got written down that you wouldn’t dream of flaking on – school pick up, work, meetings, appointments, family time, whatever it might be.

Then everyone else in the house knows what’s happening, is less likely to question it or assume it’s not that important, and it becomes part of the fabric of the daily or weekly rhythm.

2. Decide beforehand

If you know what you’re going to do before you get in there, you won’t spend time fiddling about with this and that and then leave feeling bad because nothing much got done.

You can change your mind if things take an interesting turn, but have that pre-decided starting point so you have a focus for the second you get in there – even if it’s simply ‘clear the table so there’s space to work’, or ‘mix three new colours’.

3. Create a ritual

Doesn’t have to involve anything complex or fancy – its only purpose is to get you in the studio state of being.Ā 

Maybe your ritual is to go in, swap or remove your shoes, and put your apron on. {That’s mine.}

Maybe it’s make a cup of tea, then go in, sit down, and begin.

Maybe you go in, set an intention for that session, or choose three key words, and write them on a post it note so it’s right there to remind you and keep you focused.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it helps you get into motion.

4. Leave things unfinished

This is such a great trick, and one I use a lot!

When you get to the end of a studio session, leave some work before it’s finished – and if you don’t have a ton of studio time in a week this probably won’t be too difficult!

It also works well combined with the next tip….

5. Work in multiples

In other words, create your art in collections or series.

This is an easy way to leave things unfinished for the next studio session, since when you’re working on several pieces at once, they’ll all be in a different state of progress.

Working in multiples is a game changer for many artists {myself included}.

Find out why in this post, and get started in a very simple way with this little workshop.

6. Create projects

A container can be very useful for helping you stay on track and not end up wafting about wondering where to start.

It could be as simple as a mini collection exploring a specific subject, or a larger project like the 100 Day Project on Instagram.

If you create work for galleries, that can offer a ‘ready made’ project, since you’ll need to create work for the next show.

7. Join a challenge

A great one if you thrive on the camaraderie of creating and sharing with others.

I run the 21 Days in My Art World challenge every January {get on the Artnotes list if you want to join the next one!}.

Thousands of artists around the world join in every year because it’s such a great way to start the year – sharing your art and artist life with others who get it and want to connect too.

While that challenge is not about making any specific work {which is partly why it’s so popular!}, there are lots of challenges out there with specific prompts to create to.

If you’re quite self motivated you can always create a challenge for yourself! Then it can be exactly what you need.

8. Create accountability you enjoy

Some people cringe at the idea of accountability. It feels like too much pressure.

But accountability can actually be really fun – you’re potentially going to come out of the studio with both the satisfaction of having done what you said you’d do, and the connective aspect of sharing it with a friend or peer.

You just have to find a way that supports you in what you want to do, instead of it feeling like a weight.

  • It might look like being part of a local artist group or community that meets regularly, and using that as motivation to create so you have something new to share next time.
  • Or checking in with a friend via email or messaging app before and after your studio time so they can cheer you on and congratulate you after.
  • Or joining an online group or membership that has weekly check ins {like we do in the Happy Artist Studio}, or other interactive ways of staying focused and using that studio time effectively.
  • Or having a friend over to your studio once a week to create together.

If you’re more outwardly motivated, setting up some accountability like this can really help you make the work you want to make.

9. Cut yourself some slack

It’s very easy for whatever you get done during studio time to not feel like ‘enough’.

But enough is what you decide it is. There’s no outside yardstick for this.

The way I do it is that I decide that whatever I do when I get in there is enough, and that includes if I go in, mooch about about, put a few things away, and then leave without making anything.

That’s right – you get to choose what enough is on any given day!

And let’s face it, unless you’re doing the accountability thing, no one’s checking.

And if you’re doing the accountability thing with someone who cares {which I really recommend!}, they’re not going to judge you if it didn’t quite work out that time.

Take ownership of your studio time – it’s yours, and you say what happens or doesn’t happen.

Try using your satisfaction level as a gauge rather than some arbitrary and nebulous ‘enoughness’ that is always a moving target.

In other words, make ‘enough’ qualitative rather than quantitative.

If you made one small drawing and that felt good, that can be enough for that day.


What would you add to this list? What has helped you to make the most of your studio time? Share in the comments so we have lots of ideas to choose from!

The Happy Artist StudioIf accountability and staying focused and on track with creating your art is something you find challenging, in the Happy Artist Studio we help you with that in several ways.

We have a private community {not on Facebook} where you can post any time, as well as take advantage of our weekly check ins.

We have monthly topics, so you can focus on one thing for a month if that’s helpful for you. {And you can choose any month at any time – it doesn’t have to be the current month.}

And we have a library of process based painting and mixed media art courses so you can dive in, go through the lessons, and share your progress in the Community. We love to cheer you on and help you out when you need it! There’s a very kind bunch of artists in there. šŸ˜Š

Click here to find out all about the Happy Artist Studio, what it offers, and how it could help you make more art, in a way that suits and expresses you