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How to get your art-making momentum back with Nicholas Wilton

When it’s Hard to Make Art | Finding Momentum

I started 2020 on a high. I was convinced that this was the year I was going to have a regular art practice and that I was going to make art that was better than anything I had done before — and then COVID came along and I lost all my momentum. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this. For close to nine months I didn’t go into my studio. I felt like a miserable failure when I looked at others posting painting after painting on Instagram.

I hope that this post can help you next time you’re finding it hard to make art.

Accountability – Find an Art Friend or Art Community

Normally when I’m in a slump, I take an in-person workshop to get my creative juices flowing again. But in-person workshops are cancelled due to COVID.

My friend Jane and I started a weekly video call. We chat for an hour on Saturday or Sunday morning and then we check back in with each other by text or phone later in the day to see how the day has gone. At first I went to the studio for an hour or two one day of the weekend, then it was both Saturday and Sunday. Now, I’m finding time mid-week to paint.

Nicholas Wilton would say that this is an example of “The more you do, the more you do.”

Three tips from Nicholas Wilton that really work to get your momentum back!

Nicholas Wilton is the founder of the Art2Life Creativity workshops and classes. In this video he shares three tips that really help when you’re out of the rhythm of making art.

#1 The more you do, the more you do

Starting is the hard part. I needed to get over the hurdle and just begin if I was going to get my momentum back.

“It is super important to keep the “habit” of at least going through the motions of art-making…even for 10 minutes. I suggest breaking the pattern by just doing anything in the studio. Even cleaning. This will break the pattern of doing nothing. It is better to restart that pattern, that habit, even if it is only minutes a day.”

– Nicholas Wilton

#2 Little and Often

We’re good at finding excuses. So often we don’t go into the studio if we don’t have hours to be able to work—but a regular practice of short blocks is what Nick suggests.

“The science on how we learn teaches us that we actually learn faster and more efficiently if we do shorter but more frequent intervals of an activity. Surprisingly, it is more likely you will achieve more if you can work 30 minutes, 3x a week than waiting all week till you have 90 minutes on the weekend. I love knowing this because all I have these days are tiny chunks of time! It turns out this situation actually works in our favor! So grab 20 minutes and get going!”

– Nicholas Wilton

#3 Don’t Start. Play instead.

When you are returning to your art, if it feels hard, make it easy. Talk to the kindergartener version of yourself. Invite them to play! Notice what colors do and how fun it is to actually just put paint on a surface. Begin with no agenda except to entertain yourself. Finding the wonder in our art process is what will seduce you back.

– Nicholas Wilton

I love that line… “Talk to the kindergartener version of yourself. Invite them to play!”

What are you going to do today?

At the end of our first accountability call Jane asked me, “What are you going to do today?” I replied, “I’m going to turn everything I had been working on to the wall. I’ll get out three 12″ x 12″ panels and play with some paints for an hour.”

It worked! I had a fabulous fun play session. Checking in with Jane later in the day was the accountability I needed to push through. I recommend finding an artist friend to chat with on a regular basis.

I would love to hear from you. How do you restart your art practice when you’ve lost your art-making momentum? Leave a comment below.

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic.

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When it\'s Hard to Make Art | Finding Momentum

7 thoughts on “When it’s Hard to Make Art | Finding Momentum”

  1. Awesome post Ruth! We all need a Jane in our lives! Hopefully in-person workshops will start soon , fingers crossed.

  2. Hi, Ruth! (We were in Paula and Jeff’s workshop in Chicago together)
    I started an art accountability group with two friends last March. We have had a video chat for one hour every Sunday since then with only a couple of missed days over the holidays. We are currently doing a 30-day version of the 100-day challenge and showing each other our daily projects on Instagram. I recommend this for anyone who can find an art buddy or two!

  3. My studio is in The Art Sanctuary here in Indiana and at first when this hit it was a nonessential business so I was stuck at home! As our numbers have improved here and restrictions have been lifted I am trying to get back in the flow. It’s hard because my daughter is a teacher and I have been watching my 2yo grandson since school is back. No way is he going to daycare during a pandemic. I steal my minutes when I can outside the studio and try to go when I can.

  4. In 2019 my husband & I moved into a new house. For the first time ever, I had a studio…all mine! We are older and retired. LOTS of things have changed. We sleep separately now so I sleep in my studio! No forcing myself to go there….I’m already IN IT!
    This has made a huge difference in my creativity & work ethic.
    I know lots of people can’t do this all the time but seriously, consider how you might occasionally “retreat” to your space and try waking up in it. I bet you’ll be surprised by what will come of it. It’s a good thing!
    Your studio should be a place of refuge & peace, as is sleep. So why not try combining the two?

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