Artists work in all different kinds of ways – some messy, others pristine, but all with their own “method to their madness,” as the saying goes. There is a general consensus that one’s surroundings have an effect on one’s psyche, and therefore on one’s work. It’s not for nothing that Virginia Woolf proposed that women of her generation needed not only financial independence, but also “A Room of One’s Own” to enable them to have new roles in society. The dedicated space and privacy allows one mental space for exploring one’s imagination, free from interruptions and distractions. Today, this idea still holds true for many creative souls, regardless of gender.
But, you may ask, what if I don’t have the means to rent a studio? Here are a few practical guides for how to create space – choose the ones that work within your individual restrictions.
Dedicate a space
Whatever your current situation, find a room, a desk or even a box that is all yours. Make it your space – keep it as clean or messy as you need, but don’t let others use it. Put your name on it, lock it, do what you need to do to keep it yours. This is your space for your creativity to come forth.
Keep a clear container
“Feeling out of control? Consider what you are in control of. Keep internal and external space clean, clear and organized.”
This idea to keep a “clear container” is advice for people suffering from anxiety, and yet it has multiple applications. For example, choreographer Twyla Tharp shares in Chapter 5 of her book The Creative Habit how she keeps a simple filing box for each project of hers. Any inspirations, notes, etc., go into the box labeled with the project name to be used as needed. When the project is complete, she packs up the box and stores it away. This has multiple benefits: (1) she can keep all relevant material in one place, (2) the box “represents a commitment” and the work is started, (3) she doesn’t have to “worry about forgetting” any of her brilliant inspirations because she has a place to store them, and (4) when she completes the assignment, there is a physical ritual in which she puts the project to bed, freeing her mind up for the next piece.
Of course, a box may not always be big enough depending on your medium. But you can always create your own ritual to clear your mind between projects, perhaps by cleaning out your studio or workspace between shows.
Get a sign
This is especially helpful for people who work from home and/or have children. Create dedicated creative time and avoid interruptions by posting a sign on your door with your availability. You can even color code it so red means “don’t come in” and green means “come in.” That way you can train your household regardless of age to at least knock and wait for a response before entering.
Keep regular hours
Similarly, keeping regular hours can show your commitment to your craft. Even if you only have 3 hours per week to dedicate to art making, commit to that and post these hours somewhere – even if it’s just for yourself. You may find that as you create with more regularity, you end up spending more and more time creating. See Part 2 of this series for more tips on guarding your time.
This is the fourth installment in Self-Care for Artists
Christine Rasmussen’s oil paintings explore themes of boundaries, belonging and femininity. Christine describes herself as a ‘global nomad’ – she was born to American parents in Pakistan, and has lived in 13 cities across Pakistan, Vietnam and the United States. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Art Practice (with Honors) and Peace & Conflict Studies. Her works are in private collections in the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia. Christine is now based in Los Angeles, CA, where she enjoys art, books and blogs.