New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions For Your Best Painting Year Ever!

Happy New Year!! If you’re like me, you love the beginning of the New Year. It seems as if you’re starting with a clean slate and everything is possible. Yet, I find if I don’t set some goals right at the start of the year, I can easily drift through it without accomplishing some major goals. And I’m sure you know how quickly the year can scamper by! So as I was setting some arty New Year resolutions for myself, I realized I could share and expand my ideas with you.

Okay, here are, in no particular order (except for the first one – it needs to be at the top!) some ideas for New Year resolutions:


Paint More

We all get distracted by life. It’s so easy to come up with excuses for not painting, for not getting into the studio. Yet it is possible to squeeze it in! We know from previous experience that even 10 minutes can produce something. Taking any kind of action is better than doing nothing at all. Put pastel to paper and feel good about yourself even if it’s for a short time. It’s the journey – the process – that’s valuable.  Regular consistent work = better work. Schedule painting time on your calendar – set that appointment with yourself. Make painting a priority!


Judge Less

It’s sooooooo easy to be negative about our own work. So how about this: paint paint paint, take a good long break, and paint some more. Then at some later time, when you’re fully detached from your painting both physically and emotionally, look at it with a critical eye. Waiting until some time after painting can help you be less negative in your criticism.


Avoid being skimpy with your materials

A good idea is to set an intention to use up a certain amount of material by the end of the year. This is to do with preciousness and scarcity mindset around materials especially expensive materials or difficult-to-obtain supplies. For example, you just got a box of Terry Ludwig pastels and they’re so perfect. And they cost so much! Set the intention to use them up by the end of the year. Don’t hoard them, don’t be stingy with them, use them! Think abundance, not scarcity.


Don’t beat yourself up about not painting

Some days, even when you try your darndest, you don’t make it into the studio. You can feel guilt, frustration, anger at yourself for not sticking with your commitment. But sometimes other things are more important – visiting family and friends for instance – or sometimes it’s an ugh-y day, or sometimes you feel truly uninspired. Be okay with taking a break. And take that break fully rather than tentatively. Tomorrow is another day and once you’ve developed the habit of painting regularly, you’ll be back at it the next day!


Risk more

There’s joy in being uncertain about the outcome of your painting. Knowing what will happen can lead to boredom which can lead to uninspired painting. Embrace the possibilities of newness and change. It can lead to amazing growth and new directions. Be unafraid of making mistakes as they are the necessary stepping stones that take you across the river to a whole new world.


Paint what inspires YOU

Be unafraid of what your inner self asks you to paint even if you’re afraid of what you see there. This is your whole self emerging. You may not know what’s there but it will be all YOU. Your vision is unique so paint it and share it. Your art is your gift to the world. It allows others to see through your eyes – your artist’s eyes. So paint from your heart and soul and let it all out!


Stop comparing yourself to others

This is a killer and ever so easy to get into the habit of doing. Discover when you start feeling bad about your work or what your art life looks like when you compare yourself to others. What are those triggers? And then remove them.  Comparing yourself to others takes energy and time, time you could use painting, finding your style, or just plain enjoying life. Instead, celebrate that other person’s achievements. It will make you feel good and release you from the comparison bug. Remember, you are unique! So let your own artistic voice out into the world.


Clean up your studio

My studio can become crazy clutter! I actually like working in a messy space but sometimes it can get waaaaay out of hand. I don’t enjoy putting things away so everything tends to pile up over time, and sometimes it gets to the point where I can’t find what I’m looking for. Time to tidy up and organize!! The beginning of the year is a great time to do this before you get really revved up and painting, and you loathe taking time away from being creative. I have to admit, I need to clean my studio soon!


Sketch sketch sketch!

Carry a small sketchbook everywhere you go. Whenever you’re in a place or position to wait – a queue, a doctor’s appointment, waiting for your spouse in the car, anytime you have a few minutes, grab that sketchbook and put a few lines to paper. This makes you actively look and SEE! This is great drawing practice that can only feed into your work. It’s your sketchbook so feel free to jot down painting ideas, colour combos, and any other arty thing that hits you! If you’re interested in doing 365 sketches this year, read this article on how you can do it.


Get out and see real art

The internet gives us a plethora of artwork to drool over and be inspired by, and I’m so grateful for that. On the other hand, there’s nothing like seeing art in the flesh. So make a commitment to get out to see some real art at least once a month. (That’s only 12 times in a whole year so feel free to go more often especially if you live in a city with amazing art galleries!)


Set yourself a big project for the year

What do you want to achieve by the end of the year? A new website? Acceptance into a juried show? Getting into a gallery? Creating x number of paintings? Choose one to three major goals for the year. These should be goals that excite you just to think about them. Write them down then stick them up where you can see them every single day. Share these goals with someone who supports you in your art journey, and ask them to check in with you say once a month to ask how it’s all coming along. This will add some accountability to your goals.


Set some short-term goals

Once you have your big goals, create some short-term goals to help you make the big goals happen. Set some time frames – a day, a week, a month, and schedule them into your calendar. For example, if you want to develop a website, make a list of what needs to happen to create it – photographs of your artwork, a bio, an artist’s statement, a website platform, a designer, etc. Make each item on your list a small goal and then schedule them.


Keep track of your work

Create a spreadsheet of the work you create. Here are some possible columns:  inventory number (create a number for each painting), title, date, medium, size (height x width), price unframed and framed (if framed), current location, exhibition history, and info about the painting’s purchaser. It’s also good to have a place for notes eg. any story or inspiration about creating the piece.


Are you setting New Year resolutions to create your best painting year ever? Do any of these tips resonate with you? Do you have others? Please share your thoughts in the comments!!

Here’s to an AMAZING YEAR!!!!


Until next time,



New Year Resolutions: Neil Gaiman quote


Loved having my brother and his wife with us for the first couple of days of the year!!

New Year resolutions


28 thoughts on “New Year Resolutions For Your Best Painting Year Ever!

    1. Lauraine

      I agree with Marybeth…this is an excellent list…and I too will read it many times over the year! I think I will print it out and post it in my studio… Thank you Gail! Best of the New Year to you!!

  1. Susana

    Hi Gail, – and happy New Year to you too!! Thank you for this kick in my “yes-but..” procrastination to get into sketching and painting more – and passing it on my birthday January 3rd :D.
    I am already going to clear my painting space today and you got me inspired to setting realistic and unrealistic goals. Thank you for your encouraging spirit. Hope to see you one day here in Denmark. Big hug.

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Happy Birthday Susana!! Glad I could offer you this gift 😀
      Yes, set BIG goals as well as smaller ones.
      And I look forward to making it to Denmark to teach one of these days. Let’s keep talking and make a plan!

  2. Iris devadason

    Great ideas! Yes my art room is full of Christmas clutter..loads of boxes and soon the tree too!
    Must clean up.
    Yes I have a big project coming up. That needs space too!
    Getting some young folk to help tomorrow 5th, Epiphany Day, and then must get serious.
    But I do sketch with a new set of brush pens I got for Christmas.
    The same applies to my academic side. Mass reordering of files..I’ve taught for 50 years and am going to help some others now. Not easy to discard but I’ll give away much by March!
    Thanks for the timely advise.

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Iris, look forward to hearing about your big project!
      Glad to hear you are already sketching with your Christmas pens and not saving them hah hah
      And good luck with your teaching files. I can imagine hard to get rid of but it will lighten your spirit no doubt. I have discarded many of my notes from graduate sessions but some I still have. I too must let go!

  3. Nancy Malard

    Ah Gail, wonderful, specially the poem. All SO true and helpful. I certainly agree that art is not for the skimpy minded.
    By necessity I have temporarily turned from pastels to gouache, and discovered a change of medium can be very instructive and inspiring.
    Sending wishes for the most creative year ever,
    Nancy Malard

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Nancy so glad you found this post helpful. And glad you liked Neil Gaiman’s words 😀
      Gouache is a wonderful medium and yes, changing up your medium can be a great thing to do. Thanks for sharing that idea with us!
      Thanks for your good wishes and I wish you the same!!

  4. Kat

    This is wonderful advice and it’s taken to heart. Thank you for this website, I’ve been learning much from you. Happy New Year to you and yours.

  5. Shahar

    Thank you, Gail, for all of your ideas and sharing. Just cleaned my studio yesterday, and…after reading in December some of your older posts on sketching, I started 365+ sketches, today is day 30 and i’m having so much fun since a buddy has joined me!

    I sent a reply via email to your last How to Pastel email, and just realized I should have replied here. If you don’t receive it I can try to copy and post it here.

    Happy New Year, Happy Painting!

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Shahar that’s wonderful. Your commitment to sketching everyday for a year will payoff! And having a buddy to do it will make a huge difference to the actualizing of this project.

      And yes, I did receive your email as you will know from my reply 🙂

  6. Cynthia Hepworth

    I have been following you and reading the blogs every time you post.

    Love this list of resolutions I will be reading them often. I am heading to clean my art room in next few minutes. I so enjoy your blogs and read them all.
    I would like to take a workshop from you. Where do I find a list of workshops? I am not a beginner when it comes to sketching and watercolor painting but I am fairly new to pastel. Would really like to learn and use pastel more.

    I am interested in critique sessions online.
    I live in Utah but will travel for workshops.

    Cindy Hepworth

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Thanks Cynthia for all your kind words and for following my blog so avidly! How did the studio cleaning go? (I have, gulp, yet to do mine! Argh!!)

      I offer a few live workshops a year which you will find under the workshop tab. I’m always happy to be invited by a group to teach but I do limit my travel for this. There are a couple of upcoming workshops that are being finalized and as soon as that’s done. I will be sure to announce them in my emails. They will also be listed under the Workshops tab.

      As to critiques, I do offer a video critique of a painting. I also offer one-on-one mentoring sessions.

      Also, any day now, I will be launching my online course for beginners in pastel!!! So stay tuned!!

      Thanks again for your enthusiasm!!

  7. Ruth Burley

    Thanks Gail and Happy New Year!! Enjoyed reading your New Year’s tips. Some I already do, but some will be new to me. I bought a little sketch pad to do what you suggest. Thanks for everything!!!

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Happy New Year Ruth! A wee sketchpad means in every moment you wait or in a moment when you see something that catches your eye, you can make a quick sketch or even jot down a couple of notes. I’ll be interested to see what happens!

  8. Robert Sloan

    Great suggestions! I don’t actually do New Year’s Resolutions because those never work. Most are usually about things I wouldn’t want to do anyway, like dieting or exercising more (both would be self destructive given my disabilities) and stuff like that. But all of your painting suggestions are good goals! If I did resolutions this year, a couple of those would be on my list.

    As it is, they’re good ideas and are just comfortably in my “good ideas” category, where I will actually do more if I don’t worry about it.

    As for future videos, please, do something with cats! Black cats. White cats. Short hair cats with shiny pelts. Gray or orange cats with that iridescent sheen they sometimes have – “blue” cats get this pale-tipped hairs thing where they look frosted and then we got a pale fade-orange one that has the same quality. She’s beautiful, how do I capture that lovely iridescence? Cats in motion. Fuzzy bumbling kittens. Grumpy elder cats with rumpled fur, a whole-body bed head experience. Big cats too maybe. I love cats, love nature, would love to see more wildlife – also how to put cats in wilderness scenes, putting wildlife in landscapes! Oh and colorful birds too, they are fun in pastels and a good excuse, like flowers, to use all those lush full saturation colors. Underwater reef scenes!

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      I’m glad you approve of the New Year Resolutions I offered Robert! I think resolutions have to come from a deep-seated need and commitment. A creation of habit always helps especially when it comes to things like exercise. I’ve found that a habit created is much more difficult to give up on.

      I like the ‘good ideas’ category – one that means you won’t beat yourself up if they don’t get done 🙂

      Thanks for all your enthusiastic ideas for videos and my work!I know you are a cat lover (as am I) but I don’t have one and so drawing/painting cats gets more difficult! I will see what I can do but you may need to keep reminding me! I think the only cat I have done in a while was the one I did for the DK book. I used to keep parrots and loved them and their antics but rarely felt drawn to paint them. Funny thing isn’t it? Really though, an artist needs to paint what they need to paint!

      Thanks again Robert!

  9. Ruth

    Happy New Year Gail

    Your columns are so inspiring. I have tried doing sketches each day and gotten lost in the daily activities. Will be doing again. I love using pens.

    Thanks for sharing so much of your process and your sketches.


    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Aww Ruth thanks so much!
      It is difficult to stick to daily sketching but when I was doing the 365 project, I carried a small sketchbook everywhere and would get those lines down the first chance I got. There were days though that I barely made it. The thing I told myself was, “Just put pen/pencil to paper and make a few squiggles. That’s enough.” And you know what, often those lines got the artistic soul going and I sketched. There was the odd day though that squiggles and scratchings were all that appeared. But that was okay!!! So go on and get those pens out 🙂

  10. Marie Fritz

    Thanks so much for prompting me to set some realistic goals or habits. I’ve been working on keeping my space a lot less cluttered. And that means I don’t have to spend so much time looking for that certain thing (often it is the thing I just had in my hand I’m ashamed to admit). So neatness counts for a lot!

    As you prepare your ideas for this year maybe you could address the value of series. Do you do series? What should we consider when doing them as I would think changes of color or slight changes in composition.

    Thank you,
    Marie Fritz

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Glad you found these ideas for goals useful! And I applaud you on keeping your art space less cluttered, something I will have to work really hard to achieve!!

      Thanks for the idea about working in a series. I will put that on my agenda! And yes, changes in colour and composition are definitely aspects you can look at!

  11. Laurel

    Thank you Gail for this inspiring blog, I am an avid follower and I look forward to 2018 and learning more and continuing my creative journey and finding my own style. Thank you for being so generous and sharing your vast knowledge.

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Laurel it’s great to hear from you and that this blog inspired you. Keep learning and painting and finding your own path on your artistic journey. Here’s to an amazing year!!

  12. Cliff Riviere

    Thanks for this blog. I tend not to put too much effort in making and keeping New Year resolutions. Having survived seven decades so far, I literally take life one day at a time. So I just draw, paint ,sketch and read about art in no particular order. I admire those who make and KEEP their resolutions. Happy New Year to you. Looking forward to your blog.

    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Hah hah Cliff! I hesitated to create a blog called New Year Resolutions and thought about titling it ‘goals’ instead but I think the title I gave it has more power at this time of the year despite the stigma around New Year Resolutions ie. many fail to keep them! Still, they are a list of ideas and many of things I want to achieve, particularly the More Painting one! And sharing them seemed a good blog to write 🙂
      Love that you just draw paint sketch and read about art Cliff. And happy seven decades to you!!


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