Prioritize art-making: Day 22 - Gail Sibley, Past Meets Present (Gallery Goer series), Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 6 x 7 in

Six Ways To Prioritize Art-Making

We’ve just finished HowToPastel’s 5th Annual 31-pastels-in-31-days Challenge held throughout October. The Challenge is always an opportune time to prioritize art-making. A few days after it ended, however, I began seeing the odd post that expressed feelings of withdrawal and a bit of anxiety and sadness because someone is missing painting every day or they miss the camaraderie of community around the Challenge. 

The purpose of the Challenge is to encourage each of us to be in our studios art-making. It’s about building momentum and habit. For some, this has happened and they continue to paint regularly. Whoo-hoo!!!

For others, not so much.

All the things that we put on hold while doing the Challenge come rushing back into our lives demanding to be acknowledged and dealt with. Rats! For instance, I’m focussed on writing this blog and preparing a demo with voiceover, both of which I put off during October. I love doing both but they do take time and effort and so right now, carving out painting time is tricky! I’ve only managed to do one painting in the last four days and that was because I was spurred on by the need to create a demo for my IGNITE! Membership!

So how did we make our painting happen during the 31-in-31 Challenge?  Certainly, the whole experience is intense! Holding a space in our lives to create, even if it’s only for half an hour a day, doesn’t sound like such a big deal but committing to that amount of time every single day for 31 days IS a lot!! So what keeps us on track in the Challenge? And what keeps us going? 

Gail Sibley, "Showing Off," Unison Colour pastels on UART 400 paper, 5 x 7 in. Available
Gail Sibley, “Showing Off,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 400 paper, 5 x 7 in. Available

For one thing, when we join the Challenge, we make a commitment, mostly to ourselves, but also to others – to do the work, to show up in our studios everyday. 

The Challenge also has support built into it – we post in the HowToPastel Facebook group under 31-in-31 daily threads and we’re cheered on by others experiencing the same trials and tribulations, joys and wonders, struggles and rewards as we’re experiencing. 

We also have deadlines. Every day we need to create a pastel piece to post in the group before the end of that day. Deadlines can definitely motivate! 

And then there’s accountability to the group. No one’s holding an axe over our head but there’s something about the commitment we make that creates a sense of accountability to the group. We show up.

Another thing is that we have to let go of outcome and instead, focus on the process of making art daily. Sometimes trying out a new technique or new materials gives us permission to mess up. After all, it’s all new to us so why would we expect anything to turn out perfectly? We have low expectations albeit high hopes. To produce work every day, we need to worry less about quality and focus on quantity instead. And you know what? That means we put in the miles of painting we need to do to grow as painters. The Challenge forces us to do what we need to do to evolve. 

These are all the things that helped me, and many other participants, create 31 paintings over the month of October. 

Gail Sibley, Matching Reds, Unison Colour on UART 280, 5 x 5 in. Sold.
Gail Sibley, Matching Reds, Unison Colour on UART 280, 5 x 5 in. Sold.

And then the Challenge comes to an end. And we either keep on with the rhythm we’ve created. OR we stop. With none of the things I mentioned above in place – commitment, deadlines, support, accountability, focus on process – we lose the push to paint. Yes, we can commit to ourselves and look to our inner drive to help us create but sometimes, external forces and encouragement are what we need.

So how can we recreate these and prioritize art-making?

Six ways to prioritize art-making

  1. Make a Commitment to creating art. Put it in the Urgent AND Important Quadrant. Often it feels Important to us to create but usually, there’s no Urgency behind it. And so it falls behind more Urgent things on our To-do list.
Gail Sibley, "January Drive," Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 6 x 8 in. Sold
Gail Sibley, “January Drive,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 6 x 8 in. Sold

2. We can bring Urgency to our commitment by setting up a Goal. For instance, you might say, I’m going to create 20 paintings for my upcoming show. Or I’m going to use up all the sheets of pastel paper I have on hand. Remember to make your goal quantifiable so you can know when it’s been accomplished. 

Gail Sibley, "Intense Gaze (Gallery Goer series)," Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 5 x 5 in. Available from Peninsula Gallery
Gail Sibley, “Intense Gaze (Gallery Goer series),” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 5 x 5 in. Available from Peninsula Gallery

3. Give that goal a Deadline. If you don’t have a show coming up, you can say, by such and such a date (eg in two months), I’m going to have completed x-number of paintings. OR, by such and such a date, I am going to have used up that box of pastels (and then I can reward myself by buying more). You create your own goal and deadline.

Gail Sibley, “Tuscany Vista,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 4 x 5 in. Available

4. To make sure your goal happens by the deadline, figure out how much time you’ll need to accomplish your goal. Then mark off studio time in your calendar. Mark it in pen. Mark it so it’s NOT negotiable. It’s as Urgent and Important as a doctor’s appointment!! Pick the days, pick the times. Have a good ponder before committing because you won’t be able to change these dates right?! By doing this, you prioritize art-making!

Prioritizing art-making : Gail Sibley, "Off Leash," Unison Colour pastels on UART 280, 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 in
Gail Sibley, “Off Leash,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 280, 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 in

5. Set up an accountability system. This could be a painting buddy. Or you could report in each week to a non-painting accountability friend. To help you stick to your goal, set up a system whereby if you don’t reach your weekly goal (of say doing one painting), you pay your friend $20. Who wants to do that?! But if knowing that you’ll lose $20 if you don’t come through can help with your commitment to achieving your art goal, set it up! If you’re afraid to do that, then you’re saying you cannot commit. Try even a small commitment that you KNOW you can manage and scale up your commitment from there once you reach your goals easily. 

Gail Sibley, Fence Line, Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 5 x 7 in.
Gail Sibley, “Fence Line,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 5 x 7 in. Available

6. Lastly, tell yourself that you’re more interested in the act of creating itself rather than an end product. Process over outcome! Remember painting is what moves us forward as artists!! (It’s also lovely to have a stack of work to prove our commitment.)

Prioritizing art-making: Gail Sibley, "Artist Painting Tuscany," Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 8 1/4 x 5 3/4 in.
Gail Sibley, “Artist Painting Tuscany,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 8 1/4 x 5 3/4 in.

How does that sound?

Do you prioritize art-making? If not, does this post help? I’d love to know where you’re at when it comes to prioritizing your art so please do leave a comment.

Until next time,

~ Gail

Ps. You can see all 31 paintings I did in October by clicking here. Some pieces are still available from me while others are at Peninsula Gallery.

Gail Sibley, "Cappuccino Remains," Unison Colour pastels on UART 280, 7 1/2 x 6 in. Available
Gail Sibley, “Cappuccino Remains,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 280, 7 1/2 x 6 in. Available

Related Posts

Subscribe to the HowtoPastel Blog today!

Take a course

Like my Blogs?

Do you like the blog?

Support HowToPastel and help me to keep creating content to instruct, inspire, and motivate you with your pastel painting. Although I’ve been asked, “How much does it cost to subscribe?” HowToPastel will always be free. Your financial support is completely optional but does go a long way in helping with the cost of running this blog. Thank you!


12 thoughts on “Six Ways To Prioritize Art-Making”

  1. Thanks for putting this together, Gail, as I’ve really enjoyed it despite ups and downs. As a first timer, and someone who has only been pastelling a short time, the challenge for me was both invigorating and exhausting, if that makes sense. But I didn’t have any problems with commitments, just illness for a week. What I did find was that I didn’t prepare paintings or do thumbnails, so I was often disappointed with my results, and in a couple of occasions I didn’t finish the painting until the next day. I think towards the end I found that I was trying to think of the easiest thing to do, but none of them are easy. I know that isn’t the right approach, but I’m learning so much at this stage that I think I will be in the swing of it next year. Seeing others’ work was inspiring, and I have made friends with another Igniter, swapping paintings. I’m now away for a week and giving pastel a short break, working in gouache for a change. I don’t think I’ll lose the commitment to pastel, though; in fact I think it will enable me to come back with fresh eyes. 🙂

    1. Thanks Judi. It was so great to see you in the Challenge and yes, I remember that illness took you away. And that’s life and its effect on art-making….

      I’m glad you mentioned not having thumbnails or any preparations. I think having a sketchbook full of thumbnails is HUGELY beneficial as you don’t have to spend time working things out on the days you actually need to be producing a painting! And gosh yes, it’s definitely exhilarating and exhausting at the same time!

      And it’s what comes after the Challenge that I’ve turned my attention to as so many of us can drop off the art-making wagon following the intensity of the Challenge.

      Good for you taking a break from pastel. It’s always a good thing I think to get into another medium once in a while, and certainly most of the lessons from IGNITE! will be applicable.

      And how lovely that you’ve found a fellow IGNITEr to swap paintings with 😀

      1. And I forgot to mention that I absolutely love these paintings of yours from the challenge- especially the gallery series which are almost a novella in pastel with all the different personalities and paintings.

    1. Hah hah and YAY!! And how awesome that you have painted for 34 days consecutively – that’s something to take time to celebrate Marsha!!
      I’m glad that you are surrendering to the tug 😀 GO GIRL!!

  2. First of all, I love the paintings of yours in this blog.

    But responding to your main point, I have difficulty forcing myself to paint. It was one of the reasons I was not productive during the start of the pandemic isolation period. I saw all this available time and felt I MUST take advantage of it and work, work, work.

    I got fed up with the pressure I was putting on myself, and I just stopped doing anything for a while. Eventually, I felt the desire to get back into the studio, and since then, I have done some of my best work. It’s the difference between wanting to work, and forcing myself to work. Painting became a pleasure again, not a chore.

    1. Thanks for the compliment Kyle.

      And thank you too for sharing your experience. I think what you describe around the conundrum of the pandemic offering up available time to paint and then not actually doing anything and feeling stressed from not taking action is common to many many people. I know that the pandemic has also offered up a pall of anxiety, a simmering that lives just below the surface, quiet enough to not be felt daily in a conscious way. But make no mistake, it’s there! And this affects us everyday as we live through this time. Add to that other world problems and our own personal problems and it’s no wonder we’re a bit of a jelly!

      So congratulations to you for realising what was going an and just taking a break. Sometimes that IS the best thing to do. And I am delighted that because of your courage to step away, you are now back in your studio doing pleasurable and fabulous work!! And oh gawd, we never want our art to feel like a chore. Preparing canvases, maybe, but not the actual work of creating!!

  3. I love your art, Gail. I need to commit to a routine by trying to find out what part of the day is best for me. I’d be very interested to hear what others have found.
    Thank you for all the inspiration and encouragement in your messages and blog.

    1. Thanks so much Donna!
      I think your idea of finding a time of day that works best for YOU is a great idea! It’s easy to get get caught up in feeling we “should” be working at x-time of day. I know some artists that work late at night. I also know some that work in the wee hours of the morning. And even though these aren’t traditiaonl “working” times, this is the time it works for those artists. So yes, find your time. Then mark it in the calendar. You don’t need to commit to a lot of time. The main thing is to stick to a commitment of time, no matter how small, and then feel the incredible satisfaction of sticking to that commitment!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Other Related Posts

Headshot of Gail Sibley

Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

Join the mailing list today to receive exclusive tips, resources and inspiration directly from Gail:

Scroll to Top

Welcome Artists!

Online Courses

Pastels 101

Use this link if you bought the course AFTER Sept 2022

Use this link if you bought the course BEFORE Sept 2022

Pastel Painting En Plein Air

Art Membership

IGNITE! Art Making Members

Love soft pastels?? Then join 7000+ other subscribers and get my tips, reviews, and resources all about pastels... it's FREE! Just enter your name and email address below.

Your information will never be shared or sold to a 3rd party. Privacy Policy