Taking Small Steps: The Key to Achieving Your Art Goals

We all know that, for us, art-making is our way to express ourselves. It’s how we explore our creative side. But, for many of us, finding the time, motivation, and skills to make art can be a challenge. That’s why taking small steps is so important. It’s by taking small steps that we travel our art path. 

Small consistent steps will build momentum and help you move past obstacles that will inevitably emerge. Small steps will take you steadily towards your art goals. The power of consistent small steps in art-making is a concept that lies at the heart of the HowToPastel blog which is on the verge of celebrating its 10th anniversary!

Yes, almost 10 years ago (it will be a decade in June), I started the HowToPastel blog. And it started with taking small steps. 

The blog began as a need. My gailsibley website had been active for a couple of years when I realised that many of my readers wanted more information on the “How To” part of my art. So I decided to create another website. 

Here’s what I wrote in a post encouraging GailSibley.com readers to subscribe to the new blog: 

“You might ask, Why a new site? Well, the main reason is that I have different people interested in different aspects of art on my gailsibley.com website. Some are interested in the art and a bit of process while some want more detail on pastels and how to use them to create pastel paintings. So I decided to create a new site, a place where people who are interested in learning how to pastel can find out more in-depth information. There’ll definitely be some crossover but the How to Pastel website will be completely focused on soft pastel.”

And so HowToPastel was born. I cobbled it together because I knew very little about building a website. The main thing was taking small steps toward my goal. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t perfect – it was just temporary, to get me going. This makes me laugh because the temporary site stayed for almost 10 years! But finally, we have a newly painted site!

As excited as I am about our new look, I’m even more thrilled that you’ll be able more easily access all those pearls of wisdom and inspiration found within the many many posts. They will bubble up all over the place, ready for you to discover them. I’m so thankful to my many guest bloggers!

The old website was simply one continuous line of blog posts. Yes, categories and tags were listed on the side but unless you did a search for something specific, you wouldn’t just come across all the goodness within. I hope this reno rectifies that!

This is what the top of the HowToPastel website looked like for almost 10 years!

Looking back I’m amazed at this HUGE library of resources. 

And the thing is, it all began with taking one small step. It began with one idea. It began with one commitment. This was the beginning of a 10-year journey. And, if I’m being honest, looking back at my first post with the lovely Frank Frederico (and eek, my first brave videos of interviews from the IAPS Convention the same year I started this blog), I cringe a bit. But you know what? Those were my first small steps. And they were what brought us to this point almost 10 years later!

Taking small steps - my first post on HowToPastel
My first post on HowToPastel!

This idea of taking small steps relates to art-making. If you’re struggling to get painting, then think about one small step you can take today. 

I suggest a small sketch. Or a quick colour study with your pastels on a small piece of paper. It doesn’t matter what it looks like! All that matters is you do it. That’s what I did with the HowToPastel blog. I didn’t worry about what it would look like or how well it would be received. I just needed to get started with one post, then do another and another. And slowly but surely, there’s now a mass of art posts waiting for you to discover and explore them. 

Each time you make a mark, you’re taking a small step forward. No mark = no step. Big journeys begin with small steps! And as much as big leaps help you travel forward fast and far, it’s the small steps that are way more sustainable. 

Make no mistake, obstacles to your small steps will arise. Life has a way of throwing you off course. Challenges arrive. You need to remind yourself of your commitment to yourself and to your art journey. Which is why some days, those small steps may need to be really really tiny. A doodle. That’s it. But a doodle is a step. And prioritizing art-making will help you overcome any block, even if it’s just making a few lines on paper.

In 2015, I made a commitment to do a sketch a day for a year. Seems like a simple idea but I couldn’t believe how difficult was to achieve that task each and every day. Some days, all I did was a scribble, a few lines, but I did something. And that’s all that mattered. 

Taking small steps - Four of my 365 sketches!
Four of my 365 sketches!

So take small steps. And also know that those small steps need to be consistent. Taking one step and stopping doesn’t move you forward. Taking one step and then another does.

It’s about the doing, not the result. The results will come on their own…by your doing!

Small steps, taken consistently, will lead to big results in your art-making. So take those small steps each day towards your art goals. 

It’s often said that you shouldn’t look back but in this case, I am. And I’m amazed and grateful for all those small steps I’ve taken on this blogging journey. I’ve come a long way since that first blog post! And I want this for you. To look back on the art path you’ve taken and see what taking all those small steps created!

So today, if you haven’t done anything in your studio, take that small step. Grab a sketchbook, put on the timer for five minutes, and draw something. Even if this is all you do for 30 days, at the end of the stretch, you’ll have 30 sketches. And I know you’ll feel great when you see what you’ve accomplished! You’ll have made progress and there’s nothing like it to build your creative confidence and commitment to taking more small steps. This is the start, or maybe it’s a continuation, of your art journey. 

Taking small steps - drawing of feet in charcoal by Gail
Gail Sibley, Feet, charcoal on Canson Mi-Teintes paper, 9 x 12 in

So tell me in the comments, what are your own experiences in taking small steps towards your art goals? We want to hear about your progress and successes. What’s worked for you? What keeps you from taking those small steps?

Thanks for being here on this very first post of the renovated HowToPastel website! I’d also love to hear what you think about our new look. It’s been a year in the making! 

Until next time!


PS. A HUGE thank you to Tynan Brouwer, my creative web developer/designer/consultant extraordinaire, for all the hours and ideas he put into this new HowToPastel. It wouldn’t have happened without him!

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24 thoughts on “Taking Small Steps: The Key to Achieving Your Art Goals”

  1. Congratulations on the new “paint job” for the website. It’s inviting and interesting, so I’m taking the first small step of diving in to take action painting.

      1. We can all use a makeover in the course of our lives, and your new blog website is a great demonstration for us all. It reinforces the importance of sharing a journey experience, sharing knowledge and encouraging self-motivation in whatever form that takes.
        The body of content is impressive. I watched the Frank Federico video from the first post and it took me back to some brief time spent watching zany Frank doing a complimentary color upside down underpainting of shapes. Thanks for that.
        Best wishes as your journey of small steps continues, although maybe those steps are a bit wider and more confident now.

        1. Thank so much Gary! I really wanted to be able to more easily share all the goodness that’s built up through the years.
          And oooo thank you for sharing your own experience with Frank. We was zany for sure! When we were out painting, he was working on a bright yellow (prepped with paint) piece of paper and gave me a piece to work on. I didn’t work on it at that time and I’m sure it’s still somewhere in my studio! A project – to find and use. In memory of wonderful Frank! He wrote on a box of Mount Vision pastels I had purchased (wow – this was 20 years ago!!). You can see it at the end of this blog on the GailSibley website. (It’s now time to get cracking on that – temporary – website lol!)

  2. Congratulations on your website refresh! I know how much work goes into it; we’ll all reap the benefits. My steps are always having my gear ready; I have my plein air setup in the studio, so I’m always working with what I take out into the field. Walking into the studio and picking up where I left off is very inviting!

  3. Small steps are different for each of us. For me, I like to think and problem solve a new piece on my morning walk. I ask myself questions about the the temperature of the overall painting and what colors will achieve that atmosphere. What size should it be and on what paper? A value study will help with color choices too. Picking my palatte will be easier after this. A wet or dry underpainting or maybe none. A simple sketch for placement and then let the colors fly! It’s an adventure every time…

    1. Oooooooo thanks for sharing this Billie!! It’s a two for one idea 😁
      I LOVE the idea of a morning walk to consider aspects of painting. AND this is a great reason to get a daily walk in EARLY rather than waiting later in the day when, eek, it may not even happen!

  4. Wow!! Well Done Gail! Congratulations on the new site, wonderful!, 10 years of making a difference in many lives with a wealth of information and joy. Thank you from us all, especially those who love and learn from all that you share. Keep up the good work ….

    Small steps for myself are here and there. My aim at present is to try to practice more often, I put off getting started. Also to lower expectations, of better outcomes from the little input I do at times is just crazy… Need to silence the perfectionist preaching too. I do more reading and theory which I love than I do of actual getting to the work….lol Well Done Gail look forward to exploring the new site, which I’m off to now..
    Love n Laughter Mandy

    1. Thanks Mandy. And oh. my.gosh. I hear you with all that you’ve said! I love doing the reading and looking too…
      Sooo grab paper, make a mark!

  5. Wow! It’s a wonderful makeover of an already great site. Congratulations Gail. I’m looking forward to looking back at some early posts and access to Ignite seems so easy. Thank you!

  6. I began my pastel journey in Sept of 2022, so I’m a newbie. I try to paint every day, but life has a way of getting in the way. This blog has been a much needed reminder to do something, be it ever so small, daily. I’ve been in the process of moving my art into one end of my weaving studio which has slowed down my daily painting time, but it’s a step toward better quality time with my painting. During the move I spent time looking back through the paintings I’ve done since Sept and I can see progress. Consistency is the key for me. I love the look of the freshly painted web site! The site should be easier for me to find the resources I need, thank you!

    1. Thanks so much for your positive feedback on the website Carol Ann. And thank you for sharing your struggle to get painting. It IS a struggle AND you seem to know it and are doing something about it. LOVE that you can see progress when looking back on your paintings. Awesome!! That’s motivation isn’t it??

  7. Lovely transition from old to new. Site is interesting, easy to navigate & promotional with your lively & encouraging voice throughout. Great job!

  8. I am a beginning pastel artist! Putting a sketch box together for plein aire painting is mind boggling! Is it necessary to have so many pastels in the box? I see that some pastelists carry a huge amount! Help!

    1. Ahhhh Dee. I hear ya! I suggest that my Unison Colour set is all you need! Have a read of this post I wrote about selecting the colours – you’ll see a wide range of subjects including landscapes. Also, you may want to look at this post as it shows my basic plein air supplies. I break the Unison Colours and put them into a smaller box so there’s even less to carry!

  9. Well done Gail. I’ve been enjoying and benefitting from your posts for a number of years. I enjoyed your collections of artists paintings and what you appreciate about their work.

    1. Thank you Jennifer!! Gosh, I wish I had time to do those monthly collections. – they took at least a full three days to write (not including the collecting over the month). Maybe I can find a way to bring back a simpler, shorter version….

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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!

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