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How to nurture your inner Artist when you are time poor

You can be an artist and work your day job and fit in life’s commitments as well.
Train your mind and eye with these 15 simple exercises….

My painting time is more frenetic as I get busier with my art business so when I have time to paint, I need to be ready to hit the ground running.
Here’s my solution: Because I am thinking about art every day, my creative muscles are always ready for action so I can optimise any short bursts of painting time I get.
Being creative is a mind-set and requires regular flexing of eye and mind muscles and intuition. Regular short bursts of creative practice are just as good if not better than an intense stint once a month.
And remember, when you create – give it your 110% and mentally commit- remove the guilt of giving time to you to be creative and do not doubt yourself, or make excuses not to start it!
If you can only commit 30 minutes a day, then that is a start!

Here are some art mind and body exercises that can be done daily in half an hour:

  1. Doodle – whatever comes into your mind- just let your hand wander
  2. Observe – Coffee cup at break; observe the shadows, which colour palette would you use to paint this? Visualise the painting you would paint and the stages you would do.
  3. Sat at traffic light: notice the light hitting the trees – what colour would you use for this? How does the tree move in the breeze- imagine you are climbing it and how it would feel? How could you translate this into sculpture or painting?
  4. 20 minute drawing from life:  a pencil, a slice of cake, and a cup of coffee.
  5. Continue the drawing: challenge yourself to draw something without talking your hand off the page, watch what you draw, don’t watch the paper!
  6. Colour mixing: take each of your palette Primary colours and mix with its Secondary and jot down the range of neutrals you make.
  7. Plein air – a real challenge this but if you have one hour, challenge yourself to create a quick 10” x 8 painting; however rough – JUST DO IT do not criticise yourself at any stage!! Do this each week and your eyes, perception and courage will sharpen, and over time your painting will start to refine.
  8. People watching or in the office or shop: clothes colours; observe which colours go together – look for unusual combinations to try in your work. Try the same when walking the dog looking for colour combinations through the seasons
  9. Tonal sketch – make a thumbnail pencil sketch of whatever you are planning to paint, from photo or imagination. Draw just the main shapes and blocks and shade these using greys to determine the balance of darks and lights in the composition.


  1. Colour studies – repeat the above exercise (no.10) but using a palette of the 3 Primary colours and White, paint a Maquette (thumbnail sized model) of your image.


Colour studies continuing the theme from no.10


  1. Cut up magazine or clothes catalogue and re- arrange the colours on paper to make a pleasing composition.
  2. Negative space; look at an object(s) and observe the gaps between it – especially good to look at a vase of flowers and trace with your eyes the gaps between the flower and shapes against the wall.


Negative space drawing of leaves


  1. Connect with your subject. Look at something that inspires you – vase of flowers, loved one. Stop thinking, breathe slowly. And use all your senses to ‘sense’ that object – connect with your subject using your intuition. This is an especially good exercise outdoors to connect with your subject before starting to paint it.
  2. Memory sketch. Look at your subject. Turn away and make a 10 minute sketch from your memory.

Go on; give a go – What are your waiting for?
And please let me know how it works for you.


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2 thoughts on “How to nurture your inner Artist when you are time poor

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