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The number one complaint I hear from my artist friends is that they wished they had more time for art during their busy day! Many artists have day jobs, kids, and lots of other personal commitments filling up our schedules so it’s understandably difficult to be as creatively productive as we want. 

I recently started a new job that comes with more responsibility, more stress, and changes in my sleep cycle. Therefore, my art productivity has seriously decreased over the past couple of months! Not necessarily because I don’t have enough time – but because I’ve been too wiped out to feel like even breaking out my paints. In my case, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself – I know it will take some time to settle into my new job. However, I miss doing art every day – it’s such an important part of my life and something I want to give priority to.  So, I’ve been thinking of ways to keep the creativity flowing on those days when I don’t really feel that motivated.

Here are some things I’ve been trying out: 

  1. Always travel with a small sketchbook and some art supplies. Or keep them at a desk or locker at work! Either way,  whenever you have a few minutes – at a break at work for example or while waiting for an appointment, you’ll always have the right tools at hand when creativity strikes! 
  1. No matter how busy you are, take your lunches and breaks at work. I tend to just work straight through my breaks if I have a lot on my to-do list but that’s just no good for anyone! Our brains (and bodies) need frequent breaks – to help renew our focus. Do yourself -and your art a favor- and step away from your desk for a few minutes and doodle in your sketchbook! As an added bonus, you’ll be more productive at work when you return from that break! 
  1. Learn how to chop projects into more manageable bits. I like to finish projects in one sitting if I can and am often reluctant to start painting and drawing if I know I won’t have enough time. Of course , some weeks there is just no time and days can go by without any art. break at work. I’ve been trying to embrace the Work In Progress. A little bit each day and soon – a completed piece! In fact, the little birdie up above was drawn in 5 mins during a break at work. It’s far from being completed but I’m rather enjoying the journey and seeing something slowly take shape from day to day. 
  1. Set up art play dates. Combine your socializing with creating! Do you have friends that you love drawing, painting, or crafting as much as you do? Well save time by and boost your bonding at the same time by getting together and making art instead of going to the movies or a bar for example. 
  1. On a similar note, involve your kids and family in your art time. They will love spending time with you while sharing in an activity you are passionate about! It will definitely become part of your family routine that everyone looks forward to! 

Do you have any tips and stories about how you incorporate more art into your busy schedule? Please share them in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!

I taught my second watercolor workshop last Saturday and, since this is the season of fiery autumn leaves, that was the subject that I chose!

If you checked out my last post, EVERY LEAF A FLOWER, you would have seen the hyper-realistic leaves that I’ve been painting lately. Well, since I’m teaching children in the first session and predominantly art novices in the second, I thought it might be a little overwhelming if I presented those pieces for the class project!

So, I came up with a simpler example (the painting above) and put together a lesson plan and materials. As always, I gave the students a brief overview of watercolors, went over fundamental techniques, and guided them every step of the way. I was actually amazed at how well they did! Here are some photos of the set up, as well as their phenomenal work!

 

My two favorite times of the year are Spring and Fall – the temperature is perfect, Nature is entering a period of growth and change, and there is an abundance of color everywhere. An almost psychedelic amount of color in fact!

Spring, a period of renewal and excess, when flowers burst forth from every little nook and cranny, is probably the perfect opposite of Fall, when everything is cast off and life enters conservation mode. However this annual dying off of the leaves brings much beauty and vibrance to the environs, with the reds, the ochres, umbers, and siennas- all swirling and dancing in the electric, autumnal wind.

In the words of Albert Camus, “Autumn is a second Spring, when every leaf is a flower.” How true! I have been having such a lovely time this Fall, combing the ground for interesting leaves – no two ever the same. Where I live, there are many beautiful Maple trees and so there are brilliant bursts of red all over the place.

Can any artist ask for more? These leaves that I’ve been collecting are making their way into my paintings and I even taught a watercolor Fall Leaves workshop over the past weekend (more in a later post.)

Here are a couple of my most recent pieces, next to the leaves that inspired them. Almost a wordless eulogy for their last days in this world – I feel honored to have witnessed their beauty before they left.

 

 

Steve Olson is a Washington-based nonfiction writer who has published articles and books on an array of fascinating topics. Subjects such as genetics, race, human origins, climate change, and even punk rock! His most recent book, ERUPTION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF MOUNT ST. HELENS, was named one of the best books of 2016 by Amazon, was nominated for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature, and, most recently, has been named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award.  His next book, to be released in 2020, is about the production of plutonium at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation during World War II and the Cold War.

You can check out more of Steve’s work at www.steveolson.com

 

 

 

 

 

1. If you could have been the author of any book that has ever been published, what would it be, and why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was a physics major in college, and I’ve always been enamored of the idea of mastering an idea at the forefronts of physics. For a while, my attention was focused on the book Gravitation by Charles Misner, Kip Thorne, and John Wheeler. I can’t say that I ever read the entire book or understood even a portion of it, but the general concept of mastering a particular area of knowledge is still the approach I take toward writing.
Oddly, I’ve been running across Wheeler again in my research on the history of the Hanford nuclear reservation. (I happen to be answering these questions from a hotel room in Richland after a day spent doing research.) He helped design the reactors at Hanford and solved a problem that threatened to shut them down when they first started up.

2. What do you need around you when you start working on a book?

 

I can write almost anywhere. But to work on a book, I need libraries, archives, and knowledgeable people. The problem with the way I write is that every single sentence is based on something I had to learn somewhere. Though I wish I could, I’ve never been able to write sentences that sound nice but don’t have much content.

 

3. You are forced to condense your book collection down to one small shelf. What six books would make the cut?

I’m going to interpret this as a “desert island” type of question, so six books that I’d choose if I could never again have any other books. They’re:

Don Quixote, since I’ve heard that it’s three different books if you read it once as a young person, once in middle age, and once in old age
A History of the World, the longest and most comprehensive volume I could find (though I guess multiple volumes would violate the rules)
The Bible, so I can reflect on the profound history the Bible has had on world history.
Ulysses, since I’ve been wanting to reread that book ever since college (preferably, right before a trip to Dublin)
Gravity’s Rainbow, both for its humor and complexity
The Collected Stories of Chekhov, to dwell on the reasons why people think and act the ways they do

Hmm, I guess all six of those books are kind of like Gravitation, now that I look at them.

4. What one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself when you first started your writing career?

I always tell aspiring writers the same thing: If you want to write full time, keep your financial needs as low as possible. Yet I’ve never followed that advice myself. And, sure enough, I spend most of my time on high-paying but routine writing projects that subsidize my lifestyle and occasional books.

 

5. I actually have a second ‘go-back-in-time’ question for you! As a science writer, if you had the chance to cover any scientific discovery or major natural event, and gather firsthand information, what would it be and why?

It would be the event I’m writing about now: the discovery of nuclear fission and the application of fission to produce nuclear weapons. Many journalists and scholars have listed the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the top news story of the 20th century. It’s a great privilege for me to be writing about those events.

 

Thanks for the great answers, Steve! Next week, I’ll be chatting with David Berger, author of the recently released, RAZOR CLAMS: Buried Treasure of The Pacific Northwest

During the month of September, I’ve been working on a series of portraits on my book Instagram page @graceandgutenberg : female writers, past and present! It’s been a fun little project and I’ve been taking suggestions from my followers as well so it’s also been a learning opportunity! Lots of great facts about some great women writers! It’s also been a wonderful chance for me to practice drawing people. Win-win all around!

Here’s a few of the ones I’ve done already and, with almost half of the month still left, I can’t wait to see who I discover next!