Artists Concentration and Creative Time VS Wasted Time

Poet and essayist Mary Oliver addresses the artist's life and the distractions from creative time in her new collections "Up Stream."


“Our Disappearing Barns” 11x14 pastel, juried into a recent exhibition


The Distractions We Create

Regular readers will know I have not been posting as regularly as usual. Distractions that I created have kept me from posting at least weekly. In the last couple weeks I have attended Plein Air paint outs. I am not proficient at plein air but enjoy the fellowship art talk and challenges being outside of the studio. I rarely feel good about what I paint, but the experiences have help me grow. That's a distraction of my own making.


I also have had a busy show entry schedule with tons of drop offs, pickup of non-accepted art, and scheduled meetings for the art associations for which I am a member. A huge chunk of time has been spent in September getting ready to host 60-70 artists to a paintout in my local area. All these things are distractions I created and now discovered that I need to figure out how to manage the distractions and still be able to paint more than I am now. I have painted very little in the last four weeks due to the above and I DO NOT like that. Guilt sets in.

Getting Back on Track

We can wallow in self pity or self-deprecation but that feeds only our emotional needs not our mental well being or artistic need to get back to creative time. If desire is emotional, and goals are objective, we must learn to recognize the difference to grow as artists. Otherwise, we tend to beat up on ourselves and abandon our objectives (or the end goals) by reacting to emotion rather than reacting with logic, a kind of "Oh, what's the use, I won't make that goal."

Goals should be set. They should only be changed by thoughtfulness or logic and not by emotional reactions to circumstances— especially circumstance out of our control such as sales, jurors, and public comments or distractions of our own creation -- even if those distractions are part of the process to obtain our goals. It's a question of making more creative time in my schedule to offset the "Oh I give up, there's just no time to sneak in some creative time."


How to Focus on Goals and Not Emotions

Western belief systems are different than in many parts of the world. Lately, I've seen lots of books and magazine articles using the concept of thoughtfulness and consciousness. Many articles in the Pastel Journal this past year have used the concept of thoughtfulness to reach artists and address the challenges of their art as well as their creative life.


Thoughtfulness/consciousness/self-awareness are eastern concepts but are being adapted to western life by writers of self-help and creative endeavors. The articles are just leaving out the eastern religious aspects and focusing on the techniques of self awareness these religions use. The ideas include things like stopping in the middle of stressful situations and taking some deep breaths. Other ideas you will read about include learning to meditate and focusing your mind on one idea for 10-30 minutes a day. Another concept includes not focusing on your wants and needs but focus on others first and your desires will result from helping others.


The ideas for meditation can vary from day to day or week to week. The whole idea is to clear your mind, think about one goal, concept, or habit and think through (logically) how as an artist we can do better. For me, some of my meditation times have included how to be a better person and think before I open my mouth. I have a tendency to say what I think before realizing how I say something can mean the difference between it coming out as a question, compliment or coming out and it being taken as a negative comment.


Google "how to meditate" if you've never learned meditation. It should tell you how to focus on your breathing to clear your mind, and then prepare it for the day's meditation topic.


Here are some meditation topics I've used that you might find helpful if you want to try it.


  • create work I like and not what I think others will like

  • meditation focused on my top three goals to keep them in mind

  • think before I speak

  • help other artists be happy and I will be happy

  • today's work will use these colors, ABC etc

Hopefully these few prompts will give you the idea of how to make your own topics.



What I Learned

  • Meditation on helps me focus

  • writing goals down helps

  • re-reading those goals helps keep them in front of me

  • during times of self distraction, make a list of things to do and put create art on the list.

  • meditation reduces my blood pressure significantly

  • regular meditation reduces my stress levels



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Avon Waters
Modern Artist