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Limited space, no time? Do your art anyway

September 11, 2012

crowded work table

Several times people have commented on the difficulty of devoting regular time to developing their art without a studio space.

Even though I have a beautiful light workspace, it is comparatively small and I still have to work around all the projects I usually have going at once. So maybe some of the solutions I’ve found could help you to get your art done despite limited space and time.

Yesterday I wanted to start the day by doing a watercolour of some leaves I’d found on my morning walk with Lucie. I pushed some paperwork aside, got out a travelling watercolor box and some scrap paper and went to work. 15 minutes later, this was the result.

morning watercolor study

We’re not worried here about perfect art, but about continual effort, which leads not only to improvements and new ideas, but to accumulating a body of work.

Limited space, no time? – 7 Tips for working anyway

  1. Put everything you need to start work in a plastic storage basket. For a watercolor this would be: pencil, paint set, paper, brushes, water jar, paper towels or rag.  You can put the basket within easy reach and start whenever you are inspired or get an extra moment. Cleanup- easy! Dump it all back into the basket.
  2. Keep a sketchbook together with several drawing materials within reach.  I have a little cloth bag made by my friend Miriam which holds everything I need in the same place. I hang it on a door handle and grab it when the light falls on Bernardo the horse at just the right angle.
  3. Keep a basket of materials for several different media- for example, one for collage, one for wet media, one for oil pastels, etc.
  4. If you don’t have a slanted surface to work on, keep a thin piece of plywood about 10 x 10 inches, depending on your preference for size
    of working.  Put it in your lap and lean it against the table or your knees- instant drawing table!
  5. Make sure you have a mobile angle poise or other simple reading light nearby to illuminate your work.
  6. See how much you can get done in snatched 5-10 minute segments. A quick blind contour. One cut-out shape pasted in a sketchbook. Sometimes just handling the materials can ease that feeling of not being able to get to what you really want to do because of all your ‘Have Tos.
  7. Give yourself permission to do what you love first, before you start your daily ‘To Do’ list.Even if it is only for 10 minutes.

You can do this. You could try making a 30 day commitment to touch art materials to paper for at least 5 minutes every day.

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8 Responses to “Limited space, no time? Do your art anyway”


  1. All very good tips. I have a cupboard in my kitchen used for all my art stuff and I love being able to open the door and get out that box or book and fiddle. Sadly I don’t do it often enough and suffer because of it. I will try harder!!!

  2. fstopfun Says:

    Great tips! I find that I am into so many different things that my small space keeps growing. It’s amazing what you can do with a little room : )

  3. decorartuk Says:

    I love your tips. The “give yourself permission” is the most important though, as this is what I lack. There’s always something that needs to be done right now and, when I get a chance to do something I like doing, it’s usually too late as I’m just exhausted…

    The tip to organise materials by keeping them in separate boxes is also a big help, it’s a real time saver!

    P.S. Your leaves are very pretty. You managed to catch their “souls”.

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Thanks for your appreciation of the leaves. I loved doing that and was re-inspired by the homey but brilliant watercolours of Elizabeth Blackadder, the artist who inspired me to get back into oil painting.


  4. I love the advice you give in this post. I take my camera with me just to walk outside to the clubhouse. Not knowing what I’ll find yet something always presents itself: a praying mantis, the sun through the morning mist. So much wonder to enjoy, to create. Thank you!


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