The (un)importance of consistent art-making
Painting is a creative endeavour which (in my experience) asks for a certain amount of discipline. Painting can be frustrating and confronting, and then it’s easy to skip painting.
But there’s a risk in that. Once you start procrastinating and skip one day of painting, it becomes more probable that you skip the next day too. The things that hinder you today will probably still hinder you tomorrow. Your life situation or your psychological makeup will not have changed overnight. Next day you can feel still uninspired, doubtful, busy and tired. The counterforces that keep you from painting have probably not changed.
Procrastination is self-reinforcing. Before you know it, you drop it, if your paintings don’t turn out the way you want them. Setting a rhythm helps you to push through when painting doesn’t feel comfortable or easy. Consistency is important!
At the same time, I believe equally in the unimportance of consistency.
Discipline is a good thing but, if you drive it too far, it turns into rigidity. That does not serve you well. You deplete yourself, and you don’t give yourself enough rest to recover from intense work. Undue discipline makes you inflexible, and holding on to your self-chosen rhythm too tightly makes you a slave of your own good intentions. You start to dislike painting, and your art feels forced and unnatural.
The borderline between pushing yourself too hard and not being disciplined enough is very thin, and everybody has to find out for her- or himself where that border lies. It can depend on circumstances, of course, and can change in time. Moreover, it doesn’t matter that much if you don’t draw the borderline right every time. You can take that lightly.
Take a break
I first wanted to hold on to the rhythm of daily painting very strictly. But then circumstances changed for a while. My family situation was demanding at the time. There was other work to do. Daily painting was too much then.
Suddenly I realized that I don’t need to hold on to my daily painting that strict. Sometimes I need or like to have a break from my painting. I don’t feel ‘guilty’ I don’t paint because I deliberately choose not to paint at these moments. Sometimes life is just busy enough without painting. Sometimes I just don’t feel like it.
I am very happy with this rhythm of painting and not painting. Not painting gives my subconscious the time to come up with new ideas and to digest what I have been doing. This way, I stay inspired, and it is less likely that I get in a rut.
Still, I want to encourage you to paint on a consistent basis, if possible daily. Daily painting is incredibly powerful. I write about this extensively here.
At the same time, dare to be inconsistent. Don’t force yourself too hard, don’t become your own slave driver, and take time off if you need to.
But then: make your inconsistency consistent. What I mean by that is that you can create a schedule which includes painting as well as not painting, activity as well as rest, work as well as pause. This way you don’t have to decide in the moment whether or not you are going to paint on a given day; you already made the decision. Doing so provides clarity.
And, last but not least, there is nothing wrong with happily slacking without any good reason every once in awhile!
I hope you enjoy your day immensely and I wish you all the best!
How do you create a rhythm of painting and not painting? Tell us in the comments below!