So you’ve tried making changes to your artwork process, your habits, your daily work rituals, and nothing seems to work. You always eventually fall off the wagon, only to try again in a few month’s time.
The good news is that there’s a way to break this cyclical thought process: the toxic idea that you’re just lazy and need to be more productive. I want to introduce you to a new way of thinking:
IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THE SYSTEM
What exactly does this mean? We’re gonna discuss the “what” and the “how” so you can start incorporating this into your artwork process, your work, and your life in general.
“I just need to find the right motivation.”
“Other people do this easily, why is this so hard for me?”
“I’m just being lazy.”
Do any of these sound familiar? Either from other people in your life or from your own thoughts?
Our capitalist society places heavy emphasis on the importance of productivity. The culture within the art industry similarly represents a similar mindset. It’s not only occasional productivity but constant, to the point of feeling guilty when we aren’t “productive” (aka working, which isn’t actually the same thing, though we often use both terms interchangeably).
We are also constantly exposed to examples of ideal lifestyles through social media. We see other artists with perfectly organized workstations and decorated studios. They seem to flow easily through the different stages of a painting, never struggling or making mistakes, always presenting masterpiece after masterpiece.
We have all these factors competing to remind us to always remain productive. That we are lazy if we aren’t productive.
I have a personal theory that true laziness doesn’t exist.
People that are accused of being lazy (or who are accusing themselves of laziness) are either overworked, or they don’t have the physical, emotional, or social, support that they need. Any of those things, or, they just haven’t found the right system yet.
A system is a way of getting things done. Everyone has a slightly different system. It can be the order in which you do things, your organization style, the way you work, etc.
I think we all have this idea in our head of what a “good” system looks like, even what the “perfect” system looks like. We see the way other people function, point to that and say “That’s how I want to be!” only to consider ourselves failures when it doesn’t work out exactly as planned.
This type of thinking is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that there is morality to a system in the first place. As if there are good systems vs. bad systems, and basically every process that isn’t the “perfect” system automatically falls into the bad category.
So the goal of all this is to identify which system works best for you, regardless of what you think the perfect version looks like.
So how do we figure this out in the first place?
Maybe, as a theoretical example (absolutely and most definitely NOT based on personal experience whatsoever lol), you really hate cleaning your paintbrushes. You hate the whole process, it’s a huge chore. If there were an environmentally and budget-friendly way of using a new brush every time you paint, you would do that.
If we use this as an example, you might think that ordering super expensive brushes would help you become the type of person that loves to clean their brushes. While there is a chance of that, it’s a pretty big jump to go from one end of the spectrum (despises cleaning brushes) to the other end (only uses super expensive high-end brushes).
So, logically, you should consider what the very next step would be for you, based on where you’re at right now.
Instead of stressing out over ruining expensive brushes, you can embrace your personal system for now and find whatever IS working and expand on that. For example, you could try and use less brushes during your painting session so you don’t have as many to clean in the first place. Maybe you experiment with oil vs. turpentine vs. soap, etc., to see what process is fastest for you.
In any case, it’s been shown that gradual changes are more effective than dramatic, sweeping changes. Just focus on the next step, and over time, you’ll find a system you’re comfortable with.
When you’ve tried multiple options and none of them seem to work, keep experimenting.
You just haven’t found the right system (for you) yet!