I am happiest when I realise that there is something to investigate, something that doesn’t quite fit. I love the slow development of an idea. The slow convergence of thoughts that often come after a period of incubation. l realise then that there is a problem worth tackling, a problem that is going to become my muse. It is exciting to think that possibly, this concept hasn’t occurred to anyone else. If it has occurred to someone before me, they will likely approached it in a completely different way. I love my work more than what it produces.
I love going deeper, I just follow my hunch and allow it to unfold. When l am relaxed fresh insight and new connections will often present themselves. I enjoy being spontaneous and trying the different things that occur to me in the moment. Taking half formed concepts from other disciplines; taking them back to something simple and basic. Stripping away the layers of nature and making them new.
Related blog post; I love my work more than what it produces
In doing so I have come to realise the significance of another type of time, so called idle time. I can’t explain it or the steps involved. But it’s time drawing, time photographing, time playing, time experimenting in my sketchbook and time idlily painting. It isn’t time squandered. It’s development time, where I take one step forward, two sides ways and often one backwards. Time that becomes something.
If I trusted that everything was already correct I wouldn’t discover anything new. So instead, l trust myself to challenge that previous knowledge and develop my ideas and connections. As a result l often find new exciting forms of representation. No wonder I love my work more than what it produces.
Once the work is made however, I worry about having my ideas on show. I am naturally shy and I don’t like being the centre of attention. My creative work is never finished, I can’t wait to get back to my studio to play and exercise my signature strengths. I thrive on the process of discovery and I want to paint something better than I did yesterday. I have come to realise, I love (the development of) my work more than what it produces.
Related blog post; I love my work more than what it produces
Congratulations! You have just started reading a blog post that encourages you to be idle in order to improve your creative work. So relax, put your feet up and read on to find out how being idle can be turned into the art of being idle.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America said, “It is the working man who is a happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” This quote reflects a common misunderstanding about the benefits of being busy versus the benefits of being idle. It is important to clear this problem up for us creative people.
I am not denying working hard is needed to be able to achieve success in all fields of work. It clearly does take quite a lot of hard work to be successful in almost every domain. However, over time I have come to realise that a key part in becoming a successful artist is by not making yourself so busy that deep work becomes impossible.
To resolve creative problems and break through with new ideas finding quality time in the studio is only part of a bigger picture. Of course, if you’re not in the studio making new work regularly then you need to make some adjustments to your working week. My main point here is that it is also it is important to have idle time in your week for reflection and contemplation. If you haven’t already got this highly valuable time in your week it is advisable to make some adjustments too.
The art of being idle explained
Creative ideas never come to me in a full and complete form. Often it feels like ideas are not moving forward and I often have to ponder on a problem to resolve a piece of work. A slow incubation of ideas forms in my subconscious. Sometimes I try to resolve a problem through preparation drawings. I might try sketching, using collage and playing with an open mind to help to move my ideas forward.
At one time I use to sit and procrastinate but over time I have realised that when this happens I need to move on to something else and keep on working. I don’t have time just to sit there waiting for an idea to resolve itself.
I have noticed my best ideas come when I am not directly thinking about the problem I am trying to resolve. In effect my best ideas come when I am not busy but when l am idle. I have discovered that creating a fine balance in my weekly schedule allows me time to be idle.
My subconscious works overtime during a good nights sleep. Then in the following days and weeks when I am carrying out a mundane activity: possibly in the shower, walking, driving or doing some household tasks when I’m not focusing on anything, in particular, my mind wanders, my focus starts to drift and I start day-dreaming. It is in these moments that the answer pops into my head as if by magic an idea trickles through my subconscious as if from no-where.
I do realise however that this creative idleness would not work if l didn’t know my craft well. If l didn’t have the skills l have acquired through practice. If l didn’t have the openness of mind to work through solutions and ideas. Then l would stumble and fail to reach a solution about developing my idea into a finished piece of work.
During the time I am idle, my unconscious mind is always working. There is no disconnecting my artistic thoughts and problem-solving. However, if I was busy all the time I believe the solutions wouldn’t surface in my mind. I have also discovered that once the problem is resolved in my brain I can’t retrace the steps that go into creating that solution.
In conclusion, the art of being idle feels like a mystery, like a journey into the unknown where the mind takes over and small thoughts and concepts bloom with a life of their own. I hope this small explanation into the art of being idle helps you to resolve your own ideas by relaxing and letting your subconscious mind take over.
A group of scientists recently looked into the most effective ways of learning. They suggested that long sessions and all-nighters don’t give us the best opportunity to learn. After reading about this 12 months ago, I changed my weekly studio calendar. I found from a simple change, there are advantages for developing your artistic practice and increasing learning in the studio. I now visit my studio multiple times in a week and do 2-3 hours, I not only achieve more, I also learn more.
Related link to; ‘increasing your learning in the studio’
This is because our minds store information in many different places in our brains. This process strengthens the connections in our brain. With regularly spaced repetition we can make the most out of the way our minds work and achieve better retention of skills and knowledge.
It is mainly down to the frequency and the spacing of the intervals. So rather than visiting the studio once a week, try many shorter visits while repeating creative tasks. When you come and go you strengthened your knowledge. In the absence, your mind subconsciously works to resolve issues in your work. Ideas and solutions pop up when your away from the studio.
The moments in the artist’s studio are under our control. Anything that happens to your work outside the studio after it is made is out of your control. While opportunities to show your work are extra special they not supposed to be the reason for making the artwork. The reason why I am an artist and why I work on my artistic practice is focused on learning and advancing in the studio. By making something purposeful, I am feeding and enhancing my life’s work. I hope this piece of advice helps improvement at a faster pace. Afterall, the journey is the goal.
Related post to; ‘increasing your learning in the studio’
I am taking positive steps to make me more productive in the studio including things like planning and reviewing what I am going to do in the studio before I arrive and creating some studio ground rules.
I have a list of current projects and series of work l am trying to complete. Before l go to my studio I write down a short list of next steps l need to take, often between two or three depending on long each one will take. This brief list is handwritten in my diary, so it is clear to follow. This way I know what my first task is, therefore avoiding beginning with an extended period of uncertainty. Of course, uncertainty when painting is always present, but I try to remove it at this stage with preplanning.
To choose the right tasks, I ask myself a series of questions; If l only achieve 2-3 tasks in a day what would these tasks be and would l be satisfied if l only get these done? If I made only one work of excellence, which one would make an enormous difference and have the greatest consequences?
To help keep my mind clear and on creative studio time I write down all the distractions l might encounter on a to-do list. Plus l avoid all office and business related tasks while in the studio to avoid all low-level activities. Even if these tasks are urgent, I still try to do them after my creative block of time of one to three hours. The creative time must come first.
The rules I have put in place while working are;
Phone on silent, select music quickly (if I choose to listen to any at all), no tv or video, no newspapers, no friends dropping by, no emailing, no internet research unless it is related to making my next work, therefore no diversions and distractions from the creative task ahead.
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