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Make Time To Paint: Tips and Advice

Raise your hand if you are completely satisfied with the amount of painting you do just for yourself…

No? No one?

This seems to be a big problem for so many of us. I recently asked about this in a Facebook post and it seems that so many of us are struggling with similar issues.

So what keeps you from painting as much as you would like to?

Is it finding the time?
Lack of ideas?
Fear of not being good enough?
The cost of the materials?
Too many distractions?

My Challenges

For me it’s probably a combination of of time and distractions.

I paint every day but it’s rarely just for my own sake. I’m almost always working on a commission or designing the next class. It feels selfish to me sometimes to just paint for the sake of painting. That can be the struggle when your passion is also how you make a living. I really wish I did carve out more time for fun exploration of my craft. I’m always put into a good mood when I do.

Painting Is Good For Your Soul

You can think of painting as exercise for your soul. It’s good for you. Once you commit to doing it that day, you just feel better. I can’t be sure, but I doubt that anyone wishes they didn’t do it after they have taken the time for it.

I used to have a Y membership that I never used. Whenever I looked down at my key chain and saw that access card, it made me feel bad for not going but it didn’t actually make me go. Painting is kind of like that too.

Do you have empty white canvases sitting around waiting to be made into something magical? Did you purchase an online class that you haven’t opened yet?

Don’t let these things paralyze you into not acting. You will feel better if you just do it.

What Stands Between You and Your Paints?

So let’s talk about what is in the way. I got so many responses from you when I asked this question.

There were a variety of answers but a few stood out as being a hindrance for many of you.

The common answers were distractions, time, and fear.

I think all of these are related. It’s easy to put your painting session on a pedestal. You want it to be productive and fruitful so you feel like you need to have everything in order to even begin. You want to have your idea laid out, a big block of time to work on it and you don’t want to mess up!

The problem with this is, you never start.

I think the best advice I can give is to not paint so much for the outcome but for the experience.

Everything doesn’t need to be just right. You are far better off painting for the 30 minutes you have free than to not do it at all.

If you are afraid that what you produce won’t be good then don’t go into it with the intentions of showing everyone. Do it for you.

You are probably going to surprise yourself and want to show it off.

Here’s a little pro secret: paintings actually look better when you photograph them!

I think it has something to do with detaching yourself from the problems in the painting that you’ve been focusing so much on. Try it. You will see what I mean.

When you take that photo and post it on social media, you will get compliments. I promise.

Consider sharing it in a group page full of other artists rather that just on your personal page. This feels a little safer and you might get some helpful feedback.

Everyone is their own worst critic.

You might have completely missed something that is amazing about your work but someone else will surely spot it. Be kind to yourself.

If you are a beginner, great! You have so much room to grow. Maybe you’ve been painting professionally for decades but it’s been in the area of decorative wall and furniture finishes. You are just starting to dive into your own art because you are ready to “get off the wall”.

I understand that when you are used to being an expert in a craft and then you experiment with something that is outside of your comfort zone, it can feel intimidating. I think many of us are perfectionists so it’s hard to explore something we might not be amazing at right out of the gate. But isn’t if fun to see yourself get better?

Celebrate your wins!

Finding The Time To Paint

I’m a morning person so my advice when trying to find the time to paint would be do it first thing in the morning. Get up 45 minutes earlier. If you have a home studio, get your supplies out before you go to bed and have them ready to go. Then when you wake up, you can grab your coffee and jump right in.

I also think that starting your day with something that feeds your soul is just good for you. It’s going to make you have a better day when you know that you started it off taking some time for yourself.

You might also create something beautiful that you can then reflect on throughout the day.

If you plan to do it at the end of the day, distractions will get in the way and you will talk yourself out of it or just forget about it altogether. I wish I could use this advice myself, but unfortunately my 5 year old is also a morning person and he is normally up at 5:30am. I’ve tried to creep down the stairs at 5 to get a little work done and it’s absolutely no use. He will wake up immediately. Hopefully this is not your problem.

Maybe you aren’t in a place in life where it’s small children who are taking up your time but rather aging parents. If this is you, let me first just say you have my utmost respect. My parents took care of my grandparents for the last few years of their lives and I’ve seen the commitment that it takes to provide care with grace and dignity.

Have you considered having them paint with you?

I’m no expert on this but I’ve read that working on a craft is so good for the elderly. Not only that, but let’s circle back to the concerns being good. Do you know who are usually our best cheerleaders? Mom and Dad! This has been true in my case anyways. My mom would shout from the rooftops for people to see the things I created as a child. Whether they were any good or not!

Paint small.

I just ordered 40 8″x 8″ panels. I don’t typically work so small but I’m realizing that this is a really good practice.

Not every painting needs to be a grand masterpiece.

Paint a whole bunch of little ones. This not only makes you a better painter because you will learn from each piece, but it also allows you to try a lot of different subjects and techniques so you can find you voice. If space is an issue, painting small also helps with that.

Finding The Space To Paint

Sometimes the set up can be what is keeping us from painting more. It feels like a lot of work to pull everything out and take over a space in your home if you don’t have a studio. I have spent many days painting at the kitchen table. I get it.

I think the best solution if you do not have a studio is to designate a separate space away from the action where you can leave your stuff out for a while.

It will help you to come back to it if you don’t need to set it up all over again.

Get yourself a good easel and if that’s not in the budget, a table top easel is very inexpensive and works just fine for small pieces. There are also some really cute little carts with shelves that will hold all your paint and brushes while giving you a space to set your palette.

Lighting is pretty important so if you are not going to be able to use natural light, you can get a desk lamp with an arm that will clip onto your easel.

The set up doesn’t need to be big and elaborate to work.

If you do have a studio, lucky you! My studio is my haven. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to go there to work every day. It also helps that there are 40 other artists in my building so there is no shortage of inspiration.

Here’s another tip that I am so guilty of not doing. I cannot even believe I am writing this.

Put away your phone!

It will suck the time out of your precious painting session in a heartbeat. Somebody please hold me accountable on this one! I know this is a huge distraction for me.

Some of it is justified. I need to be photographing my work and promoting it on social media. However, I am certain that I spend too much time just scrolling.

Have you noticed that the new iphones will create a report on your average screen time per day and it will pop up randomly at the end of the week? I hate it. I don’t think any of us really want to see that number. When it’s staring you in the face though and you are still thinking that you don’t have any free time for painting, just imagine if that time was used for something that actually brings you joy and purpose! It’s a tough pill to swallow.

We do have the time. We are often just letting it slip away into nothingness.

Let’s end on a more positive note! There are so many reasons to paint more and I hope that these tips have given you some insight as to how to make it happen.

We need to support each other! Let’s cheer each other on when we carve out the time in our schedules to make it happen.

It’s really all about priorities.

You need to take care of yourself in order to be better for the people you love.

I am a better mom because I’m doing the things I love every day. I need this! As Demetri Martin said, “The earth without art is just eh”!

Want to learn some new techniques and get more YOU time to paint?

A Healthy Body of Art

It’s January and everyone is on a health kick so I thought I’d join the crowd, at least in what I’m painting! I’m not sure if this counts in making me any healthier, but I’m feeling pretty good about it! Of course I’d certainly benefit from using that gym membership a few more times that I pay for each month but any working mom can relate that finding the time is not always easy.

So back to the art. I started a new series of still life paintings featuring fruits and vegetables and I’m loving it! I decided that this was going to be the year of working small and painting a lot so I am cranking them out. I’ve also used these beauties as research for my new online workshop, The Lively Still Life 1. This class is now available as part of the Zenso Creative Club monthly bundle. It’s been fun to switch gears and subject matter and experiment with composition and color.


Has this inspired me to eat healthier? Maybe a little. I think at least a few of these little pieces will make their way onto me kitchen walls. I don’t have a lot of wall space in my kitchen so the their 8″x 8″ size might work out just right.

Sometimes we think in order to start a new painting or a new series we need to have everything in order, with the perfect image, supplies, set up and amount of time to paint. This series is teaching me that that is ridiculous. Grab, some veggies out of your fridge, take a photo and get started! There are certainly ways to make your piece the most successful and I lay those out in this new workshop, but the most important thing is to just get started. Most of these paintings were done in about a hour. I think there is something just magical about going from a blank white panel to a brand new work of art in minutes! I could have continued working on each of these for a full day and added more and more detail but I think that might have ruined them. Its the fresh loose strokes and dramatic color that make them successful.

I hope you love these as much as I do and hopefully they will inspire you to paint more and maybe even eat a little healthier!

You can check out my new online workshop The Lively Still Life 1 HERE! This class is valued at $250 and you can access it for a limited time for only $29 a month. Work at your own pace and cancel anytime!

Here’s a peak inside this new class!

Reflecting on a Decade

Lots of changes over the past 10 years, both in my art and my life!

Ten years ago everything was different! Well, almost everything. I was already working as an artist and I was married to my wonderful husband, but other than that, life looked pretty different! I lived in Wisconsin in the same town I grew up in. I worked in a studio that happened to also double as my parent’s basement! We didn’t have children yet and I was still trying to recover my career as we creeped our way out of the recession.

As we dive into a new decade, I thought it would be fun to look back on the major changes in my personal and professional life which seem to strangely overlap when you are an artist. My passion is also my work.

1. We moved from Wisconsin to Texas, then Tennessee, then a few more blocks. We’ve lived in four different houses this decade, and I think it’s about time to settle down!

2. We discovered Haiti. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, something hit me too. I’m not sure why other than it was a God’s plan. I had heard about plenty of other natural disasters, but this time I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I started painting portraits that I found on a friend’s Facebook page and before I knew it, we were there in the country.

3. Kids change everything!

In 2014 we welcomed our first son Breckin. He is now 5 and the funniest, most determined little boy you will ever meet!

We started the adoption process in 2010. It would take us 6 years to complete. Sometimes it seems like God’s timing is crazy. After this long battle with paperwork, we finally brought our son Wilson home in 2016.

4. Live Painting!

I started doing live painting this decade which ranged from creating art during worship services, to painting weddings, to fundraisers, to 20 minute speed paintings while Rick Rushing played live.

5. Murals and More!

I found myself in a lot of interesting spaces, from 30 foot high ceilings, to the sides of buildings. During the three years I spent in Houston, I painted a lot! I found there was an incredible demand there for custom murals and finishes in all of the beautiful homes there. This really gave my career the fuel it needed after some lean years during the recession when art was the last thing anyone was carving out of their budgets.

6. Time to Teach!

I found myself as a teacher. Actually I kind of feel like teaching found me! It was never something I set out to do. I actually didn’t think I would be good at it, but as it turns out, I was wrong. I was invited to teach a small private class at a studio in Houston to members of the decorative arts organization IDAL.

My first workshop at NCF studio.

This turned into teaching at their annual convention in Indianapolis.

2013 IDAL convention

This turned into members who couldn’t make it to the convention contacting me and asking to come to my studio in Chattanooga for a class.

My very first workshop in Chattanooga

After such an incredible response to the classes I offered at my studio, I decided it was time to go all in and make teaching a substantial part of my art business. In 2018 I moved into a new studio space at my building where I could permanently set up for regular classes.

I now host students from all over the country and even a few from outside the U.S. on a regular basis.

7. Online Classes are here!

I had been thinking about trying to produce an online workshop for about a year when I was contacted by Terry Eldridge from ZENSO Creative. She was starting a new company working with a select group of instructors and she wanted me on the team! All the pieces of the puzzle fit together and I produced 4 online classes in 2019! The response to these classes is beyond what I could have ever imagined!

8. We bought and/ or renovated 5 rental properties over the past 5 years! In our spare time we thought it would be a good idea work on a house or two! It’s been fun to see the 100 year old houses in our neighborhood turn into something new and fresh. The growing popularity of our funky little city has made them super desirable as rentals!

Even the kids helped out!

9. Rusty Blooms

I discovered Modern Masters Metal Effects paints after attending the 2011 IDAL convention and I couldn’t stop experimenting with it! I developed a technique to incorporate it into my fine art and it has spread like wildfire. I teach these techniques in my classes. It’s awesome to see my students get hooked as well!

10. Portraits continue to be on high demand from my clients. I love painting faces. It’s so much fun to experiment with thick juicy brushstrokes and vivid unexpected colors. December is usually filled with portrait commission requests from clients looking for a unique and memorable gift. I love being a part of that!

It’s truly been quite an eventful decade! I am blessed with health, family, and amazing opportunities as an artist. I am so excited for 2020! I have big plans. You can surely expect to see more online classes, more live classes, and more daily painting from me! Big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way! I couldn’t do this without you!

God is good, all the time! Cheers!

My Grandma’s Breckel Torte

Thanksgiving preparations have already begun in full force around my house. My parents who live in Wisconsin will arrive late Wednesday evening and my kids only have school Monday and Tuesday this week so I decided I better get what I could done this weekend. With my parents, our next door neighbors and another family of long time friends, we will have 12 for dinner on Thursday. My 10 year old son was interested in helping in the kitchen today and I have to admit, I couldn’t stop thinking about how thankful I was that we could spend this bit of special time together.

Thanksgiving has become my holiday. Most of our family lives in Wisconsin and we always go there for Christmas so we have come accustomed to hosting the meal at our house each year. Sometimes we have family join us and other times our table is full of friends. This year it will be both.

Thanksgiving was also my grandma’s holiday. She hosted it every year until about 10 years ago when it started to become too much for her. She would start preparing at least a full week ahead of time, maybe more. Here table would be neatly covered with her best table cloth and she would start making lists. When we would arrive on Thanksgiving day, my cousins and I would each find our name on a list with a job. One of us might be in charge of setting the fine silverware which lived in the special box that came out once a year. Another might have the task of mashing the potatoes. She was always so organized and she managed to pull off a picture perfect meal every year for our group of 11-14 (depending on the number of boyfriends present).

One staple of our Thanksgiving meal was always Grandma’s Breckel Torte. This is an old German dessert. It’s basically a chewy, nutty version of strawberry short cake. My Grandma made it every year and it was always a favorite. I can’t help but think about the year when someone dropped glass and it broke into the Breckel Torte. My devout Lutheran Grandma yelled a quick 4 letter word and made it a holiday we would never forget. It just meant that much to her.

This morning when I started looking through my recipe book, I found the recipe for Breckel Torte that she mailed to me in 2011. It said, “Ali, your mom had told me you wanted my Breckel Torte recipe, and I meant to enclose it with your birthday card, but didn’t so here it is. I’ve been making it for 60+ years and my sister-in-law made it many years before that. So enjoy & think of us every time you make it !!!” I started to cry on the inside. My Grandma passed away two years ago and this is only our second Thanksgiving without her. She was such a special lady and I will treasure this hand written recipe and note from her. I will pass it down to my children and grandchildren. It just made me think that this is really what holidays are about.

So I wanted to share this special recipe from my Grandma Luella with you. I promise you it is delicious and it will have a special place at our Thanksgiving table this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ali