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Creativity November 13, 2014

Profound Life Lessons Learned from Making Art for 15 Minutes Every Day

So, I’m a little over half way through my #15MinArt 15 minutes a day art project… and I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve been getting out of doing this consistently now for 2 and a half weeks. Some of the lessons I was totally expecting. Some of the lessons I was totally expecting to be presented with haven’t really materialized. But best of all, there have been a few completely unexpected gems in here – gems that are making me a better artist, better business owner, and even a better person.

It’s not about the art skillz

First of all, I honestly expected that the main thing I would get out of doing art daily was that I would really improve my art skills. That has happened to a degree, but not nearly as much as I thought it would. Let’s face it: in 15 minutes, I’m not creating major masterpieces. I’m moving fast, making mistakes, lowering my own expectations and going with the flow. There’s no time to finesse my abilities.

Perfectionism is getting put in it’s place

Never in my life have I shared so much art that I was unhappy with. In fact, I’ve NEVER shared art I’ve been unhappy with, period. If I don’t like it, nobody sees it but me. The most fascinating part of this project has been how many people respond to and like the stuff I don’t like. I’ve finally realized that the art I create is not always for my own gratification. I can allow myself to tweak some projects over and over again until I am in love with them – and other pieces are there for others to love. That’s still hard for me to accept at times, but the more I just put myself out there, the less I am attached to what people think, which is a really good thing for me. That’s a lesson I really needed to learn.

Trusting my intuition

This lesson was pointed out to me in a comment from my awesome Instagram friend Crystal Foth, who has been participating in the project as well. I’ll quote her directly:

“The 15 min. time limit is making it easier for me to confront painting without tons of expectations. Otherwise I get stuck in my head and have the perfectionist need to make a “great” painting and not just make art for the sake of making art. I find I have to just trust my gut with the limited time and paint a bit more intuitively which I love.”

Painting from an intuitive place has been amazing… and is forcing me to create art that I never thought I could create, especially within such a short time frame. It has also carried over to my other art for my next book and for a new body of work I am developing, making them both better than I could have made them without my intuition having a say in what is going on.

Ideas are overrated

Doing this every day started getting to be a game of outdoing myself from the previous day. Coming up with great ideas that I could complete in 15 minutes became the absolute hardest part of things… to the point in which I was taking 45 minutes to brainstorm what I would do with my 15 minutes. WTF, I’m missing my own whole damn point of this project. So one day, I just sat down and painted whatever came to mind. I absolutely detested it at first. I kept at it, and became even more skeptical that I could pull it off. I almost gave up on it twice. Then I got near the end and it started coming together. It became one of my favorite pieces of the series so far. Since that day I’ve forced myself to think less about bringing a great idea to life and instead thinking more about how I can make any idea great. That is a HUGE shift for me.

Uncovering shit I need to work on

The MOST unexpected thing to happen during this project is that several people along the way have offered to buy some of the pieces from the series. This has triggered the HELL out of me in so many ways it’s almost comical. My responses have been, shall we say, less than ideal:

  • Oh, uh, let me think about that.
  • Uh, I dunno what to say about that, so I’m not going to say anything.
  • And when I’ve really chickened out: Nah, I know you just threw money in my face, but I’m just going to send you the art for free. (Seriously?!)

Part of the problem here is that since I didn’t expect to create any art that was all that great, I didn’t have a response planned to this inquiry. Also, since everybody knows I only spent 15 minutes on it, I’ve found I am really having a hard time putting a value on something that took so little time (and in my mind) so little skill.

In the past, this would be a huge deal and I’d toss and turn all night, and beat myself up for it. Instead, this time around I immediately scheduled a call with my coach and asked for her input. Her beautiful response was exactly what I was thinking I’d do – “Why don’t you sell them for $15?” It’s a perfect and symbolic price point for these pieces, plus gives me an answer for future inquiries.  I realized this isn’t me undervaluing my work as I have done so many times in the past – instead I simply found myself in a situation I hadn’t planned on, and didn’t have a planned response. In many ways I’m new to selling my own art, and guess what? I need practice.

What’s Next?

I think the best part of doing this project is the momentum it is giving me to work on my other projects. I’ve found I suddenly have a ton more patience to work on my paying gigs, mostly because I finally have more than 15 minutes to work on something and I get to really dive into the creative process with no constraints. I have a quarter of my next coloring book completed, and it’s not due to the publisher until March of next year. I’ve started a new body of work that I plan on licensing and selling via Etsy and Zazzle. And I’m doing it all with twice the confidence I had when I started my #15MinArt project.

And I’m only on Day 19! I still have 11 more days of lessons and gems to uncover. I’m so incredibly grateful I did this… I hope I inspire at least one more person to dive in and get going with their own creative endeavors. 🙂

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  • Crystal Foth
    Crystal Foth
    November 13, 2014

    You’ve inspired me beyond words with this project. I’m so honored and grateful to be included in your post! I’ll be honest it choked me up a bit. I feel like who am I to say something to inspire someone like you, who in my eyes has accomplished so much, while I’m just a mom trying to squeeze 15 minutes to paint into my day between full time job, my family, and my blog. Goes to show me we all have unique value in the art we create, the words we write and speak, and in everything we create. We just need to put it out there. Thank you for helping me see that. I’ve been beating myself up because I couldn’t keep up and have skipped days. I’m not giving up! Some art is better than no art!! Thank you for inspiring me and connecting with me online! It’s a wonderful creative journey to be on! 🙂

  • Kay
    May 19, 2015

    A quilting and sewing friend of mine were talking about this “new” craze of Adult Coloring this last week. We were both fascinated and decided it would be fun to take the idea to our sewing group.
    I dug out my pens and pencils from my, 10 years ago scrapbooking phase, downloaded a bunch of pictures and took them to our next meeting. Everyone, and I mean everyone, grabbed a sheet to color and pens or pencils. We had more fun, just being kids again. Did I mention we are All over 70 years of age.

    I am a little more into the how part of it and love your info on the pens and pencils. We are off and running.

  • Casey
    June 22, 2015

    Color me inspired!! I’m going to do this… thank you for the motivation, muse!

  • Alexis
    October 3, 2015

    Hi. While scanning the web for basic watercolor colors to get, I chanced upon your blog. My project 50/15 (cooking 50 food/desert before the year 2015 ends and posting it on facebook) is almost done and I was thinking of a next project. 15 mins of art everyday is a great idea! Like you I also get caught up on the idea phase. I’m so excited to start this once I get my materials. I also hope to sell future artworks but my priority for now is enhancing my first love, visual art. Thanks for the idea. I hope you won’t mind if I link your post when I start the project. Xoxo.

  • Wendy
    October 8, 2015

    Please do, thank you!! 🙂

  • Ellen
    January 19, 2016

    I’m inspired by your project! I’ve dabbled in coloring since last summer, but have been wanting to spend more time on it, but I’m a stickler for nice pens or markers and didn’t know what to buy. So I finally Googled (of course) and found your site and materials recs. So that was great, but then I noticed your post about the profound lessons you learned, and I clicked on it. Wow, what you (and Crystal!) have written is so in sync with where I’m at. I’m inspired to check out your 15min projects and so much more of your site and work. Thank you.

  • Peachy
    January 27, 2016

    Wow! I’m simply amazed! And inspired 🙂