You probably know by now that making art is good for you. But can it be fun when you do it on your own? How do you maintain the habit of making art when your friends aren’t there to keep you company, and when your familiar walls are staring blankly back at you?  


Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to be creative when you don’t have the stimulation of a teacher telling you what to do next—or other students to inspire you and push you to do your best work. Sometimes other people are what make the activity the most fun, right? Not only do you have the camaraderie of friendship and sharing, but you can get some friendly competition going as well! 


You don’t have to leave all that behind when you make art on your own. If you have a smartphone, you probably use it for texting. So start texting pictures of your at-home projects to friends! If you use Facebook or Instagram, those are both great platforms for sharing artworks, and you’ll get instant feedback—which is great motivation for continuing to create!  

The important message here is to look for every opportunity to be creative. Here are a few more suggestions on how to stretch your art muscles daily: 


  1. Doodle! According to a landmark 2009 study by Jackie Andrade in the U.K., doodling while performing a tedious task can increase concentration and recall. The study asked participants to fill in various shapes while listening to a long, boring recorded message. A control group was given a pad of lined paper and given no special instructions. Both groups were told that some names they heard during the message might be important. Everyone in the study was given a surprise memory test at the completion of the exercise. The participants who doodled—the ones who filled in shapes while listening to the recorded message—scored higher than the control group on concentration and recall measures. So stock up on those coloring books!    


  1. Start thinking of yourself as a creative person. Girija Kaimal, an art therapist at Drexel University, suggests letting go of the idea that you’re not an artist. She says, “Everyone is capable of creative expression.” So maybe you’re not a painter or sculptor. Do you like to knit or bake? Do you write poems or letters? Collect stamps? Scrapbook? All of these are creative expressions, too, so you have no excuses now for not thinking of yourself as a creative person! Spend some time seriously thinking about and listing all the ways you are creative in your life, starting with what might be the most important: Do you have children? Do you have a garden or grow house plants? All these take creativity to maintain, and many artists “begin at home” with their subject matter. For example, look up the French Impressionist Rosa Bonheur, who was famous for her soft portraits of mothers and children. Or the contemporary painter Jonas Wood, whose quirky still lifes often feature potted plants and unusual ceramic pots. 


  1. Begin an “art habit.” Every day, set aside some time—a small amount of time at first, if you have a full schedule—to indulge in your chosen art form. Increase that amount of time if and whenever you wish. It’s totally up to you. It helps if it’s the same time every day, if that works with your schedule. Maybe you ride the bus to and from work or a volunteer job; the bus might be your quiet time to draw, write, knit, or think about your creative projects. Or maybe you like to relax in the afternoon with a cup of tea or coffee. Add a sketchbook and you’re all set! 


  1. Stake out your space! If you have a dedicated space in your home, so much the better. If you’re lucky, it’s an entire room, with space to spread out your current project, and shelves or cabinets to hold all your supplies. It might be just a corner of a room, or a small table under a window in the guest room. But even if your space is a box that you haul out whenever you have spare time and unpack on your kitchen table, you can still do great things.    


  1. Give yourself assignments. Keep yourself energized with large and small challenges. If you can’t think of anything to do, have a list of projects on hand to draw from (the internet is a wonderful source for idea lists). Assignments can be as simple as “Draw one thing you see on the table” or as complex as “Create a still life.” A good way to practice drawing faces is to copy pictures from books and magazines—and now you can find many images online to copy. The old masters used to learn by copying statues and paintings in museums. These days, it may not be quite safe to visit museums yet, but several museums are open online. For example, The Metroplitan in New York and The Hermitage in St. Petersburg are just two of many museums that have uploaded thousands of images of important artworks for viewing, so you can keep busy sketching in front of your laptop or tablet!  


  1. Focus on the process. You don’t need to finish every project. Try not to judge yourself and your work. Remember and try to taste the “flow” state that you sometimes feel when you’re humming along in the creative zone. That flow state is essential to mindfulness, which is one of the tools that helps to improve mental health. Mindfulness is the idea of being in the present moment; focusing on the task at hand; minimizing distractions. 


  1. Reward yourself! Nobody should work in a vacuum. Just because a teacher is not there to give you a gold star doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reward yourself for a job well done once in a while. When you reach a milestone—for instance, your goal could be completing several small drawings, a large knitting project, or a complicated bakery item—treat yourself to a lunch out with friends, or some new art supplies you’ve been craving, or maybe a new recipe book. It’s a way of acknowledging the work you put into your creative expression.  


Written by Patricia Rockwood, Instructor and Staff Writer.