• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

Artistic Discipline

We often don't think of art in terms of a discipline. Usually we think art is "outside the box" and creativity "happens," it isn't planned. But, if art is your whole life, then it is also a discipline, and requires you to self discipline.


Discipline means "practice or training to change behavior." That means training yourself to paint at a certain time every week (or every day) whether you feel inspired or not. Writers are a better example of this than painters. Writers must have scheduled blocks of time to write and often encounter "writer's block" when confronted by the blank page.

Painters are no different.



I'm sure you have felt it yourself. You are ready to paint, palette laid out, blank canvas staring you in the face and your mind goes blank. Suddenly you remember the laundry needs to be started. Brushes are dropped and life gets in the way.

Classes are good for teaching discipline because you commit to showing up and creating a certain time every week for a specified amount of time. Usually you can shut out the rest of the world by turning off your ringer. But what happens when class ends? Life begins!

We have to develop self-discipline as painters.



Many people say to me that they envy my life because all I do is paint. I have to laugh. That is SO far from the truth! Actually, I have to fight for my painting time. I schedule a block of time, once a week, for my studio work, which I consider my real painting. I have to fight to keep this, fight my best friend who wants to walk on the beach, fight the hubby who always needs something, and even fight the cat who is looking so darn cute when I want to paint!

Most of my time is regulated by teaching, marketing, and running a home. Even though I am a professional artist, and have been for more than 20 years, very little of that time is actual production of art. 90 percent is the business of art, and that requires even more self-discipline as it is the part of art I am most likely to put off.



One of my painting buddies recently accepted the Strada Easel Challenge which is a daily painting challenge. She confided in me that it takes discipline to make yourself paint daily, even coming up with a subject to paint every day is hard!

Making a commitment like the Strada Challenge is good for your artistic soul becuase it builds self discipline. It teaches you to shut up and do it, whether you feel inspired or not. It also teaches you not to take each painting so seriously as you will be doing another one tomorrow, and the day after, and so on.

Self discipline does not mean beating yourself up for making a bad painting or not reaching some unrealistic level of artistic excellence. It means keeping yourself motivated enough to produce, and letting go of the final result.



As you grow in your artistic career, self discipline can take on new shapes. Another painter friend confided in me that she loves painting animals but instead is challenging herself with plein air class, and still life class so that she can build her skill level and improve her studio work. This takes self discipline.


Rarely do I get to paint what I want to paint. Most often, I am demonstrating for a class, and am only mildly inspired by the subject. If I were super passionate about it, like I am in my studio, I would forget that the class was watching and soon be lost in the play of light and color like a child with crayons. I have trained myself to produce on demand, and reward myself with studio playtime.



We are entering a new year, and a new opportunity for artistic growth. Every year I set artistic goals for the year (harken back to a previous September blog "Setting Artistic Goals")

These are not resolutions, these are goals that are measureable and benchmarked.

We spend more time watching tv commercials than we do thinking about our goals and defining the steps toward achieving them. If you haven't already, set aside 20 minutes today to set a 5 year goal, break that goal down into steps that can be accomplished over the next few years, then months, then weeks, then daily.

My big goal this year is to teach workshops instead of classes. I'm beginning my transition to a national level workshop instructor, and moving my career to the next level over the next 3 years. This will take a lot of self discipline, and a lot of the Universe moving to support me, or move me to where I need to be (which may or may not be in line with what I think!)

Wishing you good health and happiness in the year to come!

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