• Shawn Dell Joyce artist

Cleaning House-keeping your thoughts and painting space clear of clutter

What's the first thing you think about when you realize that you have time to paint?

Probably its the laundry, or all the other chores that jump in the way, possibly its that you can't make it through the studio door because of the carpet of dirty clothes! Other times its a negative voice in your head telling you lies about wasting your materials and time, etc.



Creativity is messy, but making art requires a level of organization and cleanliness, both in mind and space.


Think on this for a second, and remember the last time you you tried to paint but couldn't because of all the noise in your head, or that all your pastels looked like the same color?

I keep my workspace tidy, and organized. It's not spotless, but I clean it weekly, including vacuuming up the pastel dust, and wiping down the surfaces that pastel dust gathers on. I also clean and organize my pastels.


How to Clean Pastels-

  • Rub the pastel on a terrycloth towel and take the fingerprints off it

  • Keep your pastels organized by putting them back where they belong! This is so crucial so that when you are plein air painting, you can reach for the right color without having to look. I can tell certain brands of pastel by their shape and feel.

  • Use something in the bottom of your pastel trays to abrade the sides of the sticks and keep them clean. I use sand from the beach (because its easy to get) other people use cornmeal, rice or grits. I stay away from food in pastels as I don't want to wrestle palmetto bugs for my pastels, or make wildlife sick from imbibing toxic colors.




How to keep your workspace clean-

  • Sweep or vacuum weekly, or after every big painting

  • keep a HEPA filter running while you are painting

  • cover unframed works by dealing them in a clear plastic sleeve

  • store framed pastels flat on their backs or tilted back so that loose pastel drops behind the mat or spacers instead of on the glass

  • Keep separate VIP (very important pastels) seating for the pastels you are currently using. When you are done with the project, put the pastels back in their regular places.



How to clear out the mental clutter-


If your studio is a "hostile work environment" where a tyrant critic lives who is always cutting you down and undermining your confidence, then it's time to change your thoughts.

Julia Cameron, in her excellent book "The Artist's Way" suggests that you identify the voice of that "inner critic." Usually it's a parent, but could be a teacher, grandparent, or someone you respect who said something that still rolls around in your brain.


When you identify who's voice it is, write them a letter (don't send it) detailing what they said and why it isn't true. Stand up for yourself, now that you are an adult, and have the ability you didn't when you were younger and more impressionable.


When you get a compliment, roll in it until it covers you like a dusting of powdered sugar! I print out testimonials from students, collectors, and friends on facebook who comment on my paintings, and keep them on my easel. They help me counteract the inner critic in my head, and give me the courage I need to face the blank canvas.





Listen to the messages your inner critic sends, and reword them to being something encouraging. Mine often says to me that I'm not "good enough" or not "doing enough" or that I'm "too late in life" to succeed. So I try to counter that with positive affirmations like "I am enough, I do enough, and I'm right where I'm supposed to be."


Do whatever it takes to overcome those critical voices in your head. Clear the mental clutter if you want to succeed and grow as an artist. In my 30 years of painting as a professional, I cannot count the numbers of colleagues and talented people I have seen who just stopped being creative because they couldn't overcome the negative voices inside their heads.


Successful people celebrate each other's successes and build each other up-not tear each other down. Take a moment to congratulate your peers when they make a good painting, win an award, or so something creative and unusual. It's good karma. When we create a culture of compassion and kindness instead of competition and criticism, we all bloom like the beautiful and unique garden of flowers that we are!


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