Rice Freeman-Zachery knows how to make time for art—and be prepared, she won’t accept any excuses from you about why you don’t have the time.
In a way, she’s like a much needed Marine Corp Sergeant for artists. She’s on a special mission to make "your art" your top priority.
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After I discovered her new book on Amazon a few weeks ago, entitled Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art, I asked Rice (pronounced Ree-sa), to do an interview. Here’s what we covered:
QUESTION: Can you brainstorm 10 simple things we can do today, to set up the conditions where we will be creating art tomorrow?
RICE : If you give these things a chance, not only will you start making art, but you’ll start changing your mindset.
1. Make a list of your friends who would be willing to play with you. I mean really play. Silly stuff. Building a fort, making costumes, writing plays. This is the friend you need to spend more time with.
2. Quit watching TV. Period. Yes, that means the news, too.
3. Quit reading the newspaper. Unless you’re a complete hermit, you will find out the news you need to know. The rest of the crap that passes for news is worse than a waste of time; it’s designed to make you want things you don’t have.
4. Go take a walk.
Take a little notepad, a pencil, and your camera. Find 10 things that are beautiful and record them.
5. Stop web surfing. You may call it "research," but trolling the internet looking at other people’s stuff isn’t doing you a bit of good if you should, instead, be painting.
6. Read something different. If you usually read novels, read about science. If you usually read true crime, read a children’s book. Find something that makes you think about things you usually don’t think about at all.
7. Wear something that makes you feel like an artist. Put on a bright shirt or a ring made out of wire or a needle-felted pin or a painted tie. Wear it every day and look at it often, reminding yourself that art is in your life.
8. Break as many "grown-up rules" as you can. Don’t make the bed. Eat with chopsticks. Sit on the floor. Lie in the grass. Roll around with the dog. Make a mess and don’t clean it up. Walk where you need to go instead of driving. Chew bubble gum and blow big bubbles. Do these things as often as possible.
As long as you do work you need to do to pay the bills, and keep yourself and your family clean and fed, most other things can be ignored.
9. Make up a story that involves the first three things you pull out of the dish drainer. (For example) a knife, a spatula, and a tea-cup:
Two little old spinster sisters were preparing afternoon tea for their nephew. He brought cupcakes, but the frosting had slid off, so Ella went into the kitchen to get a spatula to spread it back on top.
When she went back into the parlor, Emma had a knife sticking out of her neck, exactly where her diamond necklace had been just moments before. The nephew was nowhere to be found.
I promise you, your brain loves stories. The more chances it has to make some up, the happier it’s going to be.
10. Important—think of yourself as an artist! Whatever you have to do to convince yourself that this is who you really are, do it.
Think of yourself that way, all day, every day. . . You are not an accountant. You are an artist who does accounting. You are not a doctor. You are an artist who also practices medicine and does a really good job of it. But inside, you are an artist. Let that out. The artist wants to be recognized.
QUESTION: If an artist has a chronic perception they never have time for art, what are some questions they should be asking themselves?
The key word here is "chronic," of course. Everyone has periods that are really really busy, when you literally don’t have time to get into the studio.
But when it’s on-going and you just never, ever find the time? Then it’s usually something else. And often that Something Else is fear.
As long as you’re NOT in there making your stuff, you don’t have to worry about whether or not that stuff is going to be any good. . . right? You don’t have to worry if you can do it or if you still have it or if you never had a clue.
If you don’t have time for art, your first question might be, "What am I afraid of?"
Are you afraid you won’t be able to get started? Or that you won’t have the skills to do what you want to do? That people will make fun of you? That you’ll find yourself sitting at your desk or table with no ideas at all? As long as you plead a lack of time, you never have to face any of those scary thoughts.
Another question needs to be, "How am I spending my time?"
Very few of us are as busy as we think we are. Oh, sure, we’re running around doing a million things, but very, very few of those things are as important as we’d like others—and ourselves—to believe.
There are so many things that we just assume we have to do: keep up with the news, make the beds every day, shop for birthday cards for people we never see. . . Dust. These are just things that society has told us are important, but that, if we really want to be creative, have to go.
Take a good hard look at all the things you do every day, from watching that show every afternoon to stopping by the grocery store, to surfing the web for two hours after dinner—it’s all stuff that can be jettisoned to give you time to do the work that makes you feel alive.
QUESTION: What is the most common reasons artists give you, to explain why their art is "on hold"? How can we avoid this before it happens?
Everyone likes to talk about how their families couldn’t adapt if they took over the living room for painting, or quit cooking dinner, or didn’t do carpool duty several days a week.
The one, single, biggest problem, is that people don’t take their creative lives seriously.
What you need to think about is what you want to remember as you’re lying on your deathbed. Do you want to remember mounds of snowy, neatly folded sheets, or do you want to remember painting a tree?
And how do you think your family wants to remember you? As someone who always had shiny tableware, or as someone who was joyously mixing pigments and singing at the easel?
Your family loves you; they want you to be happy. If you’re an artist, you can’t be really happy unless you’re creating.
QUESTION: In your book you encouraged people to do art in public because other people enjoy creativity. If we aren’t painters or carry easels, what are other ways to do art in public?
1. I carry stitching with me everywhere I go. I stitch in the car, in waiting rooms, in the dentist’s chair, in the car wash, at the coffee shop.
2. If you have a journal and a pen, you have all you need. You can sketch, make diagrams, make lists of colors or shapes you want to explore. Doodling unlocks parts of your brain that may have gone rusty.
3. Photography is an easy public art—whether it’s your main art or just another way to make notes, taking photos is perfect for when you’re out in public.
4. Make rubbings of the water meter covers or the textures of buildings. You can transfer these to fabric later on.
5. Carry a little plastic bag of clay with you and play with it as you wait in line at the post office.
QUESTION: Artists can be experts at coming up with 100 excuses about why we don’t have time to do art. How can we respond to that internal dialogue, and break the cycle?
I talk about this a lot in the book. . . but the single thing you need to do is to learn to let creativity control your brain. Let your ideas and your quirky inspiration and your dreams be the core of what’s in your brain.
Special thanks to Kate Harper from the Greeting Card Designer Blog for sharing this interview. For anyone interested in learning more about Rice Freeman-Zachery’s books for artists, you can find all of them right here at Amazon.com.