6 Tips for Highly Sensitive Artists

By Niki Hilsabeck in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Recently I explained some of the characteristics of Highly Sensitive Persons. Being both a Highly Sensitive Person and an artist brings unique challenges. . . artists often need outside stimulation in order to create; however, a little too much stimulation can sap the energy of artists who are also HSP’s.

Following a few guidelines and being mindful of your needs as both an artist and a HSP can channel your sensitivity into creativity—allowing YOU to put your best self into your work every day as an artist!

Here’s are 6 tips for getting the most out of your innate creative sensitivity:

1. Control your visual and auditory input

We now live in an age where electronics have become part of almost every aspect of our lives. Starting your day with a minimum of visual and auditory input will give you the chance to ease into the day, so that you are not inundated with sights and sounds that your mind needs to process before you’ve even made it to the breakfast table.

Keep your room dark at night, turn off or remove as many electronic devices as possible, and resist the urge to get on the internet before you’ve put in some work time in the morning.

Ever notice during art class that it’s sometimes almost eerily silent? The quiet, focused environment gives artists a chance to concentrate on their work with a minimum of distraction.

As you start your creative session, keep your auditory input to a minimum—leave the TV off, make sure that if you listen to music it’s not distracting, and ask others in your work area to be as quiet as possible. If all else fails, get a set of noise cancelling headphones.

2. Get into a daily routine

If you’ve ever read about Claude Monet’s life, you probably know that he was a stickler for routine. A routine removes the need to make decisions about how to spend your day, which takes up valuable mental energy.

If you’re the spontaneous type or having trouble sticking to a routine, learn to at least embrace some rituals that will get you through the day. Knowing that you’ll give yourself a lunch break every day at a particular time gives you a time frame for your work hours, taking away those “what if” thoughts that crowd your mind as you work.

Highly Sensitive Persons can easily fall prey to anxiety; following an established routine or honoring a set of daily rituals is a way to relieve the mind of anxiety.

3. Take care with your diet

Speaking of rituals, many of us need our morning coffee, and quite a few of us are guilty of skipping meals or snacks to get more creating done.

However, Highly Sensitive Persons need to take care with their diet, particularly in the areas of caffeine intake and blood sugar regulation. HSP’s are typically extra sensitive to caffeine, and can experience anxiety (or even depression symptoms) if their blood sugar drops too low. Be sure to eat in the morning (when blood sugar is lowest) and be mindful of your caffeine intake.

Artists need a consistent flow of energy to work at their best. Feeling shaky or anxious because of your blood sugar or caffeine also isn’t going to make it any easier to get out there and share your work with people.

4. Simplify your workspace environment

If you’re ever had an art teacher (or been one yourself), you probably recall cupboards full of stockpiled items for future projects. Take a look at your own studio space – is it cluttered? Do you have an easier time creating when it’s cleaned up?

If you’re a Highly Sensitive artist, all the items surrounding you as you try to create can become overwhelming. Designate areas for your collected items (I confess I have a weakness for unique tissue paper and knickknacks for future still life paintings). Collect, organize, and place those items in their designated areas (if possible, put them in closed cupboards or drawers so you don’t see them unless you need them).

Artists are visual people, and you probably need to see most of your materials to utilize them. That doesn’t mean that you need to look at everything all the time though, so place things where you can see them if you need to, but can cover them when you don’t.

You also might rethink how much artwork you’re looking at as you paint. Keeping your walls clear enough to allow your eye to rest periodically as you work can remove some of the visual noise your brain is trying to process while you paint.

5. Set boundaries with other people

Highly Sensitive Persons can find their energy quickly drained by the people around them. Social contact is a natural human need, so you don’t have to avoid people entirely. It will help, though, if you set some firm boundaries with your loved ones, work contacts, and friends.

Learn to say “no” to any social activities you feel are going to sap away your work time or creative energy. Accept invitations to socialize, but keep them to a set time limit if you find yourself emotionally tired after such events. It helps to consider how much energy others need from you, and adjust the time you spend with them so that it meets your needs as a HSP.

Here’s an example. . . if you know someone is going to talk excessively, need a lot of advice from you, or in general demand a lot of your attention, shorten the amount of time you spend with that person. If someone makes you feel comfortable or even energizes your mood, allow more time to be around that person.

Make sure your loved ones know that you need time to yourself to work, and that you are not rejecting them just because you need alone time. If you get the hours you need to create without interruption, you’re more likely to have the motivation to spend quality time with your friends and family when you can enjoy yourself (and aren’t worrying about getting back to your creative work).

6. Get back to nature

Nature can be a balm for any HSP, and many artists are particularly soothed by contact with the outside.

In my opinion, our brains are hardwired to process the sights, smells, and sounds of nature, so it’s less work for our brains to do so. The constant stream of noise and light that comes with modern life puts the brain of a Highly Sensitive Person on overload, making for an exhausted, overworked brain.

Taking a walk outside, sitting in a quiet place outdoors, or watching wildlife are all activities that can calm the mind and freshen our thought processes.

Remember, being Highly Sensitive isn’t a limitation—it’s a unique combination of personality traits and thought processes that allow you to see the world in your own artistic manner. So work with your sensitive nature, and embrace all that it has to offer you as a creative person!


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