Keep the Mess, Reach Success

"Almond Blossoms"
9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
Click here to view large or purchase
There are times when it's hard to work in the face of a mess.  When faithfully making daily paintings, I had a little monthly ritual that consisted of collecting all of the works I'd completed for the month and packing them away.  It gave me a chance to clear my mind and start fresh.

These days, I have to work in small spurts on several projects at a time.  When my energy is low (which is most of the time, as I have a baby due next month), the task of cleaning everything up and putting it away each time I work becomes a little daunting.  So, I've decided that it's ok to leave the painting messes out for a while until a piece is finished.  This means having several stations to work, with materials ready and works in progress displayed where I can see them throughout the day. 

The pieces I'm sharing today took longer than planned to complete, as I kept getting discouraged with some of their details.  Leaving them in plain sight at all times gave me the chance to take a fresh look at them each day, and work out some of the problems in small sessions until the paintings were up to my expectations. 
"Patchwork Hills"
9 x 12 Chalk pastel on paper
Click here to view large or purchase

Artists are (obviously!) visual people who benefit from seeing their own work constantly.  This might make it difficult to maintain a consistent work flow if we don't have the luxury of a studio.  Fortunately, sharing living and work space doesn't have to mean repeatedly taking out and putting away materials or living in a perpetual hazard zone.  I have pets and a small child to worry about, so with their basic safety in mind, I clean up anything that could pose a danger to them (paint water, paints, etc).  I then arrange the materials so they are available but not edible and leave them where I can sit for a while and work. 

The important thing is that the paintings continue to progress and eventually get done.  If you get frustrated with your workspace, ask yourself what you want to accomplish in that space and how you can arrange it so you can meet your goals.  For me, it's being able to work whenever I get a few minutes of quiet and energy, so I've learned to live with a little bit of artist mess to meet that need.

I recently wrote an art article that was published on Empty Easel for artists who have blogs.  You can read it here:

If you like the colors in the works posted above, visit my Plein Air gallery here.


  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed browsing your lovely blog, Niki, and admiring your art works. It is inspirational to hear how you keep yourself going, as much as possible, through times when your priorities--and energy levels--have changed. Also fun to be reminded of our own years near Southern CA beaches--quite different from the look of Coastal North Florida where we live now. BTW, found your blog through your article in Empty Easel. Thank you.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind comment and for stopping by Mary! I liked Florida beaches too when I visited, but it was strange for me to see the sun set over land instead of water!


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