Create Your Own Art Space, Even Under Challenging Circumstances

Photo on 5-30-14 at 3.18 PM

You can create art in just about any space if you get a little creative. When I got back into painting in 2007, it was not an ideal situation for creating art, or so I thought. My boys were 2-years old and 8-months old, and I was overwhelmed with life. We lived in a small studio space downstairs in my grandma’s house. The kitchen always felt messy, and I was always cleaning something, feeding someone, navigating tantrums, dealing with illnesses, figuring out how to get more than 4 hours of sleep each day, and attempting to preserve relationships that were hanging by a thread. Creating art wasn’t exactly something that seemed feasible at the time.

Alas, I had had my own tantrum one day. I had all these old art supplies in my closet, and I would periodically think about painting or drawing, but just couldn’t bring myself to pull out the supplies. All I could think about were the obstacles… “I’ll pull stuff out and the kids will either be all over me, or the supplies,” or “as soon as I start getting into it, I will be interrupted by someone who is sleepy, cranky, hungry, or all of the above,” or “what’s the point, I won’t be able to really focus anyway,” or “I probably can’t even really paint stuff anymore…it’s been so long,” or “I really don’t have anywhere to set stuff up where the kids won’t get into it all.” At some point, I was so frustrated and feeling trapped, that I went from despair to anger. Why should I let all these excuses stop me? I’m not going to let my kids be my excuse for why I can’t do things I want to do, even if it’s kind of true. So what if I “can’t paint” anymore, I want to do it anyway! So what if the sink is full of dishes, it always is anyway! Oh well if I only get 5 or 10 minutes to paint until I’m interrupted, better than nothing, maybe.

I basically told myself, “Screw it! Pull stuff out and just go for it.” And so I did. And I discovered a lot of my stuff was old and moldy. Ew. Discouragement sets in, “Great, I finally go for it, and now I realize I don’t even have supplies!” I managed to find a decent tube of blue acrylic paint, and a pad of canvas sheets. I cleared the junk off of the kitchen table (probably just piled it somewhere else, I don’t remember), laid down an opened brown paper bag with the canvas sheet on top of it, poured water in a cup and found a brush. I painted this:


It was just one color, and endless brushstrokes, in a sort of 10-minute meditation until this blue-blended piece formed itself before my eyes. I instantly thought, “Oh! This is cool. And it’s only one color!” I wanted to create more, I wanted more colors, and so I went online to order a couple tubes of paint. Of course, then the baby woke up from his nap, and the toddler started checking out my stuff wanting to “paint too.” I just didn’t have the kind of energy it would take to facilitate him in that moment. I quickly put away my supplies and let the painting dry (thankfully, it only took about 10 minutes for it to dry and I put it away in the closet). Eventually, I did create space for the kids to paint, but I needed to do it just for me first, lest I implode.

It was a constant work-in-progress. I would pull out my supplies, and I would do these 10-20 minute paintings, just to be in the act of painting. I shared the pieces with friends online, and they encouraged me to keep creating. So I did. There were plenty of frustrating moments, where I would be overwhelmed about everything and want to throw in the towel, but I was also doing a lot of inner work on my thoughts and default patterns of emotion (which I discovered, was a constant low grade depression & frustration). I began to look for more solutions, and do more things that nurtured my own well-being, so that I didn’t feel so resentful about burning out on everyone else’s needs.

This is what my old space looked like most days:


Fast forward 8 years later, and I still create art in a very small space… a 4’x4′ space on the floor in the middle of my bedroom (that I currently share with my two boys at my parents’ home), sits my easel on a drop cloth. Space isn’t even a “thing” for me anymore. I just create wherever I can. And it means I am constantly having to clean/organize my supplies, which I think is a good practice to have anyway, so I’m thankful for that.

Here is my space now, there isn’t much space around what you can’t see. My bed is there, and that’s it. It’s smaller than it looks (but the mirrored closet doors make it seem bigger):

Photo on 9-26-14 at 3.28 PMDSC08096


On a messier day:

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Start with what you have. Keep it simple, and you can elaborate things with time, patience and resources. If you want to create, JUST BEGIN. Pull out whatever you have and just do SOMEthing, any small act will break that stagnant energy pattern. Let it be junk to start with. I remember telling myself “Let it be ugly, it’s the first piece I’ve done in years… no one has to see it even…” But I ended up loving it.

I fell back in love with creating art, after a long stagnant period of feeling stuck and uncreative. You can re-spark your own creativity too. Dormant creativity is VERY fertile ground, so utilize any tiny space you have to just keep creating. You deserve it! The people you love deserve to enjoy a more creative you, even if they protest your efforts at first. 😉