The Discipline It Takes to Create Art


“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” – Jim Rohn

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my kids. We took several road trips, and we undertook some home-improvement projects together. My kids range in age from nine to seventeen, and I thoroughly enjoy their company. They are old enough to appreciate the world with avid curiosity, and Carrie and I are having a lot of fun introducing them to new experiences.

Recently, we had a discussion on a profound topic: superpowers. The question was “if you could have any one superpower, which would it be?” I’m sure this is a discussion every child has had at some point, and my kids began talking about the advantages of various powers: the ability to fly, invisibility, super-strength, super-speed, and so on. Cogent arguments were put forth for each, and then my daughter asked, “Which power would you have, dad?”

I thought for a second and then said, “Discipline. I would like to have super-discipline.” The kids looked at me quizzically – this wasn’t any superpower they had considered before. I went on to explain that it seemed to me that many of the great feats and accomplishments of history were achieved through vision and discipline. The best part of this superpower, I explained, was that it is actually achievable by mere mortals.

My kids rolled there eyes and said it didn’t count. “Lame,” my fourteen-year-old son said. I argued my case a bit more but finally gave in and said that if they wouldn’t allow discipline as a superpower, I would take the ability to travel through time.

While discipline might not make the cut as a superpower, I would argue that discipline, especially self-discipline, is critical to one’s ability to achieve success in life. The ability to dream big and set goals is important too, but I would argue that without discipline, it’s nearly impossible to achieve anything worthwhile in life.

I feel this is especially true for artists. I marvel at an artist’s ability to get into the studio and work persistently toward his or her vision. An artist, it seems to me, must have an incredible drive to work day after day through difficult circumstances. It takes real discipline.

But what is discipline, and how does one acquire it?

Google’s dictionary defines self-discipline as “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” This seems like a great start, but how does one obtain this ability? How are the temptations overcome?

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to cultivate self-discipline. It hasn’t been easy. I have aspired to do many things – build a successful art gallery business, create a strong family, and publish an engaging blog :-), to name a few. I’ve discovered that each of these goals is hard to achieve, and that there are many temptations to abandon those goals. I’ve worked very hard to develop discipline to work toward my goals. I’ve also learned that, for me, it isn’t enough to tell myself that I just need to be more disciplined. I struggle to remain focused and can be easily distracted.

I hope that some of what I’ve discovered about self-discipline will help you in your creative process. Before I share what I’ve learned, however, allow me to share what I heard from readers about discipline.

How Discipline Affects the Artistic Process

Several weeks ago, in preparation for writing my article about the hard work of creating, I asked readers how they feel discipline (or lack of discipline) affects their work. Their comments gave me an idea of the importance and challenges of maintaining discipline in the studio. Here is a sampling of the comments:

Discipline involves getting set up and prepared to paint. Lack of discipline affects my work by allowing household chores, gardening, caring for pets or obligations to friends to consume all of my time. To be able to paint, an artist must be selfish with their time.

Kim Blitho – Matong, Australia


If I am disciplined – setting aside frequent work days and following through on them – I get plenty of artwork done and I think my technical skills improve. There are times I can’t do this, and I feel my work suffers if I am more sporadic in my approach.

Lori Bradley – New Bedford, MA


My disipline with my art never lacks. Sixteen, eighteen hour days are not uncommon. If I’m not painting I’m working all the other areas that go along with producing art and selling..I love the challenge and have never not wanted to do it.

Mike Palmer – Jackson, MI


Discipline is key in creating and producing any form of artwork or design. One must be disciplined with their time, energy and focus.

Bentley Buran – Santa Monica, CA


I am not a social painter, I am more comfortable working alone, listening to CDs or Pandora. This discipline helps me to concentrate on what I need to do to be successful at art. I often meet with other artists after work and we share ideas and help each other. I feel that my schedule helps keep me focused, and I have the freedom to rearrange the routine if I feel it is important

Jenny Lankford – Marshall Texas


Discipline is everything. Without it, I find it very hard to stay organized and be creative. Structure and organization clear my head and give me the breathing space I need to be artistic.

Emily Randolph – Phoenix, AZ


I’m a reasonably disciplined person – I think it helps but it’s not everything. Showing up and just starting is worth a lot. Once you get started, it’s like eating potatoes chips, you can just stop with one – you keep going.

Cindy Wagner – Huntsville, AL

Techniques that Have Helped in My Development of Discipline

These comments reflect my experience with discipline as well. While developing discipline is a long process, I’ve found four key approaches that have helped me become more disciplined.


First and foremost, I’ve learned how important it is for me to have a routine and, as much as possible, to stick to it. Life is crazy, and there are always a myriad of activities that need to be done. I find that if I’m not careful, I can easily spend all of my time stamping out fires and never working toward my goals.

It’s even harder for me to concentrate if my weekly schedule devolves into chaos. I’ve created a daily routine that allows me to get to work early and focus on my big projects first. I try to rise at the same time every morning, I leave for work at the same time, and I block out regular time each day to work on certain projects. When I’m in my routine it’s much easier to work in a focused way. I never have to wonder what I should be working on at any given time – my routine tells me.

I’m very reluctant to allow intrusions into my routine.

I know many artists struggle to create a routine because they have to juggle full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and other priorities before they can get into the studio. I would argue that even if there are only a few hours a week available to create, it’s best if you can make those hours into a routine and then protect that routine with all your power.

Eliminate Distractions

The time that we do have to work and create is even more fragile today because of the myriad of distractions that are ever-present. Electronic devices are powerful tools, but they are also powerful distractions. If at all possible, I would urge you to turn off your phone while you work, or at the very least, silence your notifications. Every time you pause to see what’s happening on Facebook or to respond to an email, you lose momentum and your precious creative time slips away.

Work on One Thing at a Time

I’ve learned that if I want to accomplish something, I have to concentrate on it. While writing this post, for example, I’m not also trying to develop a new marketing plan or rehanging the gallery. All of those things are important, but I’ve learned that when I start a task, I need to stick to it until it’s finished and then move on to the next. I would far rather finish one job than start three and not complete any.

Make a List

I find that having a to-do list helps me keep my focus. The act of writing down my tasks helps me feel I’m in control of them, and it also assures me that I won’t forget to do anything. I discipline myself to never do anything that pops into my head right when it occurs to me. I put it in my to-do list so that I can make sure I’m completing the tasks of highest priority first.

How Have You Developed Discipline?

What have you done to cultivate discipline in the studio. How do you motivate yourself to stay on track? What are the challenges you face in maintaining discipline? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. I have not developed discipline. I have many hobbies, watercolour, fused glass, lapidary, silversmithing, woodcarving, as well as stone carving (sculptures). I find I enjoy them all and rotate what I do. I find myself happier for deciding each day which art form I’ll do that day. It definitely makes a difference in the quality of my work.

    1. I would still consider what you do as discipline. You are still creating everyday – and although I’m guessing that you are thinking about the ability to stick to one medium – I would not marry to that! It’s fine for others, but not for me….

  2. One point I’d like to make on discipline is this: It takes discipline to tell people NO. I’ve found that as an artist, people often think that your time is less important when you are self employed. Countless times I’ve had friends interrupt my working day with something that has nothing to do with my work. Want to go get coffee? Want to go to lunch? Want to go to _______’s house for (whatever)? Can I drop by for a chat?
    If art is your full time occupation, as it is mine, then it’s a job like any other–which requires a great deal of dedication and discipline. If the other people in my life would recognize that my work is actual WORK and not a hobby from which I can–or should–be willing to just drop the brush and go off to waste time, well that would be wonderful.
    I have a difficult time saying NO to friends and family; always fearing their disappointment or anger. And the reason it happens is because many (if not most) people view an artist as someone who’s “lucky to get to play all day long”; to them art isn’t a real job.
    Why DO many people in America have the view that art is somehow trivial or unimportant and not really work at all??

    1. You said it, Evan! But, after awhile, when people see your dedication to your art practice, they begin to respect it and not interrupt. I just let social calls go to voice-mail, and call back later. Caller i.d. on the call phone helps.

    2. I couldn’t agree more! Most people really do not get it that being an artist is a real job! It had been a constant battle to give myself the permission to say NO and not feel bad about it..for months now I have been trying something new I let friends know that I am not available for lunch or coffee, but I’m happy to meet for happy hour or dinner when my day is done. I have had to put up boundaries for myself and it seems to work . I also mute my phone for sure that is a game changer lol

  3. I think I have been an organized person, to one degree or another, all my life. Growing up in a military family we always had our specific routines…from my parents wanting certain things done on certain days, in certain ways…and you followed along. To accomplishing a school, then work, then homework and rest routine in high-school. (This took discipline because I lived not far from a gulf coast beach which called to me often. ) As a young mother, I homeschooled my 3 kids. That task in and of itself taught me the definite importance of discipline. From there I entered the workforce again and in order to accomplish the “play time” tasks, I needed discipline to finish the “needed things”. Now in my artwork, in order to accomplish the paperwork part of my art business I must be disciplined. Therefore, I draw on all those years of practice pulling on the various ways learned in order to organize myself and stay disciplined.

    So, having said all that to simply say…discipline takes practice. It helps if you’ve had practice for years. If discipline is new to you…practice on. Don’t be hard on yourself if you fall short and get distracted. Simply pull yourself back in.

  4. Great article as always, Jason! I have to agree with Evan above that art making is hard work that friends and family members don’t always respect. Setting boundaries and saying “No” is incredibly important. But like exercise, I need to protect the time for my art, and then when I do my art, view it in small bites instead of this huge sacred project. I find that if I just step into my studio and set up my space, I’m making progress. Getting my work surface prepared is next. And then if I begin my painting, I find that it is often difficult to walk away. Most of discipline for me is just getting started and taking those baby steps….and before you know it, its finished. Of course, life happens like the dog getting sick, my husband needing a ride to the car shop, etc but for the most part, I can protect the time I have and get a lot of work done.

  5. discipline is not my forte. But I was able to carve out good blocks of time to get art done while I was a working at a job person. For 20 years my focus was making art and I was very productive. Then my world turned upside down and then the pandemic happened and I got sick and my momentum died! You would think now that I am retired that I would be able to discipline myself to do art on a regular basis and I have shamed myself for not being able to get that mojo back as yet. I think discipline is important but I think desire and momentum are even more important. I guess we can quibble about these being a part of discipline but I prefer to leave discipline out of it as it triggers me into rebelling! I need to be fluid with my time. Discipline denotes a rigorous adherence to a schedule that I can rarely keep or want to keep. I am a list maker and ever since I was a 3 yr old I have made lists. These help me arrange my time to get somethings done. But as ever the best laid plans for me have to bend to the forces within and without.

    1. Kay, what you say reflects much of what want to say on the subject. To me, too, the word “discipline” triggers rebellion. I lived the high-demand, very structured corporate life for many years, and abandoned it some 15 years ago due to a severe bout of depression.
      Eight years ago I blessedly found sculpture and would love to make a second career out of it, but…. I so far haven’t been able to find any structure to my days, without the need to “punch the time card” and show a boss that I’m the best at what I do. That almighty “God’s eye” looking down on me was, apparently, what made me be productive.
      Answering to no one but myself, procrastination is something I battle with every day. I am also a list maker, but that is about it for keeping me organized. My days are fluid and loose, but not necessarily in a good way.
      I need to find the determination to set aside time to work on my sculpture, not just go with the flow and only get down to it when I’m feeling inspired. Which, since the pandemic, is not very often.

    2. Amen to that! Discipline is a trigger word for me also. The fact that not only did I lose my brick and mortar store in 2019. My father with severe sundowners dementia that turned violent and had to be put into a home followed by my mother put into a rehab for hip replacement that she let go too long caring for my dad. The family farm that I had my home on totally gutted and sold. Then 2020…Along with a list of other ailments that were amplified by covid. Depression, anxiety disorders, and more… I hear all the heads nodding, “yep! I relate!” I too have found making lists and giving myself time alone very helpful. In the summer I have a travel trailer that I use for my studio. It’s my own world very seldom bothered by anyone. Birds are singing in the bushes behind me and the sun is blaring in the patio door. Windows wide open and music on. I also find that the type of music I listen to also gives me inspiration, be it singing birds, tibetian bowls, African Drumming, or good Celtic. Winter is a lot harder. I’m transferred to the basement and totally have to reset up. I lose that spacial, “my space”, leave me alone and let me play my music and don’t judge me while I create! Most of all the natural light that drives me. So if you are struggling, it’s ok, make a list and find those things that soften your spirit or makes you want to dance, whatever it is that drives you. Head to those things to keep you going. We’ll call it our “driving force”, not discipline for those of us that struggle with that word.

  6. I’m caught in a couple of “catch-22” situations. I always made art as a child, and one time my father said if I had time to do that then other things (chores, homework, etc.) weren’t getting done. That affected me so deeply that to this day I feel guilty about not doing household chores if I’m painting and vice versa. This dichotomy is so bad, some days I can’t do either one.
    I agree with both Kay and Valeria about how the word “discipline” triggers rebellion in me too. While working as a free-lance illustrator, graphic designer, and fine artist, the deadlines kept me productive. But I got tired of doing art for others instead of myself. I wanted to try making art where I wasn’t always worried whether people would like it or not. About 5 yrs. ago I tried to do this, but since then I have only half-finished attempts at painting to show for it. I suspect I have ADD because I have trouble maintaining focus long enough to either start or finish a painting. I’ve tried to fool myself by making up my own artificial deadlines just so I could produce, but my brain knew the deadlines weren’t real, so nothing got started. Even making lists and trying to establish routines hasn’t worked. I don’t want to go back to painting for shows since that brings back bad memories of all the pressure that comes with it. I don’t know what to do.

    1. Hi Jo, Perhaps you should work out what it is that makes you want to paint. Is it the paint itself (that’s one of my motivations. I just love paint!) or do you like creating imagery? or are there particular subjects, places, people or ideas that intrigue you & you’d like to depict them? Researching subjects & ideas is just as important as creating the image on the paper or canvas. You could say it’s the First step in a process that results in an artwork. Discipline is just setting up a step by step process that gets you from start to finish. Make up your own steps. It’s interesting to analyze your own process & see where it works or where it can be improved or be flexible. Steps could include: Research; Setting up equipment; Preparing your canvas; Drawing up; Choosing Colours; Under painting; Layers of Paint; Assessment; More Paint or Finish. Depending on your style & medium these steps can be broken down further & others added. Then a bit of paper work is good to record the work & photograph it especially if you are selling it.
      Thank you Jason for your always interesting & useful Blog.

  7. I enjoyed reading discipline and what it takes to create art and the artists’ comments. The more time I spend in front of the easel I find discipline is a major factor in creating.
    Two of my favorite quotes by notable artists are:
    1. “You cannot make a major difference; Doing things in a minor way.”………Nelson Shanks
    2. Portraitist Chuck Close on the subject of being inspired to paint: “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of
    us show up and get to work.”
    Thank you Jason for your thought provoking articles.

  8. This article has inspired me to be even more disciplined. I have found goals to be the best motivator. There is nothing better than deadlines to enter works into exhibitions to put pressure on making the most use of time.
    Even though I have 15 months till my next solo exhibition, I know I will have to keep being disciplined to produce my best paintings and the right number for the gallery space. This combined with teaching oil painting and sending miniature paintings to the USA and the UK I will have to keep on track.

  9. Studio time, 4 to 6 am, every day.

    There are about five projects the I look forward to, but they have to be firm;ly kept out of my thoughts and daily work. It takes so much concentration to attempt to bring a piece to a conclusion, in the limited time.

    Never mind, working step by step is the happiest thing to do. Matisse said, “Work is Paradise,” and it is.

    Sometimes I manage to slip in a little extra work on that piece during the day.

  10. I am not the most organized or scheduled artist in the world. Sometimes I go days without picking up a brush, but when I do, I am very disciplined about getting absorbed into my work and always get it to a level of satisfaction before stepping away. In this way, even if I don’t achieve what I was originally striving for, I can still feel good about my progress and often upon returning to a piece I started days before, and decide that I actually love it as I left it. This frees me up to start something new. By being disciplined about when I stop painting after I start, my productivity greatly increases and I end up with much more finished work that I’m happy with, and that keeps me motivated to keep creating.

  11. Whether it’s art or any other endeavor, discipline is necessary in order to succeed. Having always been rebellious, I was greatly helped when I discovered that the root of the word “discipline” is “disciple”. That caused me to realize that instead of some rigorous set of quasi-parental “rules”, discipline is rather a course followed from love, because we know it will ultimately free us. That has changed everything for me.

  12. Same here, having a routine and sticking to it is what makes me the most productive, I like having that structure in my life

  13. I agree with so much you all have said.
    In my case I know the morning is the best time for me to create art. I rise early , have breakfast and watch the dawn rise
    I do some housework and catch up on emails but once in the studio it’s relentless work. I am extremely focused and usually have 4-5 pieces going at all times. My work is large so I juggle them in my space
    Discipline to me means doing your art no matter whether I have a gallery or any selling going on. If I am discouraged or in a rut I just choose a different medium to experiment with. That’s how I discovered alcohol inks and found them very exciting and helped me with my oils
    I paint in silence usually as I prefer it, but will listen to Bach as an exception
    After lunch is when I do office work or outreach to galleries etc
    I love painting even when I had to work for 4 days a week and paint on one, discipline ensures regular output and maturation of style and content. It ensures glow in our development

  14. My personal motto has been “everyday something”. Even if it’s a few strokes of paint that little bit is more than nothing. I paint in my kitchen (even large works) so that it’s there to beckon me to work on it. This has worked pretty well. I’m represented by a very good gallery and show my work on a regular basis (minus the interruption Covid created). In addition to painting I have a full time job and I have family. Both demand a lot of time. This personal motto has made painting less daunting. I wish you all the best, the struggle is real.

  15. Very informative; I enjoyed reading the article and all the comments. Wow! do I really need to put many of your ideas to work. When I was employed as a teacher, I had to use discipline to do my job…preparing lessons, getting to work, and all the things necessary for being a good instructor. Now, retired..there are so many things that seem to have priority over going to my makeshift studio and applying my art skills to creating.
    Thank-you all for this wealth of ideas to try. I love doing my art wen I finally get started and overjoyed when complete.

  16. In my younger days I worked in agriculture and construction related industries and the hours were long and hard but I certainly learned discipline! I sometimes don’t feel very disciplined now but I guess I still am, just in a different way. Today, for instance, I didn’t paint but I spent several hours doing art related things like preparing for upcoming shows, correspondence, reading art blogs and checking out art web sites. These are all important to me and my art business and I don’t know if one thing should have priority over anything else because I get knowledge and inspiration from all of them. When I’m out of the studio I’m still productive much of the time because I take photo’s and get ideas and inspiration from the things I see and the people I meet.

  17. Great article and definitely something of great importance for those of us who have a hard time focusing.
    I myself am a full-time artist(I saved my pennies for many years and then finally after saving up a 6-month cushion, I quit my job and started to paint, promote myself and work, and make art every day.) It’s not easy to have discipline when you’re your own boss. In fact I still have discipline issues, but I’m doing pretty good staying on track. Here are some things that I think are absolutely crucial to follow and have worked for me and kept me on a somewhat straight path.

    1. Set definite hours to do your art, however much or little time you have, everyday. And stick to them.

    2. DO NOT GO ON SOCIAL MEDIA while you’re working, no matter what. This is a total time killer and a huge distraction. Set aside time to check your FB/Insta during your break, a good break is ~10 mins, every 3 hours. This is probably the most important rule to follow. lol

    3. If you have to take care of certain things(crucial errands, etc.) do them all at once, either before starting work or at the end of your work day. Any distraction that interrupts your workflow block is toxic.

    4. Yes, lists are crucial. Write down everything you need to get done(even micro-lists are good), and do it, ONE THING AT A TIME until it is done. Trying to do more than one thing results in nothing getting accomplished.

    5. STAY FOCUSED and PLAY MUSIC. If you get distracted(it will inevitably happen, we’re human), just go back to being focused. Put on a music service(with no commercials) that will keep you going like a well-oiled machine! I have tons of different Pandora stations($4/month for commercial free music) that I continuously change according to the type of work I’m doing. Mellow music(Cocteau Twins/Mazzy Star) for when I have to concentrate and focus and do color layouts and subject composition, and then more upbeat music(I like 70s punk and 90s Brit Pop) when I know what I need to do; fill backgrounds, prime canvases, cut out stuff, etc.

    Good luck!

  18. Practical husbands can be a big obstacle for staying determined, focused and disciplined. Our life sustaining job is running a ranch. I’m always on call. It takes precedence because my art does NOT support us. In my husband’s eyes that is everything. The second deterrent I have come upon is feeling like painting is an unreasonable thing to do when I have so many unsold things in my studio. Why am I wasting my time, he says? The practical side of me agrees but the artistic side doesn’t. Then I heard a well known painter talking about all the paintings stored in his studio and suddenly I felt better about mine. So the new plan is to get serious about marketing myself. So I’ve taken on this learning curve that is monumental and a bit overwhelming. So I have turned my discipline towards learning marketing and learning as much as I can about it for a month. Then it will become part of my schedule and so will painting daily even if it become a night project.

    1. All artists have had to stand alone throughout history. Art is NOT practical. Instead, it goes beyond
      practicality as it puts beauty, joy and an aesthetic future there for all, and it is highly valued by ALL societies. Proof? All cars would be black, there’d be no movies, plays, music, art galleries, shows, museums – there would in fact be NO JOY. There are many practical people on this planet, but only a few artistic ones. Marketing is a secondary consideration, it puts it out in the world and could add to your overall livelihood if you so choose. With on-line marketing only, the possibility of selling world-wide is now there for us. However, making your art will always be your first duty to yourself, the joy of creation!
      – Linda Campbell

  19. I am a pretty disciplined organized person by nature. Since I retired I have become an colored pencil artist. I love it and at first didn’t really have a routine. But now I have been working at it for 4 yrs and developed a routine. I use my Alexa to create shopping & to do lists. Whenever I have and errand that needs to be done or a food item added to the grocery list, I just tell Alexa. I scheduled out Tues for groceries & all errands. Monday evening I look into my Alexa app & fine tune the grocery list & make an errand list. I start closest to the house & work my way out, ending at the grocery store. I can do 6 to 12 errands that way in one day. There are other appointents I can’t control so much like doctor appts, dog grooming, hair cuts, socializing etc. I try to schedule as many of those appts on the same day when possible. It works out pretty good. I always schedule out as many full days a week for my art work. I am greedy with my art time cause its always what I would prefer to be doing. So my goal is to separate my days as art or errands. I use a Google calendar & can look at the entire month at one time. What this does is let me see immediately what days I have blocked out for art and what one for errands. I color code them. Red for committed appts- Green is art days. Blue errand days. I can see the balance of red & blue to green. Its a quick visual that keeps me from short changing my precious art time. If a friend wants to do lunch on an art day, I just tell them I am already busy that day & offer an alternative on one of the errand days. There are still life hiccups & home distractions but on my art days I have no plan but art. With colored pencils, you can just walk way & leave them in place, they are always ready to go. No prepping or cleaning up. I try to be finished by late afternoon. One can sit for too many hours drawing & I have to set timers ( with Alexa) to remind me to get up & move. The dogs get me up for an afternoon break for a walk around the block & I am refreshed when I return. I normally don’t have an issue getting back to drawing.

  20. I have a different take on discipline. For most people, discipline, it seems, is sticking to a rigidly controlled schedule, with various times allotted to various activities, and including a system of prioritizing the order in which tasks need to be, or should be, done. To me this is not discipline, this is time management -which to me is an altogether different, though often valuable, skill. To me discipline is putting the making of my art as my absolute foremost activity, and allowing nothing to interrupt it. I dont do it during any fixed time period, I don’t commit to a fixed number of hours to do it – but when i am making art, I let nothing except absolute emergencies interrupt it – and I keep doing it until absolute exhaustion, or absolute lack of seeing a way forward forces the end to the creative process. Which means if i am making art, the phone is not answered, emails are not checked, shopping, laundry, cleaning, and other chores are postponed to some vague non-art period in the future, and no social activities are pursued, and no social plans involving specific times or dates are made. I might not start my art-making immersion until 3PM on a given day, but once started, it may continue until 6AM the net day, or even 9 AM, or even 6 PM. the next day. There are times when I’ve been working on artworks for 6 days in a row, with only very very brief breaks for meals (15-20 minutes) and very brief breaks for sleep (3-4 hours per day for that entire timespan). Of course such super long bouts of creativity are rare, but frequently I’m involved in the process of making art for 12-16 hours at a time, and quite often for 18-24 hours at a time. My definition of discipline is: art and creating it come first, second, third, fourth, and fifth – and everything else comes after that. It doesn’t matter to me when I start it, or even when I finish working at it, if really really no inspiration, or understanding of how I want to proceed on a work or set of works comes at all, or if it ceases to exist even after a couple of hours, then I will stop, and resume “normal” activities for a while. Usually after a few hours, or perhaps a day or sometimes 2 days I will have a new inspiration and then, I start to plan on finishing chores, and completing necessary tasks, as fast as possible so I can resume creating. I live for art, the rest is all come-what-may, or necessary obligations with complications for non-completion that must be sandwiched between art-making activities.

  21. I want to ask Mike Palmer who cleans and keeps his home organized, cooks his meals, pays his bills, does the shopping, runs errands, answers the phone and gets back to people, and how much sleep he gets after all that if he takes care of all of that himself. Because these are the things that get in the way of my painting as much as I want. Maybe he is like my mom who only needs 2-3 hours of sleep a day- true! Anyway, lucky for you/good for you Mike!

  22. What gets an artist through the periods of artist block or artists block combined with artist rut? Do not think this will not at some point will not happen to you. Discipline works in two directions — The discipline to return to taking care of self, to nurture friendships and family ties, to work on that 16 year long project of reassaembling my Classic Japanese Motorcycle, joining a gym that specializes in avoiding reaggravating injuries, take hikes, changing ones eating habits, types of food consumed, trade painting time with exercise time, visit ones grandson. All the while thinking about where one might want to take thier next series of paintings. Youth is a wonderful thing, but one day your youthfulness will be gone! You will find that you are a senior citizen artist with a cutting edge creative mentality — I do not doubt my painting abilities or skills but the type and quality of artwork that I wish to generate in this ten years span has changed. I just do not know quite yet what my work is going to turn up to be. I accepted an immense mural commission to keep me actively painting and good ideas are springing from this. Discipline? If one did not generate discipline in grad school or post grad – but you still paint do not worry. Endurance at the canvas is not discipline – Real discipline also maintains ones artistic vision. When you cannot see your work in its completed stages – equates to losing ones vision. Be careful of that – discipline is easy. The Army built that up in me years ago. Discipline, endurance, stamina, creativity, vision, health, clearheadedness are each intertwined and one cannot create on discipline alone. My standpoint is that vision precedes all that we do as Artists. Vision is the tool that guides us to make art. Thanks

  23. Reading the comments I see at least three kinds of “artists” much as I used to see three kinds if writers when I taught creative writing. Those who were serious and disciplined and eventually got published, those who were hobbyists and wrote for fun, and those who wanted to have written, but never did much real work.

    NEWS FLASH. it ain’t gonna happen. And as artist Chuck Close once said you can’t wait for inspiration; you just get to work every day.

    Any choice is fine, but there are consequences to every choice we make.

  24. This really rang with me. I have a hard time getting past the ‘you can’t play unless your chores are done’ mentality drummed into my head as a kid.
    No matter that art is my profession, I still have a hard time with it.
    I set a timer in my phone with the label all caps get to the studio!!
    Which helps but… today I added “stop putting out fires”

  25. I’m not a full time artist. The same discipline I use to set my alarm and get up for work every morning is the same discipline I use to go down to my carving studio for an hour every night. I treat it like my night-job. But it took me twenty years to learn this.

  26. Discipline, for me, is trying to maintain a balance between my art practice ( producing work, working in the gallery, private students,workshops) and my family commitments. What falls by the wayside somewhat is the social media work, the ever present household chores. Oh, and my website – yikes, why can’t I spend more time on that! Those things become a conscious procrastination, and thus a source of guilt. My feeling of successful discipline comes when I am able to squash my negative self talk and take baby steps with those procrastination items, and remind myself every day how much I am actually getting done. A constant battle! But, I do go to work every day, even if it just involves small stuff, like cleaning up my studio.

  27. I started cultivating discipline years ago by making a non-negotiable date with myself for one hour/day at 11am. I treated myself as a friend I wouldn’t cancel a date with. This helped me grow more creative hours and figure out my best creative timeframe. I work best in the mornings and am out in my studio by 9am, dressed and ready. I treat it as my job and it doesn’t get put on the back shelf for any interruption.

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