Substantially updated August 17, 2021.
One of the greatest bummers in life is turning into an adult and losing all your free time.
There are benefits to adulthood, of course, but there’s a lot more daily responsibilities to deal with that kids mostly get to avoid. Adults who had time-consuming hobbies as kids often find themselves without the time or energy to actually continue that hobby because they’re dealing with, like, taxes and dinner and working a job 40+ hours a week.
That happened to me, and I’m guess it happened to you, too!
Where once you might’ve spent hours creating the perfect gluebook collage, now you’re lucky to have time to clip out even one piece of ephemera. Maybe you’ve spent time downloading fun vintage photos and maps, but the files are just sitting unused and unsorted on your computer. Or you bought a Canva Pro subscription, intending to learn how to use it for making digital collages, but it’s been months and you still haven’t started a new project.
So how do you break through the wall of “not having enough time” and get back to making art again? Maybe even start a daily art habit?
Making time for art
As far as I can tell, there are two major ways to squeeze a little more creative time into your daily life:
Do a little bit each day, whenever you have a small amount of free time.
Wait until you have a LOT of free time and do a LOT of art.
Whichever solution you choose will depend on your schedule. If you work a regular 40 hour week and have weekends off, then the weekends are when you can make art. Need to do family things on the weekend instead? Maybe you can find an extra hour in the morning before the kids wake up.
You’ll need to find the spaces where you aren’t doing something and fit some art time in there. It’ll be hard, because at first it’ll seem like one more thing you have to fit into your schedule, but if making art is important to you, then you need to give it importance in your life.
Finding free time
Here’s some potential spaces you might have available for a quick creative moment. Use this as a starting point for brainstorming a time you can make art:
- On the commute to/from work (if you take public transportation)
- After dinner, during the new episode of your favorite show
- Early mornings, while you drink coffee
- Sunday afternoons
- While waiting to pick the kids up after school
- During your lunch break
- Waiting in doctor’s offices
- An hour before bed, instead of staring at TikTok videos
The upside of making a digital art journal is that you can take your tablet with you and create art on the go, rather than being tied to a physical studio space. If most of your free spaces are between errands or while waiting for other people, then taking advantage of technology is your key to success.
Changing the art process
Another thing you might have to deal with is changing how your creative process flows throughout a single piece. When I had huge chunks of free time I could create a single page (or multiple pages) in one session, but that won’t necessarily work nowadays. If I only have an hour to work on my collage, and I’m making something that takes me three hours to complete, then I’m obviously not going to finish it in one session.
That used to mess with my flow– I’d get pulled out of the piece and not want to go back to it, because I was no longer interested. That meant I had a lot of unfinished collages sitting around…
It took me a long time to adjust how I worked on my collages, but I finally found something that works for me. Instead of working on one collage from start to finish, I work on one specific piece of multiple collages and finish them within my allotted free time.
The batch method
What I mean is: I batch my collages and work on one step at a time on all of them. For instance, one day I might work on backgrounds. I’ll make ten backgrounds using my favorite vintage paper ephemera, and then stop for the day.
The next time I’ll work on the focus images. And the next time after that I’ll work on adding more ephemera or mixed media style graphics, and after that I’ll work on finishing touches and/or text.
So now instead of only making one collage in a 3 hour time span, I’ve potentially made ten! Maybe not all ten collages are winners, but perhaps one more session after that will be spent on touching up a single collage and making it really good.
You’d be surprised at how rewarding it can be to finish a chunk of collage pieces within a week or two, especially if you haven’t been able to create anything for a while. Batching can also work if you have entire weekends to create, as you can pre-make backgrounds and start collages for times when you might be busier.
Tip: It helps to have a subject or theme to work on, then you can really focus on specific colors, photos, and ephemera to include on the collage. It also helps to have a large, organized collection of images already on the computer ready to go, so you don’t have to dig for them.
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