How to make more art when you’re short on time

A common complaint I often hear from artists of a certain age is about their lack of free time.

Where once they might have hours they could devote to creating art, now they have other daily responsibilities…and their hobbies have fallen to the wayside.

This happens particularly when those hobbies involve a lot of creative energy– it can feel a lot harder to get going when you KNOW it’s going to take a lot out of you just to do a little bit.

Now, I know that not everyone has dozens of hours per week available to spend on clipping images or collecting little bits of ephemera. But I bet everyone has an hour or two they can squeak in before bedtime, or even 30 minutes in the morning before work.

Here’s how to break through the wall of “not having enough time” and get back to making art again. Maybe even start a daily art habit!

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How to make 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

Photo by Malvestida on Unsplash

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 or carpool)
  • 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 the doctor’s office
  • 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-create my collages by working on one part at a time on multiple pieces.

For instance, one day I might work on backgrounds. I’ll make ten backgrounds using my favorite vintage paper ephemera and junky art elements, 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.

Go digital

One of the benefits of creating digital collages is that it takes much less time to get started on a single collage. Everything’s in the computer (or even on your phone!), and if you have a good collection of images and ephemera saved and organized in your Canva account you can get going on a new collage almost immediately.

It’s also much easier to put down a collage and pick it back up again later– your work is automatically saved and you don’t have to put boxes of paper away or drag them back out again when you want to continue your piece.

There’s also the matter of not having to wait for glue to dry, or taking the time to cut fiddly bits of art out of paper, or shuffling through huge stacks of books looking for the perfect image!

And of course, digital collages are much more portable than paper; you can take your tablet or laptop with you and get some art done in a coffee shop or doctor’s office or the sidelines of a soccer game.

The key to making more time for art is to know where your free time is and section off part of that free time specifically for art.

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