Time Out to Clear Out

by | Jan 31, 2009 | Blog | 21 comments

There’s this myth that to be a good painter we need to be painting 12 hour days 7 days a week. So when we take time to do other things guilt raises its ugly head. But, hey, we’re artists. We need time to gather resources, let life soak in, think about things, see art in museums and galleries, commiserate with other artists, take long walks and meditate. This last month I have been cleaning out my studio. I filled a trash dumpster yesterday with over 20 large size garbage bags filled with all types of junk I could have sworn I would include in a collage, painting or some art project. Holding on to lots of STUFF just feels claustrophobic, and is not helpful to creativity. I decided that I wanted to really focus on painting. So everything in my studio that doesn’t fit will go. I donated 20 years of fabric collecting to an arts organization, and boxes of craft items like glitter, clay, fringe and buttons to a children’s art group. I feel lighter. I feel like I can focus. I feel GREAT – except for a few moments each day when I realize its been awhile I haven’t painted. I cleared an area around my painting spot today and will be able to get back into painting within a few days. All this clearing around me will definitely make a difference in my work. I will start with a fresh, new, LARGE canvas and see what happens – unplanned with no expectations.

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Hand painting pink wall with sponge.

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  1. Anonymous

    It was certainly interesting for me to read this blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

  2. Painting in Washington DC

    Looking forward to seeing your art on canvas. I'm a painter myself but for homes so I seldom get to practice fine art.

  3. Nancy Reyner

    Dear DJ,
    Thanks for letting me know I’ve been missed. Where DID I go? Its funny you asked the same day I finally got back to blogging. I moved my office/studio/home, and got bogged down with computer tech problems. But the BIGGEST thing is I have just finished a new body work, exhibiting at InArt in Santa Fe opening May 22. I will send an invitation to everyone on my mailing list. Here is a link to sign up in case you are interested:

  4. DJ

    Nancy, Where’d you go?
    It’s May…?
    Hope you’re OK…

  5. Kylie

    Hi Nancy,

    I have just found your blog and am looking forward to going through your archives, the bits and pieces I have read so far are interesting and informative. I am just starting a big, no huge, clean out of my studio. It has been used as a bit of a dumping ground this last year since my son was born. On other occasions after smaller clean outs I have had found myself a bit lost in a clean organized studio. I am hoping if that happens this time it doesn’t last too long and I am soon feeling creative and productive again.

    I am toying with the idea of starting a blog and also of opening an etsy shop, have you had much success selling paintings via your web site? Part of the clutter in the studio is created by paintings that need to go to new homes. I liked one of your commenter’s ideas in another post to donate work to appropriate charities. I have done this in the past, but only when approached, I may have to investigate some charities to see if they would like to help me declutter so I can move on.

    Thank you for your blog,
    I look forward to reading more,

  6. Nancy Reyner

    Any clear acrylic will act as a “glue”. Any of these following Golden products will be a good pourable medium: GAC800 (my favorite as it won’t crevice in deep pours), Clear Tar Gel, Self Leveling Gel. Hope that helps!

  7. Anonymous

    Hi Nancy, ive been watching your demo on ‘thats clever’ HGTV show. Great! Can you tell me the product you have used at the end, a clear acrylic which when wet is white and when dry is clear and can be used as a glue for sticking sparkley things and glitter to. Is this also a ‘golden colour product’? if so what is it called so i can locate some from my nearest retail stockest. Many thanks, you have really inspired me. Debbie

  8. JC-Artist Ads

    You know what’s great about your blog you post a very interesting topic and your followers add a very relevant and helpful comment as well.:-)

  9. Grace

    Moving and cleaning up the studio is important. After so long, your need of space and supplies changes, or the clutter builds up and you feel like you can’t breath. 2 weeks ago, I took a day rearranging my studio again. Paintings weren’t touched too much that day, but it was really refreshing to have more usable space where I have several more projects spread out.
    Nice post, I can totally relate.

  10. Anonymous

    What a great feeling cleaning out! I find a new freedom to get rid of old things. Especially in my studio.
    Here, Here!

  11. It's just a painting

    I think this is a great time when I clean out. It means new beginnings!!
    Who knows what will come out of getting “old baggage”/ art work out of the studio. Keep painting

  12. Pedro Sanz

    I agree,
    the feeling of becoming “lighter” is amazing: art and inspiration goes in cycles, it comes and leaves… the lighter we are, the easier it becomes to focus



  13. Lori Landis

    Nancy, That is so true. getting rid of extraneous material applies to life too. On our journey as artists and human beings we tend to collect things and/or people and yet some of them or it don’t fit our current lives.
    Just being aware and ready to move on gives us the freedom to fly with creativity.

  14. thezappo

    I also have mixed feelings abut throwing away things that I could have sword I was going to use in some project. Very brave good luck with your new found space!

  15. Cindy Davis

    I agree! Clutter fills up more than your physical studio. It fills up my “brain” studio as well.

    I keep my studio pretty bare, and clutter up my house and office instead!

  16. Tesia Blackburn

    Wow what a great post. Yeah, it’s so liberating to clean out. About 18 months ago I moved from a much smaller studio to the new larger one I have now. And I got rid of so much stuff! I not only felt lighter but it felt like I had room to expand my imagination too!

    So rock on!

  17. cathsheard

    Good on you. Can we see the big canvas in progress?
    My favorite Aunt had always been a real crafts person. When I had to put her into a secure rest home it was up to me to clean out her house. 3 bedrooms full of craft stuff. I could have bought it all home, but I didn’t. I gave it to schools, libraries etc for their craft events. I think it would have bogged me down – handing it on felt good.

  18. Lainie

    I think you’re brave – I have such mixed feelings about doing this! I too have boxes full of supplies and collected objects for many different kinds of work, and I’m reluctant to let them go. But I can see how much it would open things up. Thanks for your always-interesting blog. Paint on.

  19. High Wire Girl

    Conquering clutter is liberating. Junk has a way of taking up valuable real estate in your brain and heart, as well as your basement and garage. Sounds like you are on clear path to some productive creativity. Good luck!


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About Nancy

Professional fine artist Nancy Reyner’s blog about art, painting and creativity. Her career spans over 30 years. She lives in Santa Fe in the US. Subscribe below for free tips on art and painting.

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