Do you ever feel like a bit of a mess? Maybe you look around your studio and in a moment of clarity realize that it’s become a disaster area. Or maybe you’re feeling down about your art. These moments can be painful and it’s easy to want to just shut the studio door and distract yourself with something else—but I urge you to take action instead.
What kind of action? A good declutter (physical and/or mental) will clear out the fog and get your creative juices flowing again. Here are three things that every artist should get rid of any time they’re feeling burdened:
Destash Unused Art Supplies
Paints, if stored properly, can be kept for years. Paint brushes are the same: a good, high quality brush can last years as well. If you’re like me, you’ll continue to add to your arsenal of supplies without getting rid of old ones particularly often. Take this opportunity to evaluate what you’re using and what you’re not, and let go of anything that you no longer use or will never use.
It may be that you’ve left certain hobbies or mediums behind during your creative journey. This is normal, but seeing those old supplies that you purchased can make you feel guilty (consciously or even unconsciously) when you see them. Ditch the guilt—and ditch these supplies you no longer need in a responsible manner.
When it’s time to let go of art supplies, the best thing you can do is give them a new home in a good and deserving place. A few places you could donate art supplies are: local schools, women’s shelters, YMCAS, community centers, preschools, churches, and children’s hospitals. Ever heard of “Buy Nothing” groups on Facebook? Destashing your unwanted supplies could be as easy as posting them in the group and then leaving them on your stoop for pickup!
Another way to responsibly destash art supplies is through your network of artists and crafters. If you dabbled in quilting but you’re a committed painter now, your quilty friends would love to receive your quilting fabrics and supplies. Did you try encaustic but didn’t feel the love? Ask your local art friends if they’d like your hot plate and encaustic paints and tools. These artsy friends may even have supplies that you want that they’d like to pass on to you. Win-win!
2. Get Rid of Negative and Limiting Beliefs about Your Art
It may be more than your physical space and cluttered art supplies getting you down: you may be in need of a mental reset to shake things loose.
Letting go of negative influences is a perfect focus. I heard a quote recently: “If it’s not paying rent for your head space or your heart space, it doesn’t deserve a place in your life.” That applies to any thoughts or emotions you’re hosting in your head. Anything occupying that precious space has to add value to you and your journey! If there are people who are bringing you down without adding positivity to your life, it’s okay to let them go. If you follow social media accounts that make you feel envious instead of empowered, it’s okay to unfollow those! Know your own worth and value, and let go of the things that aren’t in service of that.
Limiting beliefs are another challenge for artists. We have deep-seated beliefs about how far we can go and what we can achieve, and these create a ceiling for our growth and success. I suggest frequent journaling exercises where you first write out all of the limiting beliefs that you know you have or even suspect that you have. Next, dream big, wild, and free—list all of the things that you could accomplish, beyond your wildest dreams. Your art on products in Target? Yes! You on TV? Sure! Your art in a museum? Why the heck not? Your limiting beliefs will start rearing their heads during this exercise for sure—take note of them; write them down; and do your best to eradicate them. Remember, we each construct our own reality in our minds. So create a reality that allows you to soar!
3. Let Go of Unloved Artwork
Let me guess: You have a stash of artwork that you don’t love. You may even feel embarrassed by some of your early work. And yet you hang onto it, pushing down the negative feelings that arise every time you see the canvases stacked in the back of the closet.
Don’t let pieces that you aren’t feeling proud of bring you down; instead, try to view it objectively and without emotion. What if you took a photo of it and then painted over it, as a symbol of moving on.
Here’s some inspiration for doing this: Experts estimate about one-third of Van Gogh’s early paintings conceal other compositions under them! An analysis of the painting Patch of Grass by Vincent Van Gogh using an advanced form of non-destructive X-ray revealed in unprecedented detail an original portrait of a peasant woman over which the landscape was painted.
Be like Van Gogh, and have faith that beauty can come from letting go of the art that you don’t love. It means that you’re making room for the artwork you love!
After the Purge, Create Art with a Fresh Outlook
Working on any one of these types of “purge”—or all three of them—will have surprising positive benefits for your art practice and your mind. I promise! I’d love to hear from you in the comments about what you need to let go of. I’ll cheer you on!