5 Ways Being A Minimalist Artist Can Transform Your Artwork

image: dan james
image: dan james

Embracing elements of minimalism has helped me no end in the last few years.

Whilst I haven’t thrown out every possession I own and tried to survive with just a t-shirt, a change of underwear, a mattress and a toothbrush, I have honed down what I do and have a vast amount.

For me, the core principle of a minimalist mindset is this-

Do less, do it better.

This extends not only to physical possessions (for which you might say “have less stuff, have better stuff”), but how we use our time, the commitments we take on, and of course the art we make.

As a creativity coach, I want to help you be a better, happier artist.

So with this in mind, I wanted to share five of the major ways being a minimalist artist can enhance your own artwork, and your enjoyment of creating it.

1. Fewer tools means you use the ones you do have more often.

This also applies to materials and equipment. If you have the approach that many artists do and gather up new stuff furiously just in case you might use it someday, you probably also find that a large proportion of your tools and materials rarely get used, if ever.

An added problem is that the more you have, the more you have to organise and maintain. So when you do come to a project where that particular stamp or brush or knife you bought nine years ago would be ideal, you have no idea where it’s buried, so you can’t use it anyway.

By having fewer tools, you use them more often, and make better use of them. Less frustration, better artwork, happier artist.

2. Better tools, more enjoyment, better work.

Again this goes for materials and equipment too. By buying less stuff you have more of your art budget available for the tools you really love.

It’s similar to clothes, for example. Would you rather have one quality coat that is elegant, fits properly, keeps you warm and dry and will last for years. Or over the same period of time have four or five cheap ones that let the wind and rain in, never quite fit and feel right, and fall apart after a season?

Yes, the initial outlay is more. But in the long run it’s a wise investment, if not purely for the pleasure and enhanced enjoyment of using quality tools and materials alone. Again, this will mean less frustration for you, and a greater ability to create your best work, more often.

3. More time creating.

If you have a lot of stuff, two things tend to happen. First, you often find it hard to find the thing you need, because the more you have, the harder it is to organise. Second, if you have a lot of stuff already, it’s likely you’ll buy a lot more, just because that’s the behaviour pattern you know. And because you often can’t find the things you need, you end up buying new stuff to replace it. More stuff!

By having fewer tools, equipment and materials in the first place, it means you spend less time organising, searching and replacing, and more time just getting down to creating with the few quality tools you do have.

This not only saves time, but it spares a lot of stress and frustration too. How many times have you gone to spend a precious hour creating, only
to spend 45 minutes of it trying to find the tools and materials you need, then felt too demotivated to actually make anything at the end of it?

4. A more intimate relationship with your tools.

Of course it’s good to experiment. But if every time you go to make something it’s with a whole new set of tools and materials, you never get any momentum with one particular set up.

It’s fun for a while, but before long feels like you’re dabbling in a dozen areas rather than really embracing and mastering one or two. Immersion is the word here. By immersing yourself in one core set of kit, you can start to feel so familiar with it that it becomes an extension of your mind, eyes and limbs.

Rather than fumbling through projects and cobbling them together, you reach a kind of elegance and eloquence that can only come from repeated use of (and immersion in) that core kit you’ve chosen. Which of course again makes for a happier more creative artist.

5. Less space required, more portable.

With less stuff to arrange and organise, it means you need less space to put it all in. Which can benefit in two ways – either you end up in the same physical place (whether that be a fully fitted studio, half of a spare room, or a table in the corner of your bedroom) and have the luxury of more space to breathe around you, or you can make do with a smaller studio, without everything being crammed in.

It also means you can be more portable, should you need to be. Whatever your creative medium, for virtually any of them, you can make up a small “travel kit” version so you have more opportunities to create – not only during the times when you’re comfortably at home with a whole afternoon stretched out before you.

A writer needs a pen and pad, a photographer needs one camera, a sketch artist needs a small set of pens or pencils and a pad, and so on. Think about how you can come up with your own artist’s travel kit, to not only increase the opportunities for creating, but to get straight into starting more quickly.

As you can see, there are many ways having a minimalist mindset and approach can benefit us as artists.

Plus, rather than these being five isolated areas, they all overlap and enhance each other too, and become a natural new way of being, and creating that will make you wonder how you ever created anything with so much around you.

How can you take a step towards being a more minimalist artist, and starting to enjoy these benefits yourself?

Come and join the conversation to share your thoughts and ideas.


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