Cultivating a Creative Mindset During Quarantine

Artwork Archive | April 28, 2020 (Updated April 12, 2021)

Photo by Valery Sysoev on Unsplash

The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way artists are able to work. 

Many community studios are temporarily and indefinitely closed. Artists are no longer able to exhibit in person, and physical art fairs and summer events may not be happening. Although all these changes are overwhelming, staying consistent with your art practice can help keep some sense of normalcy.

For some artists, their studio practice hasn't changed that much. But, for others who don't have access to materials, facilities, and equipment to create their work, it's important to keep a creative mindset through this time.

Make this new way of working, from home and with other responsibilities and new stressors, work for you. While there may be chaos happening in the world, you can channel the idea of an inner studio to help ground you in creating art. 


Get into a “vocation state of mind”

People like to talk about getting into a “vacation state of mind”—letting go of daily stress, embracing experiences, and taking the time to slow down mimics being away on holiday. A mental “vacation state of mind” could be as restful and restorative and an actual physical vacation. 

But, what about a "vocation mindset"? 

Our minds are powerful tools. We can choose where to direct our minds in our day-to-day life to make our everyday life more relaxed. We can live in a way that leaves us more satisfied and not in need of a vacation in the first place.

Let’s bring the power of an intentional mindstate to an art practice. What would having a “studio state of mind” look like and feel like?


Embrace a more gentle, more flexible approach

There is no right or wrong way to be creating (or not creating) right now. As we are all dealing with new challenges and stressors during a global crisis, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. Perhaps you can’t get a full hour of concentrated work in because you have kids, a partner, roommates or family around the house now. Perhaps you go through a creative streak for a few days and then can’t bring yourself to pick up a paintbrush for days. It’s all ok. 

Try not to compare how productive you are to how productive someone else is during this time. 

Allow yourself to take a break, to get outside in the sun, to be unproductive. With so many stresses, it’s easy to burn out right now. Being productive can be rewarding during quarantine, but if it comes at the expense of your mental health, is it even worth it? There’s a fine line when it comes to being productive and being way too hard on yourself.

Allow some wiggle room in your routine, but stick to things enough to turn your main productivity objectives into new habits. Be honest with yourself about the right work-life balance you need right now. It looks different to everyone—there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. 


Clear mental clutter 

Studios give you the space to create, space to think, space to explore—but this space doesn't always need to be physical. 

How can we access the mental space to create, think, and explore with or without a physical studio? 

To start, this might mean compartmentalizing your thought clutter or having a certain window of time where you allow yourself to think creatively and not about other life tasks. You will be able to work better when you have the freedom to exclusively think about your art.

Get rid of the clutter. Clutter can be anything holding you back from creating. Clutter manifests in fears, uncertainties, and insecurities, as well as daily tasks that take up your time and energy.

Work to determine which thoughts in your mind are clutter and which thoughts are necessary or important to you. Pretend that you are cleaning your home. Sort through what is going on in your brain and determine its value. If what’s taking up brain space is unimportant, counterproductive, or distracting let it go.

Getting started:

  • Identify an art-making mantra or guiding thought

  • Hold grounding sentiments close so that you can make sense of internal and external noise.

  • Create a to-do list for your day, week, and month and see where you can fit art in

  • Practice focusing on one task or idea at a time


Focus on making new creative connections

A studio mindset means allowing yourself to develop your creative seeds by connecting them to other ideas. 

Treat the thoughts that come to you at home with the same importance as you would in the studio. What's important to you right now? What new themes can you explore? What's inspiring you right now? What interests you?

Write down your ideas! Take notes when you feel inspired and be open to bringing ideas from outside your art practice inside your mental studio space. Get in the habit of doing creative activities to keep your creative momentum going. 

Allow yourself the freedom and availability to let your creativity grow and the organization to document this growth. Fostering creative connections allows you to look at other things happening in your life and in the world around you with appreciation. 

Getting started:

  • Get in the habit of writing down daily inspirations

  • Delve into your interests, follow what attracts you

  • Do regular creative prompts and activities 


Dedicate time each day (even 15 minutes)

Like driving to a studio and spending time working, allow yourself a set amount of time to create and a ritual to distance yourself from the other parts of your life. 

Experiment with taking yourself to your mental studio and see what time frame and habits work best for you. A studio allows dedication which encourages routine. Is there a time of day that works best for you to think creatively? Do you need to mark your space with a notice like "artist at work" to signal to other household members that you are working?

See if you can access this dedication to creativity while you are in your day-to-day. Building in moments for yourself to “travel” to your mental studio can help you when you are physically creating later on. Keep a sketchbook of all the ideas you are having right now. Create paper models, doodles, lists, notes ... anything you can to get down your new ideas. 

Getting started:

  • Keep a sketchbook of your current ideas

  • Create a schedule that includes set aside time for making

  • Establish an art-making or art business ritual

  • Explore to find the best time to make an art practice work


Feed your interests to grow creatively 

A studio space connects you with other creatives and puts in you a space to create. Feed your brain to mimic the creative energy and interactions that you would have in a physical studio space. 

Now is a great time to catch up on material about your field and about your medium. Find online blogs, podcasts, newsletters, and publications to get your brain going about your art practice. 

Allow yourself the freedom to riff on your ideas and amp up your creativity. Apply to “yes, and…” philosophy of improvisational acting to your art practice. When you see art that you find interesting, challenge yourself to think how you would add to it, supplement it, or what you like about it that you would want to take and run with. Think of other art like you would a writing prompt exercise

Engaging with things that stimulate you. Listen to music, read, watch tv that intrigues you, take a walk. Know that art and creativity happen not only when you are actively creating. Allowing outside ideas into your brain will help keep you thinking and allow you to enter your mental studio. 

Getting Started:

  • Allow yourself to follow interests and ideas with reckless abandon.

  • Try out your known stimuli. Take notes about how this experience allows you to think.  

  • Try out new stimuli. Take notes about how this experience allows you to think. 


Embrace social connections, even from afar

A studio is a place where you are able to display your work, show your process, and connect in creating with other artists and potential clients.

While you work from home, adopt the ability to share and connect. Know that while people may not be able to physically visit your studio or workspace, you can still create art experiences.  

A studio is oftentimes part of a collective or housed within other creative spaces, like galleries. Share what you are working on and embrace the idea of virtual studio visits. You can have the interactions you might have while working in a shared studio even from home.

Get creative. Art critique? Art tour? Process explanation? Tap into the social aspect of a studio and add this element to your studio state of mind. 

Getting Started:

  • Use your social media to share your process. 

  • Embrace online display and sharing methods, like Artwork Archive’s Private Rooms to show work. 

  • Reach out and organize a virtual art tour or participate in a virtual art critique.


Be kind to yourself

Above all, know that we are living through unprecedented times. While we all figure out how to function in our new normal, allow yourself the space and care you need. 

If you have stories to share about how you are thriving or surviving with your art practice during the Coronavirus pause, we’d love to hear from you here 

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