11 things athletes do that will make you a better artist

Jessica Singerman racing short track
Racing short track – Photo credit: Mike Byrd

While I’ve been making things since as long as I can remember, I’ve also been training and racing since I was a kid. I’m still trying to figure out the relationship between athletic performance and creativity as an artist, but in the meantime there are some habits I have learned as an athlete that serve me well as an artist.

  1. Show up. You can’t win if you’re not at the starting line. In this case, winning means making the work. If you exhibit your work, find avenues to show it.

2. Commit. Started something? See it through. It’s ok to have multiple projects going on, but make sure you finish them.

3. Setbacks will happen. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

4. Learn from your mistakes. If something doesn’t work, move on. Try another approach. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP.

5. Strengthen your mindset. Practice staying positive.

Jessica Singerman painting
Painting – Photo Credit: Tim Bowman

6. Keep working on basic skills. It’s helpful to return to basics every so often to keep your skills and your eyes sharp.

7. Cross train. If you are primarily a painter, draw or make three-dimensional things. Do other stuff that feeds into your artwork. Read. Go for a hike, a bike ride, a run – something that will get you moving and out of the studio. You will get your best ideas when you are not in studio.

8. Walk away. When we do something for hours on end and things aren’t going well, it’s hard to see clearly what’s happening. When you can’t figure out what to do, get some space from it. That may mean just taking a few steps back to get some distance. Or it may mean working on another project or getting out of the studio to come back with fresh eyes.

9. Fear: As an artist, you might be afraid of using a certain medium, afraid of color, afraid of showing your work, afraid of failure, or afraid that you’re not making the right decision. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Fear can be a good indicator that you are stretching yourself. On the other hand, some fear is helpful to keep us from doing stupid stuff. Learn to tell the difference.

10. Keep a regular schedule, whether that means late night, early morning, or middle of the afternoon studio time. Stick to your schedule.

11. Be kind to yourself. You can only go so far if you don’t sleep enough, eat right, and get exercise. You can only burn the candle at both ends for so long. Don’t feed into that starving artist myth.

Looking for more advice for artists? Check out my latest interview with the Winston-Salem Journal. We talk about my background, work process, challenges, and some more tidbits to help you in your path.

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