Relax, Have Fun Painting

water reflections

Do you find when you get your drawing and painting supplies out, you then start to tense up? Do you notice that the more you fiddle, struggle and try to ‘get it just right’ – the more work it needs?!

water reflections
Water Reflections

Relax.   Surround yourself with serene calming subjects and scenes.


Avoid clutter and overload, getting overwhelmed and trying to get it perfect!

Sunsetting photo


When there’s a Constellation of Rules clamouring for attention in your head  (art basics, ideas, colours,  design, depth, tones, etc.)  it really is difficult to achieve clarity and calm.


There are few things more irritating to an artist than finally having the time, sitting down getting started, just to find you are too tense and anxious to really progress properly with the artwork!

If that happens to you sometimes,  you might try these 5 action items that help me de-stress and paint with more freedom and with boldness.

In my own experience in the classroom over the years,  we all create best when we are calm, focused and not anxious.  We need to find ways to trick our minds into believing yes, we are relaxed, at ease and energised to create.


Routine Tips, Relaxing before Painting

I find a routine involving 5  senses works great,  relaxing me and putting my mind straight into the moment.  Being mindful of the present moment, not fearing what could happen, or what someone might say later – is really the key.


The 5 items:  hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight

step 1     put on some calm soothing nature, zen  type  music

step 2     make a cup of nice aromatic jasmine green tea   in a lovely ceramic cup

step 3     sit  down with 2 types of paper or canvas   (very rough and very smooth)

step 4    as you are listening to the music play, sipping the jasmine scented tea, reach out and explore the fabric and textures of the paper/canvas surfaces. Feel the rough pebble like finish contrasting with the satin smoothness of the other surface.

step 5    choose one of the surfaces to use today.   4-5 minutes have now gone by and you most likely are at least 50%  less stressed if not more!


By becoming deeply absorbed with each of your senses (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch) you have effectively blocked out – for that time period – the negative stress factors, leading you into a much more relaxed frame of mind.

If  you start to get tense in the midst of the painting…take another Tea and Music break, in the other room.  Then return.


A few more tips that I can share with you that I use frequently are:

Choose Cool Palette Colours

I recognise ahead the type of mood I may be in, and choose calmer colours and subjects to help bring me back into a more serene and focused mindset.    Cool grey greens, moss, aqua, ocean blues,mauve, etc.  are much cooler and calmer than Scarlet, Magenta, Fuchsia, Hot Pink, Fluoro Orange.


One main art basic to focus on per painting

If you are a complete beginner, just focus on one major art basic guideline per painting for a while.  As you progress,  then add a couple more, per week. Absolute beginners have plenty already to think about: colour mixing, brush strokes, basic techniques, etc. You don’t need to break the camel’s back with 25 more items to remember to get right.


Painting more than just one painting

Next,  I don’t paint only one painting per session, anymore.   For most of us, its a guarantee to tense up,  and  stress out.    I’ve learned to have  about 2-3  surfaces “ready and waiting”  for paint to be splashed on them.  I’m more likely to fiddle and overwork if I expend all my days effort and energy on just ONE painting. If there are 2-3 paintings…I divide my energies. Less fiddling.

This is my mindset:  I have papers…  waiting for me!    It seems to work fairly well.


Be influenced by,  be inspired by the masters such as Monet

I really would like to emphasize one of the major reasons we get tense in the first place is that quite often we are trying to copy something. i.e.  replicate an exact duplicate of the object. And it is this, that causes the most amount of stress in our neck and shoulders. Heads too.

What to do instead? I like to explore and research great artists:  Morandi, Fred Williams, Degas,  O’Keefe,  Edward Seago, Matisse, Monet, John Singer Sargeant, Corot.    I get somewhat acquainted with their colour, subject, tonal, brush stroke preferences  as well as something about them personally. Perhaps a pithy quote.

If my inner artist gels, connects with that artist – at that point, I may decide to create an artwork that has been Influenced By this artist. I’d use a palette, subject, brush, canvas they may have liked – whilst keeping true to my own inner artist.    By doing this, I am far less likely to become stressed out about Copying…. About getting it to look like a Replica.   Yippee!


Take a Break

The other action item I’ll do is to get up every 20 minutes, walk around outside, come back with a fresh eye. And my neck and shoulders feel a lot better too.


Its pretty simple.

It doesn’t take long at all. Its worth giving it a go –  ‘testing’ it, to see if these strategies really work, or not!  


Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at and,

10 thoughts on “Relax, Have Fun Painting

  1. Such great tips, Deb! Especially for a newbie like me! Two struck chords with me in particular. 1) One main art basic to focus on per painting. I find this to be so true. Most everything I have done so far in my three month self-discovery into watercolor is one object. I am overwhelmed thinking of trying to create an entire scene. 2) Painting more than just one painting. BRILLIANT! Maybe this is common practice for artists, but it is so enlightening to me! I tend to overwork and want to get a painting done – grow impatient – but if I had a few to work on and let the other(s) dry and move before overworking – how much better that would be. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. its a bit of hindsight in my case. early days I was irritated at all my overworked stuff & figured out to line up the papers and do ‘a series’ That would keep my hands BUSY! LOL and it does. then I’m exhausted. happy tho. I hear you on the impatient factor. Wanting it done yesterday and at the framers today, summed it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All such great advice Debi. Taking time out to look at other artists is so important; Morandi, Matisse and O’Keefe three of my favorites. Just looked at Seago and ordered a book from the library. Best wishes…A

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good For You Andrew! more books!! you’re going to need more bookshelves. lol so few of my students have heard of Morandi, none of Seago. Its a shame, their work is exquisite.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, thats lovely! Appreciate your stopping by and having a look 🙂 I’m hoping that some of these ideas help a bit. I still will get antsy if things aren’t ‘going right’ – but will take a break. Cheers, Debi

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: