Posts tagged how to make your creative dreams real
Carving Out Time for Art

Today I’m taking over the Carve Out Time for Art Instagram account. I’m so honored to have been asked to share my day with that creative community. Carve Out Time for Art was created by Marissa Huber and Heather Kirtland and this is what they have to say about it:

“Our mission is to empower people to stop dreaming and start doing, especially when it comes to carving out time for art.

We are passionate about building community, encouraging others (especially women), and connecting people.

We want to cultivate a positive and nurturing community for creatives who want to find time to satisfy this part of their identity. We do this by fostering conversations, connecting creatives with resources, and showing people they are not alone.”

So good, don’t you think? (If you’re on Instagram and you’re not following them, go do it now!).

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to carve out time for art.

It is HARD to move from dreaming to doing. It took me years of dreaming about making before I ever picked up a paintbrush.

One of the things that helped me overcome the inertia (and the fear) is that I saw other women making art and sharing their art on their blogs. The creative community I found online was so inspiring and encouraging.

It’s one of the reasons that I love to teach (and to share my own words of encouragement in this space).

Carving out time to make art isn’t easy, either. I have dedicated time just about every day solely for the purpose of making art, but sitting down and doing it can still be hard. I have emails to answer. A website to maintain. I have to photograph and scan new work. Prepare submissions. Write blog posts. Wrap up and send out orders. Plan new classes. Film and edit online classes… the list goes on and on.

Some days I spend far too much time sitting in the chair at my computer

And then there are the days I’m not in the mood to make art.

We all have our own sets of challenges (I’m so grateful for mine — they mean I’m doing meaningful work that I love). We all have many ways to spend our time. I have a another part-time job. We have families. Pets. Hobbies. (Once spring is here for real, I’ll have my garden pulling on my attention, too).


There’s no secret answer to how to carve out time for art. No tool or art supply to buy to make things easier. You simply (or not so simply) have to show up. Consistently. Make it a habit. Even on days when you’re not feeling entirely in the mood.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” —Pablo Picasso

Write it on your schedule if that helps. Challenge yourself with something like the 100 Day Project or 30 Paintings in 30 Days, or make up your own. Sketch while watching TV. Wake up earlier. Stay up later. Live with a less than clean house (making art is a good excuse not to clean!).

In addition to the time you need for making art, is the mental space you need to make art. Putting aside fear. Releasing yourself from judgement. This might be the hardest part.

Having a nurturing, supportive creative community can help with that.

When I first started painting with watercolor, I was not very good at it. I could have easily quit. But I was stubborn. And so I painted. And painted. And painted. I painted through heartache. I painted through joy. I painted and my dreams clarified and focused. It was not easy. The road was not straight, even though it led me from there to here.

I’ll stop rambling now (after all, there’s art to be made — this painting needs me to finish it today).

An in-process watercolor painting of an orchid in a clay pot by Anne Butera

I’ll leave you with this wish. Is there something you’ve been dreaming of doing? Doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re dreaming of it, I wish for you to stop dreaming and start DOING. Today. After all, today is all we have.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward

Today is my birthday. I love birthdays. When I was a child my mom always made them special (she still does!). I guess I never let go of the joy of celebrating my day.

Anne as a child with an armful of roses

Most years I try to do something interesting. Go somewhere I’ve never been before. Eat good food, maybe at a new restaurant or maybe an old favorite. I even make sure I take the day off from work.

I don’t fret about getting older or worry about what the numbers mean. Not even when they’re big. Three years ago, on the day I turned 40, I started my day by taking Matthias to a chemotherapy appointment. Celebrating my birthday within that context, when things felt so uncertain, getting old sounded really good. It still does. I have hopes and dreams and intentions for the future and I have a beautiful image of me as an old woman with white hair and funny outfits making wonderful art.

The other day I finished the last pages in two sketchbooks and it inspired me to bring out all my finished sketchbooks and arrange them in order by the date I finished them. Not all were dated, so I had to do a little detective work (note to self: always date your sketchbook pages!).

All the Sketchbooks I've Filled Up So Far on My Creative Journey

I’ve filled up 11 books so far (and have 6 in progress).

These sketchbooks tell the story of my (adult) art journey. I can page though them and witness my development as an artist. Most of the pages don’t mean much on their own. But as part of a larger whole they’re precious.

The first book begins in January of 2010. I’d been dreaming about making art for about a year at that point (two of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2009 were “Make some paintings” and “Draw”), but I hadn’t done much with those dreams. Even in 2010 it took me most of the year to overcome my fears and begin painting. That first book is mostly sketches for sewing and crochet projects, but slowly in the following books I began to take more risks, try more things and truly grow.

A recent page in one of my sketchbooks celebrating the glory of the coming spring in the form of tulips with watercolor and ink

Looking through my sketchbooks and thinking back to those tentative first steps and to all the little steps that followed (some tentative and some much more confident) made me pull out a few of my old journals and look through them, too.

My life was so different before I made my leap into creativity. I was unhappy and I knew I wanted something more. I knew I needed a change. It certainly wasn’t an easy road and I don’t think I ever dreamed I’d end up quite where I am today. Living in a small town and working in a library? Yes, I could picture that. Having my art published in magazines and books? Exhibiting my paintings? Teaching art online and in person? Sewing clothes with fabric I’d designed? Those dreams all seem too big. And yet, here I am.

Anne Butera in her studio wearing a top made with her butterfly fabric from Spoonflower

Every December I like to look back at all I’ve accomplished over the year and look forward to all I wish for the coming year. Sometimes during the day to day of life in progress it’s easy to lose sight of all our successes. The failures loom large. Our frustrations assume a weight they don’t deserve. Taking time to look back, remember, celebrate how far we’ve come is important. A birthday is a perfect time for it.

My word for this year is GROW and although I have a lot more growing I want to do this year (and beyond!), it seems right to look at all the growth that’s gotten me where I am today.

If you’re feeling impatient or frustrated or discouraged with how slowly your journey is progressing (whatever kind of journey you are on), take some time to remember how far you’ve already come. Take some time to settle into the slowness of your own unique story. To savor its sweetness (because it’s yours!). And if you have big dreams that seem very far away, remember that every little step you take brings you that much closer to them.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. For cheering me on. For encouraging and supporting me. May the next 365 days be filled with joy, with creativity, with wonder.

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