Sunday, 15 January 2012

Unnecessary Preparation - Artists Advice | Watercolour Illustrations


I've challenged myself to produce more work in 2012 and I must admit, I've already come up against a big time waster: 'faffing'. I'm sure every artist must do this; I guess it can also be called 'prep' or 'getting in the zone' and I'm sure it can involve a lot of different rituals, in order to 'properly' get down to work.

For me, 'faffing' consists of tidying. I'd tidy my whole room before every work session if I wasn't strict with myself. I find it harder to work with my bed unmade, or if I have a huge pile of laundry to put away, or if I haven't hoovered for a while...but is that really true, or is it just a way of putting off painting?

In the same way I'm convinced I can't work unless I have some form of entertainment set up, whether that be an audio book, tv, youtube or even a film to watch. But have I ever tried working without these (lets face it) distractions?

For me at least, I always have this feeling, I can only describe it as a "pull", which pulls me away from work, and gets me unnecessarily focused on the small things - on cleaning my room and 'prepping' my environment. I'm not in any way trying to suggest that prepping for work isn't necessary or even a little bit enjoyable -  but I'm finding it more and more crucial to find the line between necessary and unnecessary.

Unnecessary faffing is caused by fear. Fear pulls me away from starting a new project, or finishing an old one - because I'm scared today will be a 'bad' day, and I wont achieve what I want, and it will all look like an awful mess. Faffing is my way of coping with the fear of failing; very often the scale of faffing reflects on how big a failure I'll feel if the project goes wrong - sometimes I will faff for DAYS when a big project is due.

For now, I want to concentrate on small scale faffing, and how I can shave time off this activity and get more illustration work done. I want to look back on this year and be proud of the work I've produced, and in order to do that I must face my demons - starting with the 'faff monster'.

Some tips, henceforth:

  • Learn your method of 'faff'. Are you a cleaner like me? Or do you require constant refreshments, and subsequent tv watching?
  • Recognise when you are most likely to faff. Is it when you're stressed? When you're distracted? 
  • Be honest with yourself - do you really need all of your pre-work rituals?
  • Keep an eye on the clock - if you must faff give yourself a strict time limit.
  • Give yourself regimented breaks - faff during this time eg. if you can see your unmade bed in the corner of your eye, tell yourself you will sort it in your break. If you see how much it then wastes your break time, you can better understand how it cuts into work time.

As for now, the real question remains: are you all sick of the word 'faff' yet???

I'd love to hear your pre-work rituals, and whether you consider them necessary or not. Can you cut anything out today? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. I'm just about to start my faffing before I tackle my tax return. I'm a tidier too - my desk is in my bedroom, and I always feel like I should have done the dusting before I can possibly do any work. I'm sure this isn't strictly true! You're not alone, my friend!

  2. First off, the word faff is just my favourite word ever. Second, I like to faff by reading magazines, finding something I wana buy in the mag and then spending hours trawling the internet to find I actually don't really like it that much. Also, because I want to be an artist but am a full time teaching assistant, I like to spend school holidays when I should be painting going to places to BUY paint. And leaving beast comments on blogs...

  3. Agreed, I have always found it much easier to work in a tidy-ish space. I think having a separate room to work in has helped curb my faffing - all I can see from my desk is the view out of the window so I can ignore the piles of washing and unmade bed.

    It doesn't stop me from wasting time browsing facebook/blogs/twitter though... xx

  4. I have a shit load of work on.

    My house is spotless.

    Say no more.

  5. Haha, it's interesting to see the different degrees of faffing here. Interesting point Stacie, I can see how having a seperate room would be a big help! Thanks for the great comments everyone.

  6. I'm not sure if this helps, but a solution to the 'entertainment' faff that works for me is to stick the radio on in the morning. If you can find a station you like then you can leave it on all day. I find I don't waste time deciding what to listen to, and you don't get too sucked in (eg. ending up watching the film you put on as 'background' entertainment.) x

  7. Oh my gosh, thats a brilliant idea Amber! It is the deciding part of choosing entertainment that takes time and often leads to distraction. Thanks for your comment.

    1. I am the LEAST tidy person in the whole world. So tidying isn't my 'faffing' instead, mine is making sure music is on, and making tea. OH SO MUCH TEA. I always listen to music - never youtube or tv, because I definitely won't do anything then. However, I tend to distract myself with more 'fun' ideas - so I'll have a huge deadline and I'll need to do loads of work, except I find it SO important to be making tiny little drawings of cakes or something ridiculous like that. I also use magazines for ideas for fashion, and for poses for people - which ends in me reading said magazine. *All in the name of research*

  8. This post is brilliant! You said it all - except I find myself endlessly sneaking away to put the kettle on! I find I can't work at all unless my desk is clear so s thorough cleaning 'faff' is something I can never stop! X

  9. I'm definitely a tidier... I suddenly develop OCD when I try to draw anything :) And I have to have either the radio or the telly on. Endless researching is probably the worst though... hours of looking at google images for reference pictures that have to be just right lol. As a result I get very little work done ever... I think I need to be stricter too! :) x

  10. I couldn't agree MORE! I am definitely a Cleaner. Everything has to be spotlessly perfect, and organised before I set to work. I have never related to something on a blog as much as this! x

  11. Wow, that's comforting, I thought I was the only one! Definitely a cleaner, and I must have music playing in the background, but it has to be something I know all of the words to, so I can listen with out listening too hard??? I also find myself making copious amounts of tea :)