Finding Time To Improve Your Art: Drawing At Work

Hi everyone! One thing I never get tired of saying is how important regular practice and constantly challenging yourself is to improving your drawing. But what do you do if you can’t seem to find nice, long stretches of time to sit at your desk, listen to music, and practice your drawing? I’ve been having this hurdle with finding the time to improve my artistic ability ever since I started at my full time job.

One thing I’ve started doing is working on small practice sketches throughout the work day. It goes like this: at the start of a shift where I anticipate having a lot of down time, I take a small scrap of paper (no bigger than 4″ x 6″) and pick a photo. I’ll usually go with something interesting or challenging from Google Images. I’ll keep that window up on my computer to work from whenever I get downtime on the job. Typically, I can finish one whole picture, from blocking in the basic shapes to refining the details over the course of an eight hour workday.

I can hear you now: “isn’t it irresponsible to be drawing when you’re supposed to be working?” I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons. First, most jobs do not require your constant, undivided attention throughout the day. While this is not the case for delivery drivers, assembly line workers, nurses, and other jobs that are task oriented, most of us, especially in office jobs, have down time at the desk, which usually gets turned into web surfing and solitaire. Which actually brings me to my second point.

Drawing at work increases your productivity. Contrary to what you (and ALL my teachers in school) might have been led to believe, drawing or doodling does not distract you from paying attention. The opposite is true. Drawing helps improve your concentration, keeping you from getting too noted by giving you something in the present to focus on. It actually turns out eyes on the paper may be better for information retention than eyes on the speaker. As I mentioned before, many people turn to games or web surfing when they’re bored at work. When I draw at work, I am right at my work station, with my reference pic on my screen and my work program running at the same time. If the phone rings or a client walks up, I am right there to help, and I get to practice the skill I love in the meantime.

Lastly, drawing while I work improves my mood. Picture how you feel when you have to go to work: tired, grumpy, maybe resentful at that huge block of time when you can’t do what you want. Maybe just reading that sentence gets the cortisol churning through your bloodstream. Now think about how you feel when you’re making art and in the flow: rhythmically applying large areas of color or shading, the intense meditative state you feel when shuting out the rest of the world to work on a small detail. You may not be able to get as far into the zone when you’re at work instead of your studio, but what you do get will probably be a lot nicer than you usually feel at work. I notice that a day drawing at work makes me feel a lot better about coming in the next day, plus I’m more likely to draw some more that night!

So go ahead and take your colored pencils to work and make something beautiful. If your boss says something, show them this article and have them take it up with me. Or just check out what I drew at work yesterday!

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