7 Self-Improvement and Productivity Tips From Incredible Artists

Photo by Pedro Sandrini from Pexels

Have you noticed how everyone seems obsessed these days with being better today than yesterday? It’s true! It’s such a hot topic that I’m writing this article because “self-improvement” and “productivity tips” are two of the most clapped-for tags on Medium. (Jokes, real reasons include a love of famous quotes and badass artists).

Rather than looking to the usual sources for life hacks — you know, famous CEOs, world leaders, cult leaders — It’s time to look to a profession that often gets a tough rap (yet requires more grit and determination than most): Artists.

Artists put in endless hours on “got to pay the rent” commissions, day jobs, night jobs, teaching gigs, community service, families, and occasionally even sleep. And they still find time to work on pieces they’re passionate about.

They draw on trains commutes, paint in the midnight hours, squeeze in sketches between lunch breaks and use every spare second to create. It’s obvious that artists have some made productivity skills… or at least coping skills. So here are 7 things we can learn from successful artists both in modern and classical times, about getting stuff done.

1. “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream” — Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

We all get caught up in dreams. Whether it’s the raunchy one you had last night or a life-long desire to buy a twin-engine jet and start your own superhero club — a good dream can be the spark you need to transform your life.

While you may feel instantly encouraged by Van Gogh’s whimsical quote, remember this. For your dreams to come real, you need to pick up the proverbial paintbrush and translate them into reality.

Without doing something to make your dreams happen, they’ll stay outside your reach, teasing you from afar.

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

Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso

Pop quiz time: How many artworks do you think Pablo Picasso created?

He was 91 years old when he died, so if we generously assume he created 150 artworks per year (even at age zero), he’s have made 13,650 of them. Or let’s go crazy, one artwork ever single day (365 a year) would equal 33,215 works of art.

But no, instead he created 50,000 works of art over his lifetime. 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.

What we learn from Picasso is this: If you’re not doing the work consistently, you won’t get the result you want. So, do the work. Even if you don’t feel like it, and the reward will come.

3. “I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.” — Frida Kahlo

Self Portrait 1 by Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo lived an exceptionally difficult life. She suffered from Polio, was in a car crash that required her to have 30 different surgeries, had her leg amputated for gangrene, suffered a life-threatening miscarriage and more. Her days passed in clouds of physical pain and depression. But she always kept fighting.

From Kahlo, we learn that it is never, ever time to give up. That if you try, little by little, you can survive. And little by little, things WILL get better. On your quest to self-improvement, keep this in mind like a guiding star. Sometimes it will feel pointless, but often it’s not.

4. “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.” “What mood is that?” “Last-minute panic.” — Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbs comic by Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson is the mastermind behind the famous Calvin and Hobbs comic series. In this quote, we learn something very astute about productivity.

Nothing makes you more productive than last-minute panic. I hear it’s extra effective if it’s self-inflicted.

If you need a burst of energy, find ways to put yourself under unavoidable pressure. You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve.

5. “The thing about being an unstoppable force is that you can really only enjoy the experience of being one when you have something to bash yourself against” — Allie Brosh

Snapshot from Menance Post (click here for full post)

Allie Brosh is the artist behind Hyperbole and Half, a personal fusion of comic and blog that’s maintained a cult following despite years of inactivity. She talks about depression and her childhood often and reveals her innermost struggles.

This quote highlights something intrinsic I think all humans feel. There’s no satisfaction in being super clever or strong if you never get to use your power. When setting goals and moving upward on your self-improvement scale, give yourself barriers to smash. Remembering that satisfaction will help you keep going when you start to stagnate and get lazy.

6. “Go and play. Run around. Build something. Break something. Climb a tree. Get dirty. Get in some trouble. Have some fun.” — Brom

An illustration from Lost Gods a Novel by Brom

When a gothic author and fantasy illustrator who thrives on painting in his basement tells you to play, there’s a lesson to be learned.

Being productive and improving yourself doesn’t have to be boring. You don’t need to wake up at 7:05 and follow your strict daily routine. At least you don’t need to do that EVERY morning. Give yourself time to play. Playing is how we learn, it’s how we refresh. It’s an important part of mental health. If you don’t play, you’ll just work all the time.

You only have one life, and it’s a magical thing. Don’t forget that on your journey to become “The Most Productive Person” in the room.

7. “Become good at cheating and you never need to become good at anything else.” — Banksy

Artwork by Banksy

Banksy is the world’s most famous graffiti artist. The mystery surrounding his identity has captured the imagination of millions. His artwork continues to make powerful statements about the world.

It’s difficult to choose a quote from Banksy — he has so many good ones. But how can you beat the lesson of cheating? All through school, society tells us that cheating isn’t how you become successful. But in the real world, things aren’t so clear cut.

Taking shortcuts, finding the fastest way to get something done, we call it “cheating” but in reality, it’s just being smart. Not everything needs to be hard all the time.

What will you create today?

Which artist inspired you the most? Let us know in the comments or by highlighting a quote. Productivity is an elusive thing, but so’s creativity. At the end of it all, the trick is to just have fun with it.

Need a better way to showcase your artwork? D Emptyspace is a free virtual gallery space where you can curate the exhibition of your dreams.

Make your portfolio stand out.

Download D Emptyspace for iOS: https://apple.co/2MhsxCs

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

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How to take Professional Photos of your Artwork

How to take Professional Photos of your Artwork

Back in the days before social media, it could take months before anyone would see your artwork. You’d have to wait for a big exhibition or get in front of an art dealer if you wanted to share your creativity with the world.

But now, you can turn your works digital, create online galleries, and build a digital portfolio that anyone can explore.

High-quality photos of your artwork can be used for competition entries, portfolio records, self-documentation, worldwide reputation management, and more.

Here’s how you can take professional photographs that accurately represent your artworks.

“It’s like the artwork comes off of life support, it’s taking a life on its own right when the viewer when the viewer sees it, that’s when I believe that that’s when the work actually turns to life.” — Cande Aguilar @barriopop

Choose the right camera

Choose between a DSLR or modern smartphone

You have two main two camera options; Your smartphone camera, or a professional DSLR camera.

In recent years, the gap in quality has reduced dramatically between the two. As long as your smartphone model is under 3 years old and has a camera above 12-megapixels, it should take high-quality pictures suitable for online sharing. This is a great option if you want to record your work quickly with minimal investment.

A DSLR is the best choice if you need to capture every detail in perfect clarity and have hands-on control over exposure and contrast. Use a tripod and adjust the ISO down to 100 to capture crisp details without introducing noise and grain. The ideal range for your f-stop setting (the focal length) is between f-8 and f-11 (depending on your lighting setup).

Whether you’re using a point-and-shoot smartphone or a DSLR in a studio, one of the best ways to make your photos look more professional is a tripod. Your hand naturally shakes slightly when you take a photo, giving your images a slight blur. A tripod will allow you to frame your shot perfectly and capture razor sharp details.

How to light your artwork for photos

Professional studio setup

To get the perfect studio-style shot, point two diffused lights at your artwork from a 45-degree angle. They should be white and far enough away to avoid any hotspots of light spilling onto your work.

Diffusing the lights with white paper, white photography umbrellas, or cloth will reduce light intensity and create a smooth level of ambient light. This setup is designed to get the most accurate representation of your artwork.

To highlight the texture of your piece

Place one of your lights slightly closer at a sharper 30-degree angle and make it brighter than the opposing light. This technique casts a deeper shadow on your piece, making the textured areas pop.

How to use natural light most effectively

If you don’t have studio lights, you can generate the above setup by using natural light. Position your artwork on a wall near a window or doorway and make sure there are no sharp shadows falling over it.

Try to shoot on an overcast day as the light will be more ambient and neutral in color. If you shoot on a sunny day, make sure the sunlight is not directly hitting your work (you can diffuse sunlight coming in through a window by using white paper or cloth).

You angle will make or break the photograph

A tripod is absolutely essential if you want to get the perfect angle. Make sure your artwork is aligned flat and the perspective is not warped.

Hang your artwork flat against the wall, and set your tripod up directly in front of it at the appropriate height. Check that your piece fills as much of the frame as possible and that all angles are straight, not tilted (see the diagram below).

Avoid shooting your art on the floor increases your chance of shadows, poor lighting, and distorted perspective. Always hang it up on the wall and use a tripod to get the perfect angle.

Do a light photo edit to stay true to reality

On your desktop computer, you can download, organize and edit photos from your DSLR or smartphone using software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Or you can use the image editing software GIMP for free.

If you’re shooting from your smartphone, use the native editor for basic edits or download the lite app versions of Photoshop or Lightroom for more control.

Typically edits include; brightness and contrast adjustment to pop out extra details, tweaking the exposure and color correction, and cropping the photograph to remove the excess background.

Sharing your photographed artwork online

If you want to share just one piece of art, upload and post your photos to Instagram. It’s a great platform to build a stronger social media presence and generate anticipation among your followers with work in progress WIP snapshots.

To share a series or body of work, you can use the D Emptyspace app to create a virtual gallery. The app helps you set up a professional portfolio and online exhibition that you can easily share with others.

Download the app on iOS: https://apple.co/2MhsxCs

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Download


Why a Website Makes a Terrible Art Portfolio

Why a Website Makes a Terrible Art Portfolio

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

It’s finally happened. A collector you chatted up at a local art event asked the golden question… “Do you have any pictures of your work?”

That question is a make-or-break moment. You need to show them a portfolio of your art — and fast — before they lose interest.

But how?

Lots of artists default to their website gallery.

With DIY website builders like Wix, you can get a website up and running in an afternoon. But does a website make a good portfolio? In some cases, yes. But does it make the best portfolio? Almost never.

So before we get into the reasons why (and what to use instead), remember that websites are useful in many other ways. You can use them to keep a personal journal or blog, build a comprehensive record of your work, supply galleries with a detailed artist’s bio and description of the artwork, and build an online presence that galleries, collectors, and curators can link back to.

Your website takes too long to load on your phone and people lose interest

How loading in WordPress works

Most artists document their artwork with photos using a professional camera or smartphone (click here if you want to know how to get the best out of your photos). While these images are excellent quality, they come along with large file sizes.

If you upload a photo to your website that’s still in its original size and resolution, it’s probably more than one megabyte. That means when you pull up your website to show someone you art ‘quickly’, you could be standing there for 30 seconds while your images painstakingly load. And that’s only after you’ve navigated to your main gallery page.

Are there ways around this? Yes — if you resize every single image AND run it through an image compressing service like tinyjpg.com. But then you have to be careful not to lose too much quality. It’s a delicate dance that takes time and know-how.

It’s worth making sure a website loads efficiently. But when you’re at a cocktail party and quickly need to show someone your work, a website simply takes too long.

Websites don’t always display images beautifully and can be troublesome on different devices

Many people don’t realize that websites are not a “one size fits all” solution. A website will display differently on every single device. So what looks good on your desktop wouldn’t look the same on your iPhone. And with 47.96% of all traffic coming from mobile phones, any display problems are a big deal.

So web designers developed something called “Responsive Design”. Responsive design means that a website will adapt to the screen size you’re displaying on. This diagram displays it best

Plus DIY websites can be clunky and annoying to use on your smartphone when you’re in a rush. Even if your photos display at the right size.

Keeping a website up to date takes time and attention

Artists are not known for their incredible powers of organization. Keeping the gallery on your website up to date is a constant struggle for many, many people. And if you want to show off an artwork that you just finished today, chances are, you’ve just snapped a picture and haven’t yet had the time to upload it.

In a nutshell: Websites are a pain to keep updated — so you probably won’t have your most recent work on-hand.

Verdict: Use one of these other methods to show people your artwork on your phone

1. Have a dedicated album on your phone


  • Don’t need to download any software
  • Accessible without an internet connection
  • Don’t need to upload images anywhere


  • Fiddly to set up
  • Not a professional look
  • Chance someone sees your embarrassing family photos while swiping

Use a virtual gallery app like D Emptyspace (click here to learn more)

Screen Bed by Jonnie Turpie


  • Displays artwork in a professional gallery format
  • Share gallery links with others
  • Scale your artwork up to any size on a wall
  • Include artwork names and descriptions
  • Tell a story by sequencing your work in the right order


  • Need to download
  • Need an internet connection or to have saved your gallery offline

Upload your art to Instagram


  • Easy to use and familiar to most
  • Can grow a large social following
  • Automatic filters can help you color correct your photos


  • Limited to a square image format
  • Have to create a business account for your art
  • Not very professional as a format

Building a powerful online portfolio

As a D Emptyspace featured artist mentions in her interview, being prolific online is a major asset when you’re trying to get your work out there.

“It is through technology with social media that I was invited by newyorkart.com to participate in their group exhibition of their opening of their new gallery at Franklin Place New York.” — Veronica Wong

Use whatever method looks and feels best for you as an artist when showing your portfolio of work. But don’t neglect to build an online presence at the same time.

Download D Emptyspace for iOS: https://apple.co/2MhsxCs

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Download