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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Beyond Instagram: Curating Galleries that Tell Stories

Why does going to an art gallery or museum feel so much different than seeing the same quality of pictures on Instagram?

It could be that a gallery is a special place with a dedicated purpose. That certainly plays a role, but it has far more to do with the way that galleries are carefully curated.

Photo by Deanna J on Unsplash

Most of us consume and showcase our art and photography in singles — one-off images. We’ll call it the Instagram effect. Rather than telling a story through a series of images, we share our most impressive, highest impact images, often in real time.

Here’s a quick look at an image in our Instagram feed:

Photo by Deanna J on Unsplash

The photographer, sureshnaganathan, has uploaded a series of images (9 actually) to a single post, but Instagram only shows us one. We have to swipe back and forth to see the other images, and there’s no way to see them in context, together. This makes it difficult to understand how one image relates to the next.

Clicking into the photographer’s profile is no better. We still just see a series of images, not a story.

Photo by Deanna J on Unsplash

We’ve got no problem with Instagram. Our team finds inspiration there every day. But it isn’t an ideal way to share or view art in a way that encourages contemplation.

But we also think it’s really worthwhile go beyond what’s possible in Instagram and arrange your work in a way that tells a story. (And we’re creating an app that lets you do just that. Scroll to the end of this article for more details.)

Five Resources to help you Master the Art of Storytelling through Curation

The idea of curating art or arranging your works into galleries can seem daunting. So we’ve put together several free articles, resources and inspiring stories to help you get started with confidence.

Clever Ways To Arrange Artwork

While intended for home decorating, this article covers eight ways to display artwork, including linear, grid, clustered, salon style and singles. It’s not only a good introduction, it also includes images that can serve as inspiration.

Read More on Forbes

The designer’s guide to Gestalt Theory

Ge- what? Allow me to quote from the article:

In the 1920s, a group of psychologists in Germany developed a series of theories of visual perception known as the Gestalt Principles, or Gestalt Theory. Along with systems such as grid theory, the Golden Ratio and colour theory, the Gestalt Principles form the basis of many design rules we follow today.

A basic understanding of the six Gestalt principles (similarity, continuation, closure, proximity, figure/ground, symmetry and order), will help you arrange your artworks so they look like part of a set, rather than a random collection.

Read more on Creative Bloq

Bonus Articles from Creative Bloq:

10 steps to curating an exhibition

In this lengthy post, the curator for politics and international relations at LSE Library explains his entire process of putting together an exhibition on Indian independence. He not only covers what to put where, but also how he chose what went into the exhibit in the first place.

The article may be overkill if you’re just curating an online photo gallery, but it reminds us that the more thought you put into an endeavor, the better the results will be.

Read more on Medium

How to Curate an Art Show

This step-by-step guide reminds of the importance of having a clear concept, and considering your audience, but also ensures we don’t forget about some of the less considered parts of hosting a gallery show… like sending invitations to your friends and to the press. (We’ll make that a lot easier in D Emptyspace, letting you invite people to your gallery online.)

Read more on The Balance Careers

D Emptyspace

We’re launching D Emptyspace very soon. It’s an app that allows you to create and explore inspiring virtual art galleries on your phone. More than just photo sharing, it’s a way to tell stories with your artwork.

Whether you want to curate an offline gallery and test the placement of your images first, send a specific arrangement to a curator, or create online galleries to share with your friends, D Emptyspace makes everything free and easy.

A preview of a gallery in D Emptyspace

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


Feature Updates: How to Share Your Galleries

Photo by Ruben Ramirez

Our previous updates focused on sharing galleries for everyone. This time around, we’ve focused more on you. With a new spin on the UI, more personal customization, and easier share options, V1.8 of D Emptyspace gives you even more ways to share your galleries online.

Share your gallery via the new floating button

In your personal gallery, we’ve adjusted the design to include a floating share button. The quick share button lets you share via any method you choose including popular social applications like Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram.

You have plenty of share options to choose from

How to Share:

  1. Go to your profile
  2. Click on one of your galleries to open it
  3. Tap the floating share button (it looks like an envelope)
  4. Pick where you want to share and follow the prompts

Now it’s easier than ever to share your galleries on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram (Feed and Stories), or by sending a link. Your friends can view your galleries in a web browser, even if they don’t have the D Emptyspace app! (And remember sharing your galleries is the absolute best way to get feedback on your work, or to promote it!)

How to share your galleries on Instagram

We know how important it is to share your galleries on Instagram. That’s why we’ve made it even easier. By using the full-screen button you can now take high res screenshots of your entire gallery.

The full screen button is located on the top right hand corner of the screen

How to share via Instagram:

  1. Tap the full-screen button
  2. Take a screenshot of your gallery
  3. Crop out the black bars
  4. Use the Panorama Crop app to crop your image
  5. Upload the images in sequence to Instagram
  6. Done!

How’s this actually look, you ask? We have tons of great examples on our own Instagram feed.

Quickly set your cover image on your gallery

We’ve made the thumbnails setting for your galleries even easier to find.


  1. Go to your profile
  2. Tap the three vertical dots in the top right corner of your gallery thumbnail
  3. Follow the prompts to choose your thumbnail

How to edit (crop) your cover image

Editing your cover image’s thumbnail is now possible inside the D Emptyspace app. When you select your image, you’ll be prompted to crop it automatically. If it does not fit the rectangular format, you can zoom in and out by using the pinching gesture, or pan by swiping.

We hope you enjoy the new features!

Special thanks to the entire team at Dift for working so hard to keep these updates rolling out so fast!

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