Finding Your Zen in the Studio


Lily Love
Lily Love, 16X16, oil


I rely upon familiar rituals when I am preparing to paint: laying out a fresh palette of color, replenishing piles of color where needed, replacing turpenoid containers with fresh cleaner, topping off the bowl of baby oil for the brush spa, stacking up the freshly folded Viva paper towels, and lining up all my brushes in size order (kidding, I only use 2 brushes…).  Are the pug kiddos all happy and content and have they had second brekkies and early lunch? Once every item is checked off the list, my mind is in a quiet place and I’m ready to lay down the first dab of color on the blank canvas.

This is my zen.


Eliminating the barriers to painting is critical to the art journey, including carving out and fiercely guarding the physical space where that takes place. I recall dozens of times in my early painting years where I didn’t paint, simply because it meant hauling out all the gear from a box or closet and setting it up on the dining room table. If you’re trapped in that routine and find it impairs your creativity, consider keeping all of your supplies on a rolling cart in a closet, so you can roll it out, ready to go, rather than having to unpack and reorganize each time.

Once you’ve got your equipment in place, your studio space staked out, and uninterrupted painting time established, there is one more housekeeping chore: Calming your mind, clearing your thoughts, and giving yourself over to the act of creating. For me, that means turning off the sound on the phone and computer so I don’t check email each time it pings, and closing the studio doors so I’m not distracted by those exciting Amazon prime deliveries of dish detergent and new socks. I turn on my latest book on Audible, get my flower setup exactly so, and set aside fears and doubts and dive in.

Here’s my zen list. If it helps, you can put your zen list on a sticky note and check off each item with a magenta sharpie. This is super helpful, mainly because magenta is such a fabby color. 

Finally, I remind myself that this painting is only a study. It’s a step to the next painting. What I’m creating today is not the be-all, end-all of my art career. Every painting is simply one step in this journey, and God, what a beautiful journey it has been….

Prepare Your Space

Calm Your Thoughts

Accept Why You’re Doing This


If you feel like the load is lighter before you begin painting, you’ve given yourself permission to have fun and embrace anything that happens. You’ve given yourself permission to paint something you never dreamed you could tackle. You have allowed yourself to fail, before you even begin, so fear is no longer part of the equation.

Have you found a ritual that helps prepare you for painting? I would love to hear from you!




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Nancy Medina

Nancy is a master signature artist and instructor with over 1800 online students from around the world. She has worked with Disney, served on the art faculty of the Dallas Arboretum, and teaches workshops in France, Italy and across the US. More about Nancy

Reader Interactions


  1. “Finally, I remind myself that this painting is only a study” I find this especially helpful!
    FYI “have they had second brekkies and early lunch?” The Brits call it elevenses pronounced like elevensies… as in the Lord of the Rings. 🙂

  2. Sad to say, I’m still struggling with this step. I haven’t gotten past, “where I didn’t paint, simply because it meant hauling out all the gear from a box or closet and setting it up on the dining room table.” Once I get my personal creative space set up, I hope to have no more excuses. Meanwhile…holding down the fort at the ranch is taking precedence.

    • Anne you have so many plates spinning! I hope you are able to squeeze in some paint time, maybe in the spring when your garden is blooming…!

  3. This blog resonated with me! Thanks Nancy! A move underway, and decluttering,donating, gifting, trashing. BUT I have my little carts now thanks to great deals at HomeGoods. One for watercolor and one for oil. Keeping it all in order! I also saw a great round, three tier cart at Target. Lots of storage in a small footprint and great price. Pretty soon I will be able to ”clock in” at 10:30 in the morning and have dedicated 2-3 hours to paint in either medium. That’s my goal. As Artists we are always evolving and if we paint daily we learn new things every day and increase our skills. Thanks again for being a great teacher.

  4. A shift in my thinking will be helpful! Instead of approaching my canvas with an attitude of “I hope I don’t fail”, I’m going to give myself “permission to fail”! That should take away the pressure from that big white canvas! Thanks, Nancy. ♥️ I do have a routine…. fresh flowers (hopefully the ones I will be painting), my playlist, my favorite French Market candle, in addition to a clean(ish) studio space. I also love to gesso my canvas (I know, weird). There’s something zin about stroking that white gesso on without “judgement” of how it’s going to look. Love your lessons!

    • Maribeth I can tell from your work you are one disciplined and talented lady! I know your students love that about you, too!

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