Get Creativity Tips from Artist + Med Student Diana Willard
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Get Creativity Tips from Artist + Med Student Diana Willard

As soon as we saw Diana Willard’s colorful palettes, we were smitten. Take one look at her playful mini paintings, and you’ll know why. A San Fran local, Diana is not only a fine-art painter who focuses on abstract painting, but she’s also a med student! Talk about the girl who does it all, earning her today’s #MakerCrushMonday spot. If you want to snag a few pieces for yourself, check out her online shop, and be sure to follow her adventures along on her blog and her Instagram for more inspiration. We chatted with her about how she makes time for art in her busy life and how she manages to stay creative.

We love your color palettes! What or who inspires you?

I’ve always been a big fan of color, and I think the credit goes to my parents. We always had a lot of colorful art on the walls — a mixture of Georgia O’Keeffe and Van Gogh posters, plus tons of kid-made art — and often even the walls were painted bright colors!

You talk about the importance of making time to be creative and the 10,000 hour theory. Can you explain what that is and how you schedule time to be creative?

Last summer, I was spending a lot of time comparing myself to other artists and kind of moping. At the same time, I started to track the number of hours I spent each week making art (as opposed to handing business logistics or social media), and it was shocking! I was only spending about four hours a week making art, despite being a “full-time artist.”

That forced me to take a step back and question how I was going about things. Was my goal to become a marketing wizard or a good artist? When I read about the 10,000 hour theory — the idea that complex skills require 10,000 hours of practice to master — I decided to start a tally of the number of hours I “practiced” art.

Although I’m nowhere near 10,000 hours yet, it was reassuring to admit to myself that I was at the beginning of a long journey, and made it much easier to enjoy each moment of making art.

What tricks do you use when you’re running low on creativity?

Make some throw-away art! Often my creative blocks come from putting too much pressure on myself or on an individual piece.

In those moments, I like to step away from the canvas and pull out a stack of printer paper (the cheaper, the better!) to just mess around on. It might be doodling, it might be painting, it might briefly become a paper snowflake, but it’s probably going to end in the recycling. But sometimes it doesn’t! Some of my favorite pieces have come out of theses doodling sessions, and afterwards I always feel more relaxed and ready to create.

You are making the transition from full-time artist to med school student. Can you tell us about how that happened?

Strangely, it actually happened in the reverse order. After finishing two years of medical school, I decided to take a break a pursue a long-time passion of mine: painting. I was initially planning on taking only a year off, but was enjoying it so much that I decided to extend it. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to keep painting as my passion, and medicine as my purpose (Whitney English has some really interesting things to say on this subject), so I’ll be returning to school in the summer.

Are there any resources you’d suggest to someone trying to be more creative?

Have you heard of this cool, new site called Pinterest? :) Seriously though, I think looking at other people’s creative work can be incredibly inspiring, as can trying a new medium or technique. I think Alisa Burke has some great ideas for projects to try, as does A Beautiful Mess.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other creatives?

I can pass along a tidbit from one of my favorite painting professors. He advised me to believe that I had a certain number of paintings in me to create: some good, some terrible, some great. Each time I finished a painting I didn’t like, I could pat myself on the back for getting one of the “bad” paintings out of the way, and being one step closer to a good, or even a great painting.

It may sound strange, but it’s really helpful for those inevitable rough days, and, funnily enough, if you keep working at it, those good and occasionally great works do come along eventually.

We can’t wait to see what Diana comes up with next, and we’re wishing her the best of luck in med school! Are you inspired to pull out those paintbrushes? Share your reactions in the comments below!

(Images via DW Draws)