When life gets in the way... The Project Box

I hear it every day from students and artists: “Oh, I'm so busy, I don't have time for art or creativity”, or “I'm so behind on my lessons”. First of all, you're NEVER behind on art lessons, each person is on their own path, and there is zero need for comparison with others.

However, what can you do when life gets SO BUSY that you feel you have no time at all for your own creativity? Here are the excuses I hear the most:

“I don't have a SPACE of my own to draw.”

Translate: I don't have a beautiful studio for all my millions of supplies that are stashed haphazardly everywhere, some even blocking the garage from housing the car. Well, very few of us have beautiful studios, I'm lucky to have a corner office in the kitchen that is all mine.

“I don't have TIME to sit down and draw.”

Really, you don't have 15 minutes of your own? Barring extreme situations such as illness or caring for others, if you can't find 15 minutes a day, it's because you really don't want to do it. And that is just fine, perhaps you have other activities that give you more pleasure at this time.

“But I can't create any art in 15 minutes”.

If you go about the normal way of creating a project, first finding all your supplies that are stashed everywhere, then choosing a project online to work on and getting distracted with all the social media, then finding the right paper, the right pen, etc…. Yes, I agree, you won't get anything done in 15 minutes.


The “Project Box” is a tactic I came up to help me avoid the excuses for not being creative every day. I love this so much that I use it on a regular basis.

First, choose a box, any size you like. I like to use transparent food containers because the lid closes tightly in case I need to take the box with me, they are transparent so I can see what's in it, and they are inexpensive and water tight.

Then, choose a project to work on. If you are part of the Art Club, you have plenty of choices, but don't feel like you need to choose the current lesson. Choose something that speaks to YOU.

Separate all the materials needed for that project only. The “Project Box” contains everything you need for ONE type of project. In the example above you see how I've started a Fantasy Agate project, I'm halfway through it and now I need to complete it using pens and fine-liners. So the box contains the pens in the appropriate color scheme, everything I need to get that project done.

I did not include watercolor paints in this box, because I'm done with that phase. As the materials get used, I remove them from the box to keep things focused.

Advantages of the Project Box

By separating all the items you need in one single project box, you have the following advantages:

  • You don't spend a lot of time selecting and finding a new project every time

  • You can work on it anywhere you like, no need to carry all your supplies, you have all you need

  • You don't spend a lot of time wondering what you'll work on next

  • It is portable and you can create art in a waiting room, or sitting on a lone chair

  • You focus on a SINGLE PROJECT at a time, don't get overwhelmed by all the options

  • You can work on it as little or as much as you like — even 10 minutes a day will do

Have no time at all? Choose a LONGER project

If you are indeed in a situation where you have absolutely NO time due to taking care of others, elderly or children, then choose a longer project, preferably with minimal supplies needed, maybe black and white. This could take you many days or even weeks to complete, but it will prevent you from having to think too hard about what you need to do next. Any few minutes in your day will do.

Here's an example of what you could have in such a Project box. I'm working on two unfinished Square Medallions. They are similar projects and require the same materials. I included not only the inking pen and pencil for shading, but also the appropriate reference card with ideas of borders and fragments. The plastic box is the size of a sandwich box, so it is super small and fits in my purse.

Compulsive Creative like me? Create more than one Project Box

If you are a “Compulsive Creative” and have the luxury of working on more than one project at a time, then prepare more than one Project box. Here you can see a selection of the ones I'm working on right now:

Notice above how some boxes are larger than others. The size of the box should fit ONLY the materials needed for the project, so I keep a few empty boxes of different sizes sitting around. A larger box means less portability, more supplies, more things to think about and more time needed.

Less time available demands less supplies in the box

Think of the box as an “art kit”. Keep your supplies focused only to what you need at that moment. If you open the box and you have 30 different supplies, you'll get distracted and this won't work.

Sure, sometimes you do need 30 supplies to complete a project, but that is a box that you'll open when you have more time available.

In this example below, I'm working on a new project for an upcoming Video Lesson on Auras. The box includes not only the materials I need, but also paper in the right size (2x2 bijous), and my reference Recipe Cards. This is a complex project, so I keep that in mind — it is not the kind of box I want to take with me while waiting at the doctor's office because it requires a lot of thinking.

If you have several Project Boxes, then make sure you can stack them and that they are transparent. It's easier to find a corner in the house for the boxes if they are compact. I avoid adding any permanent labels to my boxes because they change all the time.

A Project Box doesn't always need to be in a box

If you really don't have room for a box, then you can also apply the same idea to a plastic bag. This is one of my ongoing projects, a Tangle Index in a small 4x4 inch ring binder. I keep bijou tiles and a pen in a plastic pouch that I attached to the front of the folder, so I have all I need to draw a small bijou, at any given time. This is one of my ongoing 5 minute projects.

Be kind and give yourself limits: learn to say “enough”

We all know the truth, there are some projects that never get finished and they never will. If you find yourself surrounded by 20 Project Boxes, then that doesn't work at all. It means that none of these projects are really interesting you. My advice? Avoid keeping more than 5 or 6 Project Boxes like me — I'm a teacher and compulsive creative. Ideally, you should have only ONE OR TWO Project Boxes.

My rule of thumb is: if I haven't worked on a project within a few days (5 days tops), then it doesn't deserve a Project Box. So it gets transferred to an “ongoing projects folder” and the box is emptied, supplies returned to their homes.

And, if a project in the ongoing folder doesn't get finished within the year, then it never will, and it's done. I didn't have the time/courage/interest/space/health/etc. to finish it.

Since I store all my finished artwork in yearly photo binders, I also add the “never completed” projects when the year is over. Below you can see a few Freeform Knot projects that were never fully completed, they stayed in the Project box a little too long, got transferred to the ongoing folder then to the yearly binder.

And that's it! I hope this helps you to become more creative. It doesn't matter what project you work on, only that you do it every day, as a de-stressing method, as a way to relax and to have some time of your own. If you have any comments or ideas on this topic, contact me via email!