Do habits help (or hinder) creativity?

Do you stick to certain daily habits?  Would you think that habits help (or hinder) your creativity?

This might surprise you, but many creative people have strong daily habits.  And we go to enormous lengths to maintain them.

Habits allow our mental bandwidth to be channeled to create new stuff (art, music, computer programs, legal strategies, etc), rather than being wasted on the mundane (for example, which route should I take to work?).

If this topic fascinates you (as it does me), you might like to check out the highly rated book ‘Daily Rituals: How Artists Work‘ by Mason Currey.

One of the conclusions of ‘Daily Rituals’ is that there is no set of habits that is best for creativity.  But when we develop habits that suit our values and lifestyle, we are setting ourselves up for success.

Some of my habits include eating oatmeal for breakfast every day (all 7 days of the week, all 52 weeks of the year, with very rare exceptions), and heading to my studio to start painting as soon as my sons leave for school.

One of my habits is eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning. I vary the extras (strawberries, nuts, cinnamon, coffee, hot chili pepper, . . . ) but the oatmeal stays the same.

One of my habits is eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning.
The extras vary (strawberries, nuts, cinnamon, coffee, hot chili pepper, . . . )  but the Quaker Oats stay the same.

I have some other daily habits (bad ones) that I’m trying to kick and that do not contribute to my creativity – like eating far too much chocolate.  But that’s a subject for another time.

What daily habits do you find most helpful?


At cocktail parties and other fun social events, people often ask me questions about life as an artist. They are answered in my ‘Top 50 Questions’ list. This blog post is the latest addition to my Top 50. To see the other questions & answers, click here.



oil painting by Holly Van Hart

40 x 30 inches
Oil, acrylic, silica sand, and silicon wafers on canvas
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Flourishing (detail, showing sand in oil paints)

Flourishing (detail, showing silica sand in oil paints)

Flourishing (detail, showing silicon wafers in oil paints)

Flourishing (detail, showing silicon wafers in oil paints)

Ever see a painting that included unusual textures and objects (rope, a child’s math homework, dried flowers, hex nuts) and wonder why? Why on earth did the artist use that stuff?

For example, why would an artist (in this case me) put silicon wafers and silica sand in an oil painting? Great question. Silicon wafers and silica sand were chosen for ‘Flourishing’ for their meaning, and for their visual interest.

Silicon wafers and silica sand represent full-tilt, no-holds-barred, human creativity – creativity in its most universal sense, and also as related to the technology innovation happening in Silicon Valley.

These textures also represent the ‘former’ me – who enjoyed 20 years in the computer and networking industry – and the ‘current me’ – who loves living and working as a full-time artist in Silicon Valley.

To see more paintings and textures in this ‘Alive with Possibilities’ series, click here.

To see a different sort of texture, as used in my ‘Possibilities Abound’ series, click here.


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‘Saratoga Rose’

Originally posted here in 2016, and reposted now in honor of the Saratoga marching band

Saratoga Rose, Watercolor painting by Holly Van Hart

Saratoga Rose, Watercolor painting by Holly Van Hart

The amazing Marching Band at Saratoga High School has been selected to march in the 2016 Rose Bowl Parade.  Congratulations!!!

You can read more here in the San Jose Mercury News article, and see a YouTube video of this exciting announcement here.

In the Marching Band’s honor, I am posting this watercolor painting, ‘Saratoga Rose’, created a few years ago.

Once again, a huge congratulations to the Saratoga HS Marching Band!!!!

Want to see more flower paintings?
Click here.

For a free catalog of Holly Van Hart’s paintings, click here.

The feeling of being home (and well taken care of)

Abstract Nature Painting by Holly Van Hart, nest eggs, blue

20 x 20″ oil painting by Holly Van Hart (sold)
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View video of this painting being created

Every painting tells a story. When we look at a painting, we absorb and interpret the story in our own unique way.

My abstract nature paintings are about the beauty and peace of nature.

This painting, ‘Serenity’, shows 3 robin’s eggs, resting serenely in their nest.  The strong reds in the nest, branches, leaves, and buds represent the fullness of life outside the nest.  The lives of the 3 siblings in this nest are full of possibilities.  When the eggs hatch into birds, they will experience all that life has to offer outside the nest.

That’s my story for ‘Serenity’.  What’s yours?  (Email me at

To see a video of this painting being created, click here.

For more “What inspired this painting” articles, click here.

Originally published in 2013, and just updated

Holiday Open Studio

Looking for a special holiday gift for a loved one?

Please join me for my Holiday Open Studio show!

Holiday-sized smaller paintings, prints, notecards, and books are available at this show. Big paintings too.

This is your chance to get first dibs on paintings before many of them are shipped to shows in Beverly Hills and Taiwan in early 2018.

Dates:   Saturday December 2, 2017, 11 am – 5 pm
and Sunday December 3, 2017 11am – 5pm   (Can’t make these dates? No problem! Click for details.)

Location:  20830 Boyce Lane, Saratoga, CA 95070

This is an opportunity to visit, see and purchase paintings, and to choose art-inspired gifts for the holidays. Gifts are available for every price point, starting at $50.

Bring your friends and family. Enjoy refreshments. Stay a while.

Abstract-Nature-Paintings | Birch Aspen Trees Roses | Autumn Dance | Summer Sparkle | Amid The Scent of Roses-by-HollyVanHart | Installed paintings | Living Room | Oil and acrylic paintings

More than twenty new abstract nature paintings will be on display and for purchase – forests, fields, flowers, nests, landscapes and more.

Holly LVan Hart in studio | Holiday Open Studio 2017

Plus you’ll see some brand new experimental paintings that are only available in my studio.

Give your loved ones a unique art-inspired gift. Holiday-sized smaller paintings, prints, notecards, and books are available at this show.

Studio tours will be offered throughout the day.

Seeing art in person is the absolute best way to experience it. Please take this opportunity to visit! Add it to your calendar today.

See you then,

Signature of artist Holly Van Hart


No problem!

If you’d like a sneak peek before the event (and the opportunity to have first choice to purchase available work), email me at holly@hollyvanhart or call 650 646 5590 and let’s make a date. Click for details – Studio Visit.

For more events, see

For news on upcoming open studio and gallery events, sign up for my mailing list. (One email every 3 weeks.)

Woodland Symphony

You know that sense of grandeur we get when surrounded by a beautiful forest? That’s what I was aiming to capture with this painting, Woodland Symphony.

When giving this painting its name, the word ‘symphony’ came to mind. In a great symphony, all the musical notes work together in intriguingly complex and beautiful ways. In a painting, the color notes have to work together in similarly intriguing ways.

btw, if you’re curious, here are some in-progress pics of Woodland Symphony –


The beginnings of Woodland Symphony

Holly Van Hart | abstract nature painting | studio | forests trees birch aspen

Working on Woodland Symphony (almost as tall as I am)

Sometimes it’s better to work on a painting sideways

Woodland Symphony (left), Wandering in Wonder (center) and The Grand Escape (right), mixed media paintings by HVH. These paintings are currently hanging in my living room, but they could be hanging in yours 🙂

Thanks for stopping by. If you’d like to see more abstracted forest paintings, click here.

For purchase info, email

If I were an egg

Hi there. Meet ‘Possibilities on High’.

In the upper right of this painting, you can see a big and colorful bird’s nest.  It’s sitting up high on the branches of huge magnolia tree, on a warm summer day.

The nest looks peacefully and securely settled in the tree.  At the same time, it is quite exposed.

If I were an egg, I’d love to live in this nest in a magnolia tree (despite the risks of exposure).  Would you?

(If you’re wondering “What’s up with all the nests?”, click here.)

Originally published in 2013, and just updated and republished