Motivation for a Masterpiece: Finishing Final Art Projects and Essays

Not all finals are equal, and whether an exam, essay or art piece, each has its own unique challenges. Flash cards and memorization often work for passing traditional exams, but cranking out a 12-page paper or a graphic design final without losing ones mind isn’t as straightforward. Here are some ideas to consider when working on those projects.

Time Management

Art takes time, and time waits for no man. Self discipline and time management are necessary, according to senior Mary Ellen, who is studying illustration.

Mary Ellen Art

“With [my major] comes a lot of self discipline to get things done,” said Ellen. “Where others have to write a several-page paper, I have to do a 20+ hour art piece. It can get a little hectic due to many studio classes having a 20+ hour art piece due.”

Writing or drawing the night before until hand cramps form might result in an okay grade, but creativity can’t be forced. Whether the idea comes months in advance or the night before, something still has to be submitted, and brainstorming about it and doing research ahead of time can keep the panic at bay.

To manage everything better, try using a planner. It could be an app, the notes on your phone, or to go really old school, a paper planner. Not only does a planner help with time management, but for some, there is nothing better than the feeling of checking something off of a to-do list.

When scheduling out the week, don’t forget about the one or two classes that aren’t English or art classes, and that they have finals too. Regardless of how little desire there is to study for an exam or finish up a group project, biting the bullet and working on these other classes first will give more time with less stress to work on the studio final or short story.

“I have figured out how to better manage my time by keeping a detailed planner…for assignments like essays I’ll start listing it as “to do” a week or two in advance so it’s at least on my mind,said junior English major Sylvia Hemsley. “I have found that writing down everything I need to do helps me to remember that I need to do it.”

Self Discipline

Just as important to time management is discipline. When the only thing standing between you and Netflix is a final project and all you can smell is Christmas cookies and clean bedsheets, creativity can be hard to come by. Final projects have a submission time but what happens before then is up to you. 

Even if the mental idea board is blank, just start something. Write random words in a document, draw something even if it looks bad or start taking photos and see what comes out of it. Set a timer and work for 30 minutes without stopping, then reward yourself with a five minute break to eat, scroll, or take a cat nap. Then get back to it. Your future grade will thank you. Once you start working the ideas may start coming, but you never know until you pick up the pen (or brush, keyboard, etc.)

If self discipline is not your forte and you often find yourself immersed in social media or season 2 of “The Mandalorian” without knowing how you got there, consider turning notifications off or putting your phone on do not disturb mode so the usual distractions are less of a temptation.

“Get in front of that canvas, screen or clay, and just get working. You can watch that show later or check your socials on a quick break, but just get working,” Ellen said. 

“You can make excuses or you can make art.”

Self Care

Whether writing a paper or painting, final projects can take a toll on mental health. The final product won’t be your best work if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Getting a good night’s sleep (7-9 hours), eating healthy, and taking small breaks away from the project and the screen can help the brain keep churning out great ideas. 

Doing finals online and in isolation can affect even the most introverted among us, and even though some artists and writers thrive in isolation, this isn’t true for everyone. Try making a playlist themed to the project or changing up the environment by switching rooms or going outside.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it! Professors are still available through email and office hours on Zoom, and the writing center is open for virtual appointments. Sometimes all a project or a paper needs is an extra set of eyes.

Diamonds might be made under pressure, but too much pressure can make anything crack. 

Even with these tips, it’s important to realize that there is almost no way to be perfectly ready for finals week. Things happen. Groceries run out, the flu comes to pay a visit and wifi routers stop working. Work hard, but be kind to yourself and remember that 10 days from now this will all be over.

Story By: Larissa Beatty

photos courtesy of