Thursday, January 7, 2010

Working on Painting/Working on Business

I have many students and artist friends ask me how I balance my time between painting and business. Unfortunately, the truth is that I don't. Being a full time artist really means that you are a jack of all trades. You need to be an artist, a marketing & advertising whiz, a graphic designer, photographer, an accountant, a salesman, a framer and a motivational trainer, just to name a few. Wow, that's more hats than I thought! The point is that with so many roles to play, sometimes it's fine to have a plan, but staying flexible is key. There are so many times that I'll start the day counting on getting to the easel, but I'll get a call from a gallery wanting some images sent or I'll remember that I have a show application to complete, then that leads to doing some photography of pieces in the studio... I get off track.

Really for me, the key to getting time in the studio is being able to make the most of short periods of time. If I've got 15 minutes, can I get something accomplished in that amount of time? People think that you need time to be "creative" and sure it would be wonderful if I could focus on just painting every day; have that time to let things ruminate and percolate. My life isn't like that, so for me part of being creative means being prepared and being able to work in short periods of time. I always have at least 3 or 4 pieces going at any given time that I'm interested in pursuing. Then, at the end of the day, even if it wasn't a productive one, I set something up for the next day. That might mean an under-painting or a sketch. It could mean just mixing oil paint. Getting a jump on the next day, so I'm not starting the next morning with that lonely blank piece of paper.

Of course, everyday life often gets in the way of things.  Like they say, "the best laid plans...." On the days I have to get to the dentist or get a kid to the dentist, it's hard to stay on course. I'm a person easily distracted by these concerns and could let them take up more of my day mentally than they actually take up in real time. These are great days that I do the website work, make phone calls or do photography. When a day is already disjointed, I do the small things. I keep lists of the things that need doing. Then there are those stupid days that I just get in the way of myself. I'm way too crazy worrying about something, or lazy or too fat or too whatever to get myself to the damn easel. Eric Maisel calls this the need to "master the disinclination to work" in his book .

One of the most important things about studio time for me, is not to be discouraged by the days when the work is not going well. It's really easy to stay focused when things are going swimmingly. Not so much when it's a struggle. I have days that are completely free and I spend the whole day uninterrupted in the studio, but nothing very good is happening. I used to be really frustrated by these days, but have come to realize that these days are part of the process and a necessary part. Just keep going.

So here in a nutshell is how I try to juggle all the balls:

  1. Have painting projects in the works all the time so I have something that I'm excited about in  progress.
  2. Have a list of small tasks that can be done when I have just a few minutes or I just can't make    painting happen.
  3. Keep pretty current on computer skills, so I can most easily accomplish the business side. When I don't know how to do something, I ask for help and don't spend hours and hours slogging through something.
  4. Do the nasty stuff first and that's with painting and business.
  5. Give myself some slack.
  6. I'm a little stingy with my time,(its the only way I can get stuff done).
  7. Make it fun and make my studio and office a place I want to be.


Anita Stoll said...

Fantastic post. It sounds alot like my life sands the child living at home. Being 70 can still be filled with acheivements wheter large or small each day. So maybe I get 20 minutes at the easel. Lists really help me also. I feel good when I can line them out at the end of my day. Thanks for this post.

Nancy Laliberte said...

THANK YOU for this post and your suggestions! As a mother of two teenagers, a kindergartner and a retired hubby, there are days it is VERY easy to get sidetracked and even discouraged. I have a sign on my studio door that says, "Just show up." Even 15 or 20 minutes at the easel is the perfect cure for refilling my cup and keeping my sanity.

Anonymous said...

No truer words. Management of one's career does take a lot of tenacity.
Admire your style and coloring - nice work!