It seems that a number of people have asked me lately how I find the time to be an artist. The truth is that most artists out in the world today earn the majority of their living expenses by some other means, which leaves one to wonder how we go about committing so much time to the endeavor. This past week I was at a show opening at a gallery where I have work and the headline artist, Aaron Norris, and I learned we have a lot in common: full time jobs, two children, budding art careers. We talked of how we juggle it all. In this entry and the next I hope to shed light on how it does get done, which I hope will interest those who do not make art, and perhaps it will give a few tips to other artists who, like me, work full time jobs while managing a career as an artist.
First, I have a confession: I like my “day job.” As an educator I get to share my knowledge with others, help people, joke around, open eyes, inspire. It is almost as hard to envision not teaching as it is not painting. Still, the process of image making is an addiction and it’s one that I don’t see kicking anytime soon, just as I don’t see quitting my day job to paint full time anytime soon either. Once I came to accept this dual reality I knew I had better devise a system so that I could be the artist, teacher, father, husband and friend that I wanted to be. All of this has led me to a few habits that go beyond “carrying a sketch book at all times.” Yes, this is still a good practice, but hardly enough in this age.
In the next installment, I’ll describe specific things I do to collect, manipulate, play with and store images. To start with, here are a few ways I organize my “work”, and it is important that even if we are not standing in front of an easel with a wet brush in our hand, we can still be learning and growing as artists.
Along with my sketchbook, I carry a small notebook for ideas, business opportunities, show prospects, client names, etc. This can be done in your sketchbook but I prefer to keep them separate. A camera is almost always connected to my belt and when it’s not, I usually regret it. It’s not that we can always work from photos (you shouldn’t), but recording images is part of my work habit. More on photography and painting later. Complete “dashboard paintings.” As you sit at a traffic light, mix the colors in your head for everything you see. Do mental value studies. Notice everything! Decide when you’re going to paint and STICK TO IT. Doesn’t matter if it’s early morning before work (I get up at 4:30am) or after the kids go to bed, just pick a time and always be there. For the weekends, have a place in your studio for the kids to work. This is a great experience for both kids and parents and it will be that special thing they get to do with you. I’ll admit I’m not very good at starting a painting with my kids in the studio, but I can usually keep working once something is down. Finally, commit to finding artist in residency programs to apply to. Even with a committed yearly schedule, having some time to devote solely to your art is essential to kick-start growth, maintain the energy, and get enough work under your belt for the next big show.
More on managing your images (both done and in the planning stages) next time.
Till then, paint well (if even only for one hour a day.)