Managing time is a never-ending effort for every artist that I know. We are constantly recalibrating the demand from the studio with the rest of our lives.
Folks who are not self-employed often envy our ability to choose and craft our schedules. However, in my experience, self-employment puts an extra strain on planning because all the structure of our lives comes from within. And in some ways, I am a tougher boss than any I ever had!
Let me take you into my head so that you can hear all the voices calling me and how I attempt to create harmony out of that chaos!
I am in my late 60s and many of my friends are already retired. They call to invite me to lunch and I have become accustomed to saying “I don’t do lunch.” My first challenge is simply creating as many full work days as possible.
Taking a break in the middle of the day really interrupts my thinking and flow. I prefer to schedule social time at the very beginning of the day and mostly after work or on weekends.
Work you may ask? I thought art was fun! Don’t get me wrong. With your support, I am SO grateful to be able to dedicate my life to my art…at last! I waited a long time for this chapter in my life. But for me, making art is an all-consuming activity. It requires tremendous attention to detail, lots of thinking and planning, physical demand, interaction with my team and sometimes, glorious hours of being in the flow.
Since I am building sculpture now and working so large, I find that being in great shape is more important than ever. Finding time to exercise is a challenge for most people. For me doing exercise first thing in the morning ensures that I get it done. I enjoy yoga, bike riding, weight lifting, calisthenics and swimming. Sometimes I watch a video while I exercise and sometimes I listen to a podcast. When I am bike-riding I love to listen to the Great Women Artists podcast with Katy Hessel from the UK and hear in-depth interviews with or about women artists around the world that focus on their art not their marriages and appearance!
This may surprise you but thinking about food dominates my thoughts throughout the day. I eat about 5 small meals a day. That seems to keep my blood sugar steady and maintain my energy. Since I like to eat dinner with Christian and since I do most of the cooking, I often start something for dinner at breakfast. Then at lunch, I’ll prep something else. By the time 6pm rolls around, I have half of the dinner made or prepped and can easily get it served by 7pm. On nights that I need to work late, Christian steps in and makes something great on the grill.
Then there’s the challenge of the rest of life! Doctor appointments, banking and shopping are big interruptions and most of these activities are during the work day. I try to schedule physical therapy at the very beginning or end of the day. If I can’t avoid going out during the day, I might schedule other errands that never get done on the same day and just get all things interruptions out of the way.
If you are in a relationship like I am, making time for each other is another big challenge. I try to eat as many meals as possible with Christian. At breakfast, we often share our goals for the day and make our lists. If we eat lunch together, it’s a nice time to check in about how our day is going. Sometimes deadlines mean I need to work at night but mostly I try to end my work day by dinner time so that we can hang out. Work often drags into the weekend for both of us but we try to plan some special time together. That might mean a motorcycle ride or seeing friends (outside and distanced of course).
Life in the studio has its own demands. I employ a team of women, some of whom work on site and some who work remotely. Sometimes the social media team needs a Zoom meeting to plan outreach. The two part-time studio assistants need input about screen-printing and other projects they work on at the studio. Sandra, my full-time assistant and I have planning meetings several times a week to set priorities for both of us and make sure that deadlines are met.
Deadlines you may ask? Yep, there’s lots of those. Some are external and some are internally imposed. If I am in an exhibition, in the weeks leading up to it, I often need to submit documentation, paperwork and information for signage. We apply for grants and shows throughout the year, so our calendar is dotted with these deadlines. And right now I am preparing for my first solo museum show. Somehow, I need to create enough large scale work to fill this museum! The exhibition was delayed a year due to Covid and I’m frankly glad to have the extra time. We have a monthly timeline mapped out with goals for when pieces should be complete so that I can keep up the pace of production and ensure that I’ll have enough work by February 2022. 16 months to go!!
Everyone has heard the saying that art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The amount of time an artist needs to dedicate to administrative work (applications, social media, blogging, ordering supplies, planning, studio visits, etc) is sometimes depressing. However, it is necessary to having an art career.
The most glorious days are the ones when the assistants have gone home, Sandra is working on a project at her home office, and I find myself alone and working in the studio. Sometimes I am so thrilled to be pinning feathers to the wall and thinking about my piece that I don’t even listen to music, preferring the background of birds and wind.
On these days, I enjoy the precious hours of making art and being in the creative flow. I am filled with gratitude and feel that my time and vision are completely in alignment. My hope is that you also have hours of similar pleasure each week as well doing something that you love.
PS – If you are an Art Aficionado or an Art Lover, you can schedule a free consultation with me to discuss anything related to your art and career. I welcome talking about time management, so feel free to put that on the agenda!