Sunday, November 8, 2009

Art Question: How Do You Find The Time To Paint?

A question I was recently asked by Cece W. is "How do you find the time to paint?"
Finding time to paint can be very difficult and is probably the #1 reason for people not continuing with art. There are several factors that get in the way of finding time to make art, write or be creative in your own personal way. Schedule and time are always something artists struggle with. Most of us are not making a living from our art and have to split our time with a day job. That day job usually has to be a priority as far as schedule goes. For this blog entry, I am going to focus on the Day Job and how to strategize ways of making your Day Job support your creative activities. (For the sake of this entry, your Day Job may not be a paid position, it may be daily commitments you have that get in the way of your making art)

The Day Job Dilemma
If you have read this blog you know that I work for the City of Saint Paul for my day job. I am very happy with my job; if I have to work for someone else I'm happy it is to make the city I live in more beautiful. But, the truth is, I would rather be making my own work and selling and finding supporters for what I want to do.

My first step is to make my job work for me and support my life activities.

How much do you need to work?
My first question is how much money do I need and can I work less than 40 hours a week and still cover my living costs? I currently work 32 hours a week at my day job. I would be more comfortable financially at 35 hours and would feel downright wealthy at 40 hours. But working 40 hours a week would be too exhausting for me and I would feel emotionally and creatively impoverished. 32 hours seems to be an amount of time that works for me. The one thing I have learned is that you need to ask for what you want. If it makes sense, especially if it is somehow beneficial to your company, many bosses will give it a try. One boss appreciated my skills to get things done so much that she let me rewrite my job description annually.

Perform Similar Activities At Home and At Work
Once in awhile I notice that I am working 24 hours a day, at work and at home, doing similar activities. If I am having to reorganize my studio, I also end up reorganizing my office. If I have to do a lot of work on webpages at work, I end up reworking my personal webpage. Over the years I have noticed that if my mind is working in one mode for half the day it often continues working in that mode the rest of the day. I find that this can make things easier. Instead of having to shift gears between my Day Job and my creative life I can just shift physically, not emotionally or intellectually. Also, performing a similar activity at work stimulates my mind about the similar activity in the studio and will often give me new insight into my artwork.

Do Opposite Activities At Home and At Work
Of course, sometimes you just need to get away from work and anything similar to it. If I need to rest or to blow off some steam, I do it. But otherwise, the act of drawing, painting and creating is so polar opposite to some of my work activities (especially those that involve difficult people) that I make it a place of refuge. I have even figured out which studio activities effect me in which way. I like writing after a hard day at work because it lets my mind escape to another world more efficiently than painting. Painting is relaxing in the sense that I am focused on a real world physical activity with quick results. When I am done writing I feel I have gotten away (escaped) and when I am done painting I feel I have accomplished something (unless, of course, my painting sucks).

Tell People At Your Day Job About Your Art Activities
Telling people at work about what you do in your studio has several benefits.
First: when people understand that you have artistic interests, passions and commitments beyond work they will talk to you, give assignments to you and generally treat you as a creative person. This will create less of a contrast between your two worlds of work and studio and make the transition a little easier.
Second: learning to talk about your art and your activities in a manner that an average non-arts person can understand. Learning how to talk about your art will expand your audience.
And Third: networking. Don't be afraid to use work contacts to meet other artists, dealers or potential buyers/sponsors. We work to make money (resource) so we can do live the life we really want. If your Day Job is going to support what you really want to do, why limit it to only monetary gain? Of course, how you go about using work contacts can be tricky and must be done in an above-board manner. Don't always push it - people will get annoyed with you.

Do NOT Combine Your Day Job With Your Studio Activities
This cuts both ways. You should not be doing your own personal art activities at work and you should not be doing Day Job activities in your studio. The first aspect is obvious. You are not paid to perform your own personal activities at work. Some work environments are casual about this. I had an artist friend who worked at a parking garage so he could sit and journal in between customers. So, in some cases there are some allowances. But, if you work in an environment where it is not welcome, or if you have fellow workers around, I would not recommend it. Co-workers get resentful that you're not working as much as they are, or feel you are taking advantage of the resources and equipment at work. Personally, I might feel so much guilt that when I am in my studio it would eat at me.

Likewise, keep your Day Job out of your studio. It is hard enough to focus on the tasks at hand without bringing your Day Job into the studio. Keep your studio a sacred creative place, or else you might find your precious time getting chipped away.

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