Balancing Art, Life and Marketing
Estimated time to read this tip: 6 minutes
It’s a bright, crisp Saturday morning. I could be outside doing yard work, in my studio making art or tucked under a blanket reading a book.
Instead, I am standing at my computer; writing a new series of articles about balancing art, life and marketing.
I do this kind of creative work best when I am in soft clothes and have a supply of chocolate, coffee and tea. That all spells S-a-t-u-r-d-a-y to me.
Unlike the rest of the week, on Saturdays, my business phone doesn’t ring. When I schedule a writing day, I make very few personal commitments, so I can write and take naps breaks without guilt pressure.
And I don’t feel at all deprived because I’m working.
The conventional weekday 9 to 5 schedule doesn’t work for me. By shifting my use of time, I am more efficient; more effective and everything feels a little easier.
Monday morning, I do a Pilates class and run errands when there are fewer people around and less traffic. Did I mention finding parking more easily?
I also often take micro breaks to clear my head. I’ll grab a cuppa and read art magazines or head into the studio make art in between multi-hour computer or telephone work. Kind of like a sherbet in between courses to clear your palate.
The yard work, well that gets done in perfect weather, of course.
Every Choice Has an Opportunity Cost.
As much as possible, I make deliberate choices about how I make commitments, take actions and take breaks. And that’s not done at random but within the bigger picture of course.
Naturally there are spontaneous detours when life takes a left turn when I am headed the other way. Then I rapidly assess the pros and cons of the new course as well as what I will set aside or delay.
Every time I decide to do ‘x’ instead of ‘y,’ I consider the opportunity cost of the choice - the cost of giving up ‘y’ to get ‘x.’ Like restricting or giving up certain foods for a healthier body.
Mid-career and Established Artists’ Choices
If you stick to a production schedule without fail, and let either your personal life or your business tasks slide, you’ll have art but you won’t have a life or a business.
It's better to examine the pros and cons of each decision you make, and consciously choose to be "present" in all the parts of your life.
Consider the cost of your choices, versus what you gain.
- Do you get up early to fit in extra studio time at the cost of enough sleep?
- Do you spend less time with your friends in order to grow your business in the evenings or on weekends?
Which choice will get you the best results for the least pain?
One problem that many artists have is how to make enough art.
A common solution is to get up early and spend two hours a day in the studio before going off to work, or to stay up after the rest of the family is asleep and do it then. If you can maintain those hours, in two years you’ll accumulate a lot of valuable experience and a much larger inventory than if you hadn’t. Of course it also means that for two years you are taking that time away from other activities.
The “opportunity cost” of making more art is less sleep and more exhaustion. If you choose to sleep longer, however, the opportunity cost could be not having enough inventory to do the shows you’ve planned for.
We often trade short-term advantages for long-term results. Some artists drink too much coffee, neglect their physical needs or stop having a social life to create more art. I don’t recommend this for anyone over twenty. It works for some artists for very short periods of time, but recovering from these bad habits can eat up precious time or damage your health later.
Sample Schedules from Working Artists
In my interviews with members of the Artist Career Training community, I ask artists to describe their typical day, week and month. As you read their answers, you will see that there is no “one size fits all” artist schedule (phew!) Maybe you will be inspired by some of their answers:
"A typical day right now is generally split between my spiritual practice, my to-do list, my study time, and my creative exploration. Basically it's meditate, write, be productive, learn something, create something. I pretty much make art daily — or it makes me. It's not really a choice sometimes the way it unfolds."
~Peter Bragino, painter
“Discipline is important to me. I do not rely on inspiration to work. I do paint everyday if I can. On days that I do not feel like painting, I still sketch or work on things that get the creative juices flowing. I do not have set times of the day or night to paint and I like that spontaneity. Sometimes I break through the night working. Other times I start early in the morning.”
~Frank de Las Mercedes, painter
“Three mornings of each week you can find me at hotels painting, making contacts with new people and selling prints at the galleries there. One night each week I teach a watercolor class to a local adult-education class. The other three days (yes it’s a six-day work week for me) I’m in my studio, starting new paintings, writing my e-zine, prepping for my classes or workshops, doing paperwork, and planning."
~Patrice Federspiel, watercolor artist
“I work in a very organic way. I have a general list of what needs to get done by when, and I'll tackle different parts of it each day. Unless I'm on deadline, I don't ‘force’ myself to do a particular thing at a particular time.
"I usually have 3 or 4 paintings going at a time. I give myself permission not to paint for a few days if I don't want to... the work I've produced while trying to adhere to a formal, structured schedule winds up feeling, well, formal and structured.
"My typical day starts about 6 a.m. I'll check emails, then head to the gym for an hour. Most often I'll end up doing office/computer work until lunch, then hit the studio to work on commissions, pieces for my galleries, or artwork for licensing in the afternoon. I like to go out to lunch most every day. It gives me a necessary change of energy, and allows me to keep up on my art magazine and book reading. I try to wrap things up at the studio by 5 or 6 p.m., to get home for dinner and family time.”
~Bruce Marion, abstract painter and sculptor
“I've had a full-time job for 21 years, which has afforded me plenty of vacation time. I take off a minimum of one Monday a month to devote myself totally to art. I generally paint at least one day a weekend, and several nights during the week for a few hours. I make the time to document the work I'm doing, because potential buyers always like a story about the work. When I'm just too exhausted to actually paint, I will read about art and artists.”
~Vickie Martin, mixed media artist
“During the week I generally wake up, check in with my kids and pets, and then I pour myself a cup of hot tea and cozy up next to my computer. I check my emails, update my Twitter and Facebook accounts and catch up on my other art business.
"Then, I am off to the gym for an hour class, or out hiking a mountain trail with my dogs... during the winter you can find me out skate skiing. An hour of exercise clears my head and I seem to produce better paintings this way. It's time to get into my studio and paint! I usually take an hour to two-hour lunch break (depending on if I am painting for a show or not) and use this time to run my errands in town.
"The afternoon is generally devoted to painting. (I check in with my social media sites a few times during the afternoon too!) I usually stop painting around 5:30 and start working on dinner. I am a night owl, and I sometimes get my best work done late at night. Depending on my art show schedule, I either paint or catch up on art business. In fact, right now it is 11:45 pm, and I usually have a nice cup of tea before bed.”
~Lori McNee, painter
"A typical day begins with my wife, enjoying a cup of coffee, looking out over Clam Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, watching the sunrise and the birds fishing.
"I then clear my desk of business and turn towards my easel in preparation for the day's work. When I am painting it is pure concentration and focus.
"There are, of course, days I have scheduled for errands or varnishing a painting. Some days I will paint late into the evening, but I try to wrap it up by 7 pm. I try to get in a minimum of 5 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week.”
~Nicholas Petrucci, realist painter
“I get up some time between 10 and noon, have coffee and deal with e-mail and Twitter while I'm waking up. For the rest of the business day it's mostly phone calls and e-mail or time out in the studio. Around 6 or 7 my wife and I have dinner and we set aside 4 to 6 hours that is really just our time. Then later I may do more e-mail or project work. Obviously there are times when I might take a whole day or two in the studio.
"Most of my work is 'on demand' so I get the order, make it and go back to other tasks. I actually take downtime now, which is something I never used to do. I've decided that I should enjoy some of this too."
~John T. Unger, metal artist
© Aletta de Wal, Artist Career Training. My Real Job is Being an Artist, p.180 – 184.
When you buy the book, you’ll find a sample 21-day schedule for artists in this section.
Buy your copy now and let me know, so I can add you to The Special Invitation List.
“My Real Job is Being an Artist is a complete guide to helping any artist realize their full professional potential. It takes a thorough and honest look at what you need to do, both in terms of artistic work and business, in order to help either partially or fully support oneself financially with art.
"The book is broken down into three sections: The career path of a visual artist, the work of a visual artist, and the basics of an art business.
"I thought that the book takes a lot of strength from being so holistic in its approach, beginning with a look at the more human and artistic side of what it takes to be a working artist. The advice ranges from having an understanding of where you are on your artist's career path and creating a realistic and effective set of goals to progress further, to specific advice such as how to behave professionally in order to create strong bonds with buyers and people you work with.
"The book also covers the ins and outs of the business and financial side, addressing things like how to price and value your work, taxes and sales information, and creating business relationships. What I liked the most about this book is how all of the information ties together.
"The author is an artist herself and has worked with many artists, and so she has great insight on how the business side of creating art may not come naturally to everyone, and she makes everything understandable and achievable.
"This is a great book for anyone trying to either figure out how to start making money off their work, or fine tune their art business.”
- Amazon Review December 2015
It’s time to make a deliberate choice to make enough space for your art, life and marketing in 2016.
Redesign your life to make room for all the things in your life that are most important to you with a experienced, compassionate guide who’ll give you the templates and the support to create a new blueprint for balancing your art, life and marketing.
I created Balancing Art, Life and Marketing for artists who are done with overwhelm and are ready to be back in charge.
The first two rounds of artists who’ve participated can vouch for the process.
Will you be the second artist in the 2016 core group?
Take a look at what’s involved and let’s talk. Then send e-mail to Aletta@ArtistCareerTraining.com to start the conversation.
Remember to breathe,