Monday, November 4, 2013

Making Time for Art

Over the past few weeks I've been having conversations with other artists about how to find the time to actually work on art.  In my case, I have my "art" pieces, designing class baskets, writing teaching proposals, making up class kits, ordering supplies, writing grants, working on my book, submitting show proposals, and taking the time to learn new techniques and even experiment.  Then, of course, there are commissioned pieces.  And oh yes, all the time traveling as well as teaching itself.

It is definitely a balancing act, but one I'm invested in trying to maintain.  I don't want the teaching to totally take over, and I don't think I'm cut out to work solely on art pieces.  I love the mixture and variety.

The following article made some interesting points, such as keeping a time card and creating deadlines for oneself.  Think I may try to incorporate one or two of these ideas as I head to the island "full time" in a week or so.....a perfect time to start creating new work habits.

Finding Time
by Bet Borgeson
How do you arrange more time for art when you already have a full schedule?  First of all, it's not easy, but it can be done.  Art has very little structure to it--things that make it seem real and pressing. This lack of structure, ironically, is likely one of the reasons we enjoy art or yearn for it!  But because it has so little structure, time for art is not given any kind of priority.  It just doesn't compete well with other things in our lives that seem more compelling.
An important first step in finding more time is to attach more structure to your art.  Think of some subtle ways to make art more front and center.  Here're some aspects of structure that I think help. Give them some thought.
A Time Card.  I've been keeping what amounts to a "time card" for over 25 years as a professional artist.  It's not a real one, it's a modest paper calendar that is dedicated to keeping track of how much time I really spend at art (doing it, thinking about it, looking at images, reading show reviews, going to shows, framing, tidying up my work area, etc.).   This calendar is "official" and is even affixed to a real world Clip Board (Wow!).  It sits prominently in my work area.  My day has always been fraught with interruptions, so I note on a piece of scratch paper when I "clock in" and when I "clock out."  Then at the end of the day I tally this up and write it down on the appropriate day in my calendar.  At the end of the week I tally up all the days and note the time on the last day.  At the month's end I come up with a grand total of all the weeks. Simple...but sly.
This may seem a quaint thing, but it works, and it has helped others. Why does it work?  Because it is a big part of the structure that surrounds an art life.  Noting the time begins to work on you mentally. You are noticing your time.  You might find yourself guessing how much you'll get done.  You'll have conversations with yourself about your art time.  As time goes on and you are faithful about keeping a record, you'll likely begin to compete with prior weeks and months--even years.  
Over the years I find that I have a work pattern.  I get a tremendous amount of work done during cool seasons.  Apparently I drift during warm weather.  A surprising payoff is that seeing my pattern, I don't feel disappointment in myself for "failing" to put in umpteen hours during certain times.  It's just part of my pattern. I don't become habituated to feeling bad about it. Maybe an artist would be able to work about 1/2 hour each evening, but nothing during the weekend.  Okay, so be it.  Or, maybe this artist will decide to increase it, or rearrange it.  
Having control over your time is the helpful thing.  
A Work Space.  Set up a personal work space if you haven't yet done so. Having your own space in which to work will not only help you make a transition from everyday concerns, it will also send a subtle message to those around you--that you are committed to your art and to your studies.  Maybe you are the one that you have to convince.  But also a defined space allows you to consolidate your art tasks.  You read about art in your space, you set up a bookcase of art books in your space.  Your time card is there.  You can set up file folders that contain your ideas for pictures, maybe some actual thumbnail layouts, exciting pictures and color schemes that others have done.  Everything about art is in your workspace. It is all together, is cohesive and begins to assume a physical force in your house.  This is structure.
Deadlines.  I've noticed that many of us work toward deadlines.  Not everyone of course.  But it really helps to set up a deadline of some kind that you must meet.  This is structure too.  Sometimes a class can be a deadline.  But the really compelling ones are when you go out into the world with your art.  I'm talking about submission deadlines to exhibits mostly.  But there are other kinds of deadlines too, i.e. needing to frame a piece that you want to have up for a social gathering, readying a piece for a donated auction, finishing one that is to be a gift.
Goals.  When I was near graduating from college, I wrote in my catchall workbook that my goal upon leaving school was not to go crazy and leave art.  Art students live in a false society in the art department.  It is a small sheltered pond.  The real art world pond is a harsh place and I feared retreating. For me this was a very specific goal, and it was a good one. Once I began to feel competent and on the right path, I continually re-ordered my goals.  
I'm sure you know about goals...where do you want to be in five years? etc.  The idea of goals is a clich√©, but for good reason.  Goals work.  And when you set one or more up, make it for your eyes only. You want structure, not pressure.
I hope some of this is relevant to you.  Practically everyone is up against this problem of finding time.  But it's not just the need to make a living that keeps us from art.  So many things tend to be more compelling hour by hour, day by day that pretty soon, we didn't ever get to it.  I believe that making art loom larger in your life is The Way.
(If your time card calendar was set up, you could note how long you spent reading this essay and thinking about it!)


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