Friday, December 30, 2005

Question and a hope-filled answer

Dear Melody,
I have always painted and drawn, done classes at the Art Institute, etc., and thought that having a studio and being able to quilt, draw, paint, and make collages anytime I wanted to would be my idea of heaven. Guess what - I have the studio and the time but I am having a difficult time discipling myself to treat my artwork seriously.

I was wondering if you have any words of wisdom for someone who has been having a hard time working out of her own home and studio without the discipline of a 9-5 gotta-be-there-job. I have always learned the most from watching and reading about how other people do things and would love to find out how you manage your time. Like you, I do not have children, so there
is really no excuse for me not to schedule my day according to what I need to be doing.

I would appreciate any help you could suggest, even if it's pointing me in the direction of someone else's advice.

My sister recently asked for advice on this same topic, and I did some research for her that might help you too.
Besides encouraging you to think of working in your studio as a REAL 9-5 JOB, it may also help to have a list of goals, to develop a routine and to work to a deadline.

But to really begin to work as an artist on a daily basis you must set up your studio so that it is super functional. Good lighting, a serviced sewing machine, and a working wall may be some of the things you already have, but so many studios have more stuff sitting out and in the way of work than necessary. So find a place to put all that away. Don't get stuck with the idea that it is inspiring to have it all there, visible. Train yourself to be inspired by the clean slate, undistracted by anything but the idea at hand.

Goals: There are so many directions you may want to investigate, but beware being the dilettante. Try to focus on one specific medium, and on that style or subject matter of your choice within that medium. Write it down, sketch it, blog it, whatever. Declaring it makes it real. Put it on the wall and focus on that being your plan. Then figure out what steps need to be taken to arrive at your goal. Write those down too. Putting it in words takes it out of the maelstrom of your imagination and clarifies your direction.

Create a routine: Have a starting time that you can stick to everyday. We all have errands and other necessary stuff that we must accomplish, but it can be done as part of your routine if you build it in. For example: I may need to go to the post office or the bank or grocery shopping etc. So I can go at lunch time, before or after work. If I leave it til later I may get more work accomplished or if I go first I may feel more at ease in the studio.
Tell your friends that you are working and can see them at designated times. As you may know, I see my friends for coffee (for an hour or so) once a week and we share the work we are making and it is very energizing to have this session with them. It also infers a small deadline. You can fit it all in, and still have specific studio hours, if you PLAN to have a routine and stick to it.

Find other artists: There are several art quilters out there looking for you too, and you could probably find them by just making it a goal. You will need support and people of like minds to share your successes and finished objects. They need you too. Working in isolation is deadly. Finding others that work on their art and take it seriously will help you feel better about doing the same. And take care to choose wisely the people you are seeking. The more successful they are the better, even if they are overwhelmingly successful. They are more likely to be generous and helpful and less likely to be jealous of your work. Watch what they do and learn. This has been the most important part of my development as an artist and so I know it works.

Deadlines: This is probably the most necessary and work producing piece of the puzzle. Working toward entering shows, or having a group who expects to see work regularly from you is the motivating factor for so many artists. However I would warn you against doing the group challenges that so often distract from our specific artistic goals and cause undo stress. Doing what it takes to finish a work of your own design is far more important.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you and now I must go down to the studio and finish quilting my quilt, as the deadline for slides is January 10th!