The Studio Habit

IcePoint_2875, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

One of the things I love about location photography is that you are able to immerse yourself in your work. When I’m at a place like this, for example, I usually don’t have phones ringing or people wanting to take my time. I’m isolated. Most of these workshop type adventures allow you the luxury of doing just that-getting out into the field and work, work, working it. I think this is really important for artists of all stripes-to be able to spend ample amount of time in the studio (or in the field) working.

While I’m not fully convinced that artists need a degree to be a success, I’m also convinced that art school does instill certain factors into successful students. Most art school graduates, for example, learn how to market their work. They know how to build a base, a clientele, and work up from there. One of the other things they also get if they are lucky is an urgency about studio work. Most art schools have ample studio space and afford the budding artist space to work in the studio. There’s also the time factor. Many students have plenty of time to do nothing but create-they don’t suffer from the interference of a “daily life” getting in the way. Running a house, maybe if you have kids, doing laundry, taking care of the car, walking the dog, etc. these are all things that can get in the way of proper studio time. As artists, we need to learn to deal with these things and, in most cases, art school teaches budding artists how to do just that.

I’ve seen so many artists who make excuses and not art. I’ve met so many who say, “I just don’t have time!” or “When I get a round to that…” I know a guy who has been wanting to purchase a printer to print his photographic images larger for about 5 years or more now. Every time I see him he makes comments about my work, “oh, love your new piece!” or “I saw your work up at…” He then talks about how “someday” he’ll be able to get a printer setup to be able to print his work. Unfortunately, if he had started printing 5 years ago, he’d be a pro at it now, but he keeps putting it off. Sadly, for him, I doubt that big all-important “someday” is going to come to pass. (Do you really want to end up like that guy?)

There are other artists I know who let their children run their lives. I’ve talked before how there is nothing wrong with having children (thank goodness my mother felt that way, right? Note to self: remember her on mother’s day!) The problem is I’ve seen so many artists who never get into the studio because they have to go and pick up the kids or their son has soccer practice or… Again with the excuses, again with the “putting yourself and your needs on the back burner.” Yes, I know children are demanding and yes, I know it’s hard to not pay attention but, especially if you’re children are a bit older here, you need to make sure you get time for doing artwork. In the long run, your children will be better if you allow them to grow into their own independence and you’re artwork is important to you too, so why are you not making time for it?

You need to make your studio time regular, like a habit. Practice going into the studio every day at the same time. Consider it like a job. You wouldn’t blow off work everyday because your daughter called and wants you to pick her up or because Barney is on the TV or your son’s soccer practice is…Stop it! Consider it your job and get into the studio. Make the other stuff wait. Unless little Johnny is bleeding, allow him the freedom to grow. He needs to learn to amuse himself and doesn’t always need to be pulling at your coattails each and every hour of each and every day. This is especially true if you have older children. I can’t tell you how many artists I know who do things like dishes for their high school aged children. Let them do their own dishes. They need to learn how to do this anyway if they are going to be a success in life, isn’t it high time they start now? Stop coddling them and let them grow up. In the process, don’t be afraid to devote more time to your artwork.

Your studio time should also be sacred. This is the place and time where you create. It’s not about “me” time, it’s about putting your art first. If you really want to succeed as an artist, you need to put your artwork first. You need a proper amount of studio output. You have to paint enough to sell enough paintings or take enough photos to be able to keep up with the kids on Twitter who tweet and Facebook about every little meal they eat or drink they gulp down with lunch. You can’t just sit around in a chair wearing elbow patches talking about “the shot that got away” you have to make some new material. You have to have a strong creative output in order to be a success.

For me, I try to focus on art for part of each and every day. If I’m not working on it, I’m writing about it. If I’m not writing about it, I’m organizing it. If I’m not organizing it, I’m planning it. I edit work all of the time. There’s always something going on, something in the pipeline, and I’m already working on the next big thing. In my mind, I’m four projects ahead and I like to keep my hands busy, you know, in the pot so to speak. It doesn’t always seem like it but I try to make a habit of studio time and field work. I’ve always been good about keeping my studio sacred. I don’t get disturbed easily. I don’t answer the phone when I’m in studio and I try to plan my studio output. I don’t always know exactly what I’m going to paint, or exactly where (which direction) a particular piece will take me, no, but I know that, on any given day, or any given time slot spent in the studio, I’m going to try to knock out a certain number of pieces. Things don’t always go as planned, no, but I try and I’m sort of “mentally prepared” to do a certain amount of work each and every time I either pick up a camera or a paintbrush. If it doesn’t work, if one particular piece takes longer than I might have anticipated, so be it. I’m making art, I’m not a robot, but I do have the habit of making art. I actually MAKE art, not excuses, and that’s what important here.

So, while I might not knock out three pieces like I said I was going to, I make progress along with my art. I try to do more, to be more, to teach more, to learn more, and to grow more, both as an artist and as a human being. It’s important to me. I want my artwork to get out there, yes, but I want to have something worthy of “getting out there” wherever that happens to be. I strive to make better art, not just to market it, and that means getting my hands dirty in the studio. Rolling up my sleeves and getting down to work. Yes, I’m all about working it in the studio these days.

I hope you’ll consider your art habits. What you’re doing that’s working for you, how you’re going about keeping your studio time sacred, and how you’re developing your own studio habits. If you find yourself making too many excuses and not enough output, maybe it’s time to stop and really think about what your priorities are. Especially at this time of year, when families tend to interfere more and it’s easy to blow off menial tasks, I would encourage you to take a long hard look at your “art life” and see where it it taking you. Where do you want to go and are you producing enough, devoting enough studio time to get there?

It’s an important question and one that only you really can answer. I hope you’ll think about it, even for a moment today or at some point over your development as an artist. I know I have and I’m working towards developing good (or better) studio habits all of the time.

Until next time…

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