Before getting started, I'd like to express my gratitude to the American Artist editors for providing me this space to share my experiences as a professional, but sometimes struggling, artist with their readers. It is a pleasure to be able to give back to the artist community because I have gained much through both online and off-line friends and acquaintances.
My plan is to post here twice a month on a variety of aspects that relate to "Living The Artist's Life." In the future, I plan on touching on such topics as right-brained organization techniques, art marketing advice, thoughts about professional artist ethics and etiquette, building a cohesive body of work, how to converse with collectors, and things I've learned from the Masters.
Revisiting the 20-Hour Challenge
A few months ago, I made the following statement on Twitter: “I'm challenging myself to put in 20 hours a week of pure studio work, anyone want to join me?” In the hours that followed, several artists who have huge followings on Twitter “retweeted” my original statement, and to my surprise my idea became a movement.
My guess is that artists responded to this idea of a 20-hour challenge, because most of us know, deep inside, that we need to challenge ourselves to stay on track with our time in the studio. When our studios are set up at home, we're pulled away by daily responsibilities and distractions. For some of us, convincing ourselves to get to the studio is a daily struggle. That's why I have challenged myself to get 20 hours of work completed each week. Sure, there are weeks when I can't be in the studio, but if I make the effort to get there on a regular basis, sooner or later, being there will become a habit.
The Artist Life Is Complex
During the 1980s, I worked for a computer company, and when my husband and I moved to Albuquerque, I decided to quit my job and get back into art. I enrolled in watercolor classes given by a local teacher, and within a few years, decided to “go professional” as a full time painter. While in theory, taking on an art career seemed comparatively simple to working full time at a computer company, it quickly became apparent that running a business as a full time artist is a complex undertaking. Working at home and juggling studio time with life's other responsibilities can be daunting.
My days are complex and fractured. I often feel like there’s no way on earth that I’ll get everything that I have and want to do done. My tasks are like spinning plates, and occasionally I let some fall and crash, but if I choose to ignore my studio time too often, I can hardly call myself an artist by occupation. The fact remains that if I don't practice good work habits, my art career will go nowhere That's why I've given myself this challenge—to stay accountable and pursue my art career seriously. I've been in a state of denial about this for some time, but now I'm now facing reality so that I can make my career dreams come true.
Some artists who've joined the challenge work full time jobs and are only able to pledge five hours of studio time. Others have pledged 10 hours. Many are seeing 20 hours as a good number to start with and I've spoken to a few artists who put in over 40 hours per week. These few don't seem to really need the challenge, but perhaps they might be willing to share how they regulate tasks and time.
Every Hour Spent With Your Artwork is Time Invested in Your Future
It also doesn't matter if your work is top notch every time—just working daily will help you grow artistically. So let's encourage each other in this pursuit! I, of course can’t be the sole captain of this challenge. If I spend all my time replying and encouraging other artists, I won't get much work done, but if we all chip in a word of encouragement, I expect we'll see artists everywhere putting in a few more hours than they would have otherwise.
In future posts, I'll cover topics that are related to time management issues and right-brained organization techniques that I've been experimenting with. While some readers may think that I'm a highly-organized person, I admit that, while my brain is fairly organized, my "stuff" is not. I look forward to sharing ideas with you all and invite you all to share your ideas and experiences with others on this forum.
Lori Woodward Simons earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from University of Arizona. She has studied watercolor and composition extensively with Sondra Freckelton and Jack Beal. Simons’ work has appeared in several issues of Watercolor, and she is a co-author of the Walter Foster book Watercolor Step by Step. She is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group in Vermont. She resides in New Hampshire with her husband, Brian Simons, a software engineer. Visit her website at www.woodwardsimons.com.