Welcome To "The Artist's Life"

31 Jul 2009

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.


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Comments

on 31 Jul 2009 5:55 AM

Congratulations and we look forward to hearing more on the new blog, Lori!

on 31 Jul 2009 6:08 AM

It's great to have someone step out and get our attention to work harder and smarter at what we love to do.  I'm looking forward to reading your blogs.  Thanks Lori!

on 31 Jul 2009 6:13 AM

It's great to have someone step out and get our attention to work harder and smarter at what we love to do.  I look forward to reading more of your blogs.  Thanks Lori!

j.b2 wrote
on 31 Jul 2009 6:18 AM

Congrats.

I don't look at the blog section much, but I will look for this one..

I used to feel that reading the blogs kept me from getting to the studio. But in the last few days I've been re-organizing my time & looking a little more at them. And still getting up to the studio to paint or work in glass. Thanks to all for opening this world of info up to me...

(I really can't read, I just look at the photos) lol!

on 31 Jul 2009 10:07 AM

Aww... Gee... thanks.

Great expectations are building, but I'll do my very best to write about things that matter to artists.

Next post in 2 weeks... investigating time and task management for right-brained people. Hint: we're visually motivated.

janblencowe wrote
on 31 Jul 2009 10:10 AM

"while my brain is fairly organized, my "stuff" is not. "

That just about sums me up! LOL

The Daily Painters movement, which I've been a part of since 2005, has really helped me develop good work  habits and been very beneficial to my artistic growth.

Thanks for encouraging us to make our studio time a priority!

on 31 Jul 2009 10:27 AM

Hi Jan, good to see you here.

Yes, I can see that many artists have benefited from The Daily Painters movement - it gives you a well defined task to work toward and the resulting sales definitely stoke the fire.

Thanks for mentioning that.

clintavo wrote
on 31 Jul 2009 11:05 AM

Awesome to see this blog up and running, looking forward to seeing this series

on 31 Jul 2009 11:39 AM

What can I add to these comments Lori - BRAVO! Glad to see your blog here and I am anxiously looking forward to hearing and sharing ideas with you. You are an inspiration and have encouraged me to manage my studio time better - looking forward to future posts.

judyl40 wrote
on 31 Jul 2009 11:44 AM

Great news!

What I find most paralyzing is when I have a lot to do, not only in my studio, but in that other life too. I need to do lists, more for the de-stressing than anything else, as I don't utilize these as much as I should.

Will be interested to see what works for others. I'm fine when I'm actually working, but it's all those roadblocks that stand in the way of my work that I find most distracting & unsettling.

Thanks for doing this, Lori! :)

smithharia wrote
on 1 Aug 2009 2:55 PM

This is a great idea, Lori. Thanks much. Despite the fact that I am retired, I am taking a gazillion art, graphic design classes at our local college--loving it but not getting a lot done other then current assignments. However, I think that has to stop. I need to put the time in on my own work, too.

Thanks again and will follow this blog

Anne

phillip2 wrote
on 4 Aug 2009 7:34 AM

my congrats and good wishes added to the growing list.  

Robin11 wrote
on 6 Aug 2009 6:56 PM

Congrats on the blog!  

The 20 hour challenged WORKS.  It's made a huge difference to me, thanks for thinking it up!

Miranda_Asch wrote
on 7 Aug 2009 8:38 AM

This is a great idea! Twenty hours might be a little much for me as I work, but ten or five I can do. I feel like as an artist I'm pulled in so many directions! It's hard to prioritize, and so many things seem to come before studio work. Thanks for the suggestion; I'll be checking back here!

on 12 Aug 2009 10:10 AM

Robin, if you get a moment, please share how the 20 Hour Challenge has made a difference for you specifically. I'd love for you to share with forum readers. It doesn't have to be an elaborate answer - just any little thing that's helped you.

John Barnes wrote
on 20 Oct 2009 12:13 PM

Ah ... twenty hours a week.  Well lets see, that's 2.86 hours a day.   The figure drawing group meets once a week for three hours and the cartoon group for a couple of hours. Got some Winter Festival cards and birthday cards to design. Do those count?  Got to finish painting sealer on the deck before the cold weather kicks in. That's painting isn't it? Gotta exercise an hour three times a week as well. Akkkk !! I can't take the pressure!  I can't be creative on schedule!  Now I'm starting to doubt myself!  If I'm not an artist, what am I?  What is life all about?

Wait ....!!  The timer just went off.  OooooH!  Cookies.

luvoilpaints wrote
on 17 Dec 2009 10:45 PM

Lori, I love reading your posts - you have an easy way with words which could help you write a book someday! It's comforting to read how others too find it difficult to be disciplined as artists.

I love to paint and my work (just learning) is good, but to get to the next level I need to put in regular hours.... and that seems to be such a challenge. Yes, the biggest step is sometimes to just walk over to the easel and sit down, ignoring the other chores which need attention.  It's posts such as your's which help nudge me forward when I'm stuck. So, thanks!

on 18 Dec 2009 6:36 AM

Hi Luvoilpaints,

I understand completely how hard it is to get to the easel on a regular basis. Our lives today are complex. It seems that with so many conveniences that we have less time to focus, and you're right... sometimes just ignoring everything else is the right answer (unless we're ignoring our family members or young children who are hungry). ;-)

Thanks for adding your comment - it is much appreciated.

Lori

on 5 Dec 2010 10:41 AM

Wow!

Do I need this, 20 hours, hmmm. I will give it my best shot. I just got laid-off from teaching art at a community college, my father passed-on and I feel lost! I would love encouragement to go forward. Since I am on my own as far as kicking myself to paint a little the 20 hours will really help me.

Thank You

Judy