Thursday, January 7, 2016

Art. Business.

Befriending Time & Place, November 2014  
Gallery five18, Boise

In Lynn Basa's book, The Artist's Guide to Public Art, the author interviews a group of successful public artists, asking each a series of questions. The most fascinating answers to me were to the question, "What percentage of your time is spend exclusively on art-making, versus tending to business needs?" (Basa p.203). Here is a summary of the 9 artists' answers:

100% to both (no delineation between art-making and business) - one artist
50% art-making, 50% business - one artist
20% art-making, 80% business - one artist
15% art-making, 85% business - one artist
10% art-making, 90% business - two artists
5% art-making, 95% business - one artist
All weekend hours art-making, all weekday hours business - one artist

If you are an artist, especially one who specializes in public art, these results are probably not surprising to you. Reading this chapter, I became curious about the way I spend my time as a professional artist. Mostly for my own benefit, I'm going to break down a typical week of activity in the studio:

Sunday -
2 hours writing email to mailing list (monthly or bi-weekly)
2 hours taking reference images

Monday -
2 hours errands (picking up prints, exchanging work at the gallery, trip to the hardware store etc etc)
1 hour photo organization (preparing reference images, etc)
1 hour - work up mock-up and quote for new client
3 hours art-making in the afternoon
2 hours answering emails, miscellaneous computer projects (could include creating marketing material for upcoming shows, posting on social media, ordering prints, updating price sheets and look-book, planning client events, researching new business opportunities).

Tuesday -
1 hour prep for client meeting
1 hour - meet client at studio or gallery to discuss or show work
2 hours deliver artwork to another client
1-2 hours art-making in afternoon
1 hour answering emails, miscellaneous computer projects

Studio day! My creative limit is about 3 hours at a time, so a studio day is often spending about 5 hours in the morning prepping new canvases, organizing my studio, finding reference images, etc - and then a 3-4 hour painting session in the afternoon.
1 hour answering emails, miscellaneous computer projects

Thursday - (today!)
3 hours in the morning - monthly accounting and blog
1 hour answering emails, miscellaneous computer projects
1-2 hours art-making in the afternoon (hopefully)
4 hours in the evening First Thursday at the gallery (monthly) or attending other artists' events

Friday -
3-4 hours art-making
2 hours packaging and shipping artwork
3 hours updating website/Etsy shop and running inventory (imaging new work, updating all available work folders and image library)
1 hour answering emails, miscellaneous computer projects

Saturday -
2-3 hours art-making
2 hours attending other artists' events

art-making time: 18-23 hours
other activities: 32 hours
I spend 32-41% of my working hours actively art-making

This is not to say that every week is the same - some weeks I might hardly paint at all because I am so busy with other tasks. Other weeks I put the brakes on this business work and gift myself a few blissful, full days painting with music playing. And, I must offer the disclaimer that the art-making times listed are fairly optimistic - unfortunately often these are the hours that get sacrificed if a client wants to see a piece in the gallery or I get stuck on some computer issue.

Honestly I'm not sure where I'm going with this blog post - in part I simply like to stay aware of how I am using my time. I often find myself feeling guilty no matter what I am doing - if I am painting, I should be updating my website and finding new clients. If I am updating my website or running to town to approve new prints, I feel guilty for not being in my studio. I'd imagine (and am soon to find out) that this push and pull is rather like juggling a work schedule and parenting commitments. (Still childless for another month, my artwork is still my sole offspring).

But perhaps those who have been interested to read this post who are not artists have gained a little insight into the backside of the business, and my fellow art-makers feel some company in their own struggles to find a satisfying balance between the time-consuming nuts and bolts of being an artist and the substantial amount of creative time it takes to create a work of art.

Not just for artists, but for all those who do what they love for a living - this seemingly "lucky" circumstance is created by a whole lot of discipline and hard work (not to mention massive financial re-investment...about 50% for me) - basically a whole extra job that yields the opportunity to do the fun part. And yes, it's worth it.

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