Many of us artists are considering how we'll grow our art business and sales in 2013. In fact, I've been considering big changes since last summer, and I'll share them with you here. My main idea for 2013 is to simplify and focus on a fewer online activities so that I have more time to enjoy creating, life, friendships, and my home.
View of The Sound: 6x8 Oil on canvas panel.
Have you ever noticed how life and work tends to change every decade? Since the introduction of social media and Internet, my life has morphed into a daily routine that I never anticipated when I began my art business in the mid-1990's.
Over the past year, I've ordered several online educational modules that have taught me quickly to use Pinterest, Youtube, Facebook, and Google Plus to help my career as an artist and art teacher. Each of these courses is excellent, but alas - I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities and overloaded with information. My poor, aging brain just doesn't want to take it all in, and furthermore, trying to keep up with everything new is making me feel mildly depressed. I'm sure many of you have experienced similar emotions while perusing Facebook or Twitter... where the input, images, and links never end. You start out thinking you'll only spend a few minutes "catching up", and then 2 hours later, you realize that your precious work time has passed you by, never to be regained!
Know what? I started thinking about how social media affects me, and I realize that I have a lot of false assumptions about it. Let me talk about Facebook first. It's addictive, But Why?? Because it makes me feel like I belong. Heck, I can comment to Paul McCartney! In reality, I know that he never reads what I write - just like he never reads the hundreds of other comments, but it feels good to "talk to him" just the same.
When I was in high school, being part of the "popular" crowd never appealed to me. I had several close friends and a best friend, and that was all I needed. I did have a lot of other acquaintances, but they were friendships of convenience... people who were in my class and had something in common for a time. These friends signed my year book, but after I graduated, they faded away. The few who were friends I saw outside of the classroom have remained my friends to this very day. Facebook is a bit like high school, only the difference is that I was required to go to high school. I'm not required to spend time on social media. (but I do spend too much time there)
Choosing A Quiet World
From time to time, we lose power at our house, or else I am out of range of Wifi, and know what? I'm a lot happier and I get a lot more done, Living in Real Time. Over the past several months, I've been spending less time on line and more time moving about in my home, studio and enjoying the outdoors. For the past several years, I had convinced myself that I could spend time "playing" online - like it was a hobby... but really, how much quality of life, real productivity and real relationships has playing online cultivated? I admit that most of the relationships I have online rarely turn into real life ones. A few do - but like high school, in the end, many of us go our separate ways.
I long to return to The Good Ol Days - BI "before Internet", and I have been making strides to do so, but it's been far more difficult than I expected. First, I had to let go of the notion that I was working and doing things to broaden my career, (online) when actually I was doing nothing of the sort. I pretended that spending hours of valuable time online, clicking on unending links and looking at websites was part of my work. Recently, I've taken time to look at the reality of my situation. Your reality may be different, but if I don't return to a healthy dose of living and working in real time and real places, I might actually go crazy.
You might be thinking... crazy is a strong word. However, when I spend too much time online, I get stupid - I can't remember diddly; I've been forgetful and have missed deadlines. (I never used to miss deadlines)! My brain can only take in so much stimuli before it starts shutting down. I get zoned in on my computer or Ipad screen and my life and responsibilities begin to slide by, while I live in a dream world by viewing what everyone else is doing. In the end, I've got to stop looking at what y'all are doing all day so I can return to my life. We artists can be sucked into feeling like we're not so much alone because we generally work in seclusion - it's downright lonely for some.
Social Media and Self-Promotion
Yes, I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I do plan on employing social media to promote my business and paintings. Most of you reading this use it too, and I think that the Internet has opened doors for many more artists to sell their work and promote their business in huge ways with very little cost. We have a lot of ways to reach new audiences for our work. I'm just saying here that I have to limit my time online so I can make more artwork, get better at it, and live a quiet life in my off hours... not connected to "the world". There is a real fear/sense that plagues many of us. It's called FOMO (fear of missing out) and unless you're one of those artists who gets several hundred likes when you post a new painting or say what you had for breakfast, you probably know what I'm talking about.
I sometimes feel that I am not measuring up to what I see online, or am missing out on the art "high life" while viewing pictures of famous artists hanging out with each other. Sometimes, I hang out with really famous artists, and I do have some wonderful friendships, but it always looks more exciting online than it is in real life. Sometimes in real life, I feel downright insecure and left out even when I'm with famous artists. When it comes down to what really matters, it's spending time with people I care about and who care about me - even though they know me and all my faults.
Summing it Up
Because I do need social media for biz purposes, how do I promote my business efforts but not turn into an addict? The Answer: Have a strategy/plan and stick to it. Check out what my friends are doing ONLY at the end of my workday... and keep it under an hour. The strategy is to post only what it important, helpful to others and interesting. I'm not famous enough for anyone to care what I had for lunch. If I have a painting for sale, or a workshop, I can post about it with a link. If I have a free art tutorial or You Tube tutorial, (future) I will post a link. But for the most part, I have to let the world of images, tweets and posts pass me by.
How does social media affect your psyche for the positive or negative? Are you good at controlling how much time you spend on it? Would love to hear your solutions for managing it in a useful way. I do think it is a positive for art marketing and connecting with other artists, so don't get me wrong. I'm interested in hearing how you manage to keep it from being too consuming of time.
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Frank T. Stuckey III
I'm preparing for a trip to Arizona to visit friends, but my primary goal while there is to work on my instructional book.
Step by step demo in WC magazine
Last month, Clint Watson, owner of http://faso.com and I talked extensively about my taking on extra duties for the company. My first reaction was that these new responsibilities would be fun, and I'd most likely do a good job with them.
But during the month of September, I felt overwhelmed with the variety of work on my plate - which led to my re-evaluating taking on additional projects. When I was younger, I worked for a computer company, and did very little artwork while there. Although I enjoyed that job and got paid very well for it, I admit that I was just putting in the required hours while my creative side was suffering. Working for the computer company was a job, not a calling.
It's been 20 years since I quit working on testing PC software and began my career as a painter. While I'd like to say that being a professional artist is easier than working with computer software, it isn't - not by a long shot. Running my own business is extremely hard work. But the good part about being an artist -- I get to nurture my God given gifts, which in turn feeds my soul. Performing tasks for "the company" wasn't nearly as satisfying.
At the present, I've embarked on a new creative career - that satisfies me even more than being a full time artist. With the Internet and blogging, I'm able to share everything I've learned from my mentors and business coaches with my fellow artists, and this work is my true calling. Those of you who know me personally, understand how essential it is that I interact with people, and although I do love to paint, spending 40 hours alone in the studio is difficult for me. Many of my professional artist friends have no trouble spending days and weeks alone, but that is not my personality has been designed.
Getting back to the work Clint and I discussed... which much thought, prayer and asking my friends' advice, I've come to the conclusion that I would be sacrificing my true calling in order to take on additional online work. Yes, I'd make good money and probably do an excellent job at it, but would I be happy?
There's only so many hours in the day, and only God knows how many days I have on this earth, so I need to consider carefully how to spend those days. It's true that if my husband lost his job, I'd have to take on some kind of daily work. For now, I put out my best quality writing and painting when I have a lot of flexibility. It's definitely difficult to be flexible and let new ideas flow when there's no time left for pondering them.
So, dear artists - when you take on work that is not related to your true calling, be aware of what you're sacrificing. No, I'm not saying to quit your day job if you need to have regular income. Once when I was giving an art marketing workshop, one of the attendees informed me shortly thereafter that he quit his job to pursue art full time. I never told him to do that! But it worked out to be the right decision for him - I'm so relieved!
By taking the time to analyze my gifts, how I truly love to spend my time and what the most important paybacks are, I've come to live a more rewarding life. When I'm not careful, I easily get sidetracked into taking on responsibilities that take time away from my calling. If these opportunities pay well, I get sidetracked sooner.
When I share info and thereby help others, I feel truly satisfied. Yeah, I know that not everything I write is helpful to everyone, but that's just the way it is. The important thing for me to keep in mind is that I must try.
I've been writing blogs for Clint Watson's newsletter since last October. Today, Clint created a new site - where I'll be posting blogs, articles about "Creative Productivity". On occasion, I'll blog about interviews that I've conducted with professional artists who manage their time and careers effectively.
If you're interested in receiving this information, go to:
www.20hourstudiochallenge.com and sign up for our Email Newsletter - click on "Join The Challenge"
Let's spur each other on to greater productivity with quality. We'll all feel better if we spend more time in the studio, and at the very least, we'll have a body of work that we can feel proud of.
Lori W.S. Comment on or Share this Article →
Painting in Progress... watercolor.
Wow, a lot of artists are excited about counting themselves in for a 20 hour work week challenge.
While some artists are already putting in 40 or more hours per week, many are not able to because of other commitments.
My main purpose for taking on this challenge for myself is to get myself away from doing needless online checking of email, Twitter and Facebook. While I use all three of these venues for business purposes, my use of these sometimes gets out of hand because I'm a hugely social person at heart. However, if I continue to let social media digest my best working hours, I'll eventually find myself feeling like a hypocrite and worse, out of a career.
Here's the latest idea: We can post accomplishments with show and tell Fridays - with our fellow artists in order to brag about how much real work we got done. While many of you paint or make artquilts or other types of creative work, I also write for art publications. I consider that kind of writing part of my work - so I may have to Talk or Tell you about my accomplishments - the writing ones, and then show you paintings.
I've also put this challenge out to folks on the American Artist Magazine's forum. If you'd like to join them as a member, it's the perfect place to upload your images. They even have a members' gallery. I'm an active member there and docent.
I'm not planning on carrying the banner alone for this project - just am going to live up to my own challenge, so if this is going to work, you who are interested will have to go out and share this experience with other artists. This challenge is purely optional, no one has to participate unless they want to. You can quit any time or rejoin the battle. No rules here, just encouragement, progress, and celebration of a job well done.
If you've got a Facebook account, you might want to show and tell on Friday there, or on the American Artist Forum or else on Twitter if you have an account there. I'm www.twitter.com/Loriwords
Let's encourage each other to greater work!
Yes, I'm still thinking about how email is affecting my productivity, and I'm finally finding ways of controlling my addiction to it. Doing very well today, so far.
The more often I check my email, the more likely I'll feel disappointment. Each time I hit the "Check Mail" icon, I'm reminded of Vegas Slot Machines. If they are called One Armed Bandits, perhaps my email should be renamed a One Click Bandit. It doesn't steal my money... rather I spend time and emotion on the outcome of that click. Wait a minute... maybe in the long run it does steal money -- when it steals my productivity. I'll have to give that thought more consideration.
When I get new mail, especially something exciting, I am thrilled. It's not long before I'm wondering if there is more excitement waiting in my inbox, so I start checking it again and again -- just as though I were waiting for those three apples to come up and the coins to fall into the dish. Who knows, I could get really lucky!
But alas, when I hit the icon, hoping that an intriging message has been anxiously awaiting my reply, I am often left with utter disappointment. "NO NEW MAIL" It's like running out of tokens for the slot machine without having won anything. Sometimes, I whisper to myself, "Nobody loves me". That's nonsense... Why do I bother to go there?
Solution: let my inbox fill up during the day - like a bank account, let it grow. (give me slack on the bank stuff right now)... you get the analogy. There's a higher chance of my receiving at least one fun or interesting message after 6 hours of not downloading. Alternately, by investing my time in work activities that are sure to bring lasting joy and satisfaction, I'm apt to have greater self-respect. I can then whisper, "I love me".
More to come on Time Management solutions - probably Thursday on www.fineartviews.com
Same Blog Time, Same Blog Channel.
Why is it that I don't have to put effort into establishing bad habits while gearing up for good habits takes every ounce of self-control I can muster up?
As an artist, I have a maximum of freedom and flexibility with my time, and this is one of the things that makes being a professional artist a joy, but at at the same time, it creates a war within me. The daily struggle to choose the right thing to do for the advancement of my artwork is VERY REAL. Now, if I am to succeed and produce lots of incredible artwork thereby making a living at it, I'm going to need a great deal of self-discipline in order to overcome my natural inclination to treat my life as a vacation.
When I worked for someone else, I didn't need much self discipline because someone else was arranging my schedule and tasks. Either I did what I was supposed to do, or I'd get fired. As an artist, I mistakenly believe the lie that I can goof off and yet succeed. But nothing is further from the truth. Even though wasting time doesn't seem to cause me immediate pain, I am headed for disaster. Furthermore, because I have a spouse who makes the bulk of the household income, there isn't even the incentive to feed myself or pay bills.
I believe that in order to establish good working habits, the reality of failure needs to be extremely real and imminent. I need to scare myself into a regimented schedule just as though I were working for someone else. In early adulthood, I supervised a group of 8 software testers, and my ability to get serious with them surprised me as I intensely dislike conflict. Today, I am finding that pushy person inside to pressure myself into superb performance.
In order to scare myself with the facts, I make a list or imagine what will happen in the near future if I fail to practice good work habits. The first and most obvious result is that I will lose self-confidence and as I delay my working at the easel. This is a totally bad situation. Secondly, I will lack having paintings ready for opportunities that crop up and they do crop up when I least expect it! Most importantly, not having paintings means that they will not exist for folks to enjoy for a lifetime. I must not lose sight of the real reason for making beautiful artwork... it contributes to beauty and moments of joy for myself and others. Not all art has this as its goal, but that's the goal for my work.
Succeeding as an artist is such a complex pursuit I can hardly even touch on what it takes in the context of a blog. We are all individuals and have unique challenges. Folks who are not artists may think it's an easy life; however, because we have so much freedom, it can be a difficult life to manage. Even so, I would not chose any other career... it truly can be a labor of love, and will become that if I indeed establish good working habits.
My next blog will be on establishing those positive habits. I'll also touch on the rewards that hard work brings me. Last March, I wrote down in my journal with all caps - EACH DAY I MUST DO SOMETHING, NO MATTER HOW SMALL, TO MOVE AHEAD WITH MY ART. That means painting even when it's not going well. It means hanging in there and resolving difficult problems, starting a painting over, setting time aside to study and copy old masters, wasting paint with practicing, and ultimately becoming my personal best.
Until next blog,
Lori Woodward Simons
I promised to show a list of what steals my precious working time away. For each of you, the items will be different, but you probably are well aware of what they are because you feel guilty when you spend time on them. I'm going to get brutally honest with myself so that I can get down to the business of painting and writing articles. Yep, I've got two careers... in the long run, one will win out over the other, but I must do both now.
Things I do and shouldn't be doing (during my most productive hours)
Looking randomly around at sites on the Internet. This does not include research for my articles. But have you ever noticed how much time can pass while you're ONLINE? It's as though my mind goes into hyper mode and forgets that anything else exists around me. In a way, I feel similarly to when I'm painting time flies by and I forget to look at the clock. I get totally engrossed in what I'm reading as though it were the most important thing I could do. Well, you're reading this blog, so when you're done, you might want to consider working if this is your most mind-focused time of the day. And I don't want to make you feel like there's no time for play play and recreation is a rewarding experience especially when we've got our work done.
Checking email every hour. Art making is a lonely existence. I am a socially oriented person, and email is almost as good as talking to someone. I am thankful that I don't particularly like using the phone. Day after day goes by, with me being my own companion. When my husband gets home, he has been talking to people all day, so it's not a good time to blast him with incessant verbiage. However, and this is huge, if I spend my best hours checking email, and then the news and the weather and so on, I will pay the dear price of non-success. At this point in my career, I've got a lot going for me there is nothing standing in my way of becoming a nationally known top selling artist except my tendency to while away the hours on non-productive activity. Again, it's not that I can't do these things, but perhaps I could leave them for the hours when my mind is foggy.... like after dinner. OR, even every other evening. If someone needs to get a hold of me, they can use the phone. Email is for non-urgent stuff.
Shopping: This includes thinking of shopping or looking at catalogs I'll know what things I truly want later in the day when my mind is almost useless to paint or write. I used to work at a computer company... imagine how awful I would have felt if I needed to be moving toward a deadline and my boss caught me looking at catalogs Even if they're art catalogs, art related tasks can steal my time just as efficiently as non-art related tasks.
Chores: A successful artist friend of mine once admitted to being self-coerced into vacuuming when she had a painting deadline. She said, I know I'll be successful at vacuuming Isn't it amazing how the urge to do menial tasks become suddenly seductive when we've got an art deadline? The problem is that no matter how long one has been painting, one cannot PROVE that it can be done again until well into the painting process. That's because painting is somewhat of a right-brained process; we can't remember just how we did it sometimes. OK, so the point here is that chores and other necessary STUFF that I need to do can be done at the appropriate time.
The list goes on, and I'll add some as I come across them and deal with them. I hope this has been helpful to some of you out there. My intent is that by sharing, I'll strike a chord with readers and make some kind of positive difference even if small.
Now I've gotta get a new Watercolor Tip done for www.myamericanartist.com (which is part of my job)
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Have you ever noticed that on days when you're traveling or have other appointments, that you feel very little confusion over what you ought to do for the day? All I know is that as a professional artist, I deal daily with organizing my tasks fighting between what I ought to do and what I want to do, and the million tiny menial tasks that need to be done in order to maintain the home, car and all the other things we own.
My husband and I have a second home which I love dearly, but it devours time at least 1 day a week to preparing and packing for the weekend. But you know all about how frustrating it is to try to work at home or studio and get everything else in life done, so let me move on to being specific.
As an artist, I am my own boss. I manage my business and all the details that go with it framing, preparing canvases, buying supplies, marketing, treasurer (finances), etc. All of these things must be done, and yet not one of them produces paintings. Now it may seem obvious, but without lots of great paintings, all of these other tasks are useless. Here's the point, and this is huge. The major part of my daily hours must be spent in making my product (my paintings) to have a thriving business.
But so many things get in the way. However, some of those things that steal my time away can be eliminated or moved to time slots that free up plenty of time for painting. So, for now, I'm not going to worry about the non-art business related things like buying mums for the front yard or even cleaning the house or going to the dump. Today, I am going to focus on my art career tasks only because these things are extremely important to my success.
Number One: try my best to cut down on unnecessary habits that cut into my precious working hours. We all have a time of day or evening when we are able to focus on our work. Mine is 'right now' about 9 a.m. Until 2 p.m. It's 10 o-clock in the morning. I just took my morning walk, and you wouldn't believe all the 'ideas' that popped into my mind... priming my mind for non-painting. Thoughts about an addition for our cabin, working in the yard, writing this blog, and the list goes on.
Now when I get back to the studio, am I primed for work? Nope... .and I have no boss standing over my shoulder who's going to make me work. As my own boss, I need to get very good at being, well... bossy with myself. By the way, my work time is divided between writing for an art magazine and painting. Right now, the article stuff must be done I have a deadline, but the paintings... will anyone reprimand me for not having paintings ready for a show? Probably not. Here's where I must get tough with myself because even though I don't feel any penalties right away for putting off painting, the ultimate truth is that I will not succeed as an artist. Putting off what one must do to succeed grows under the surface, barely noticed until one day you realize that the years have flown and you've missed the boat.
I highly recommend a book: Coach Yourself to Success by Talane Meidaner. 101 tips from a personal coach for reaching your goals at work and in life.
My next blog which I'll begin today is a list of all my time-stealers. Things I like to do and are ok to do, but not during the most productive time of my day.
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