How to Balance Art & Life

by Carolyn Edlund

 

"Working Mother" by Joyce Wynes

Art credit: Joyce Wynes

 

Not long ago, I spoke with an artist who was in an intense planning and transition phase in her business. She had lots of work to do, both in her studio and home office. She needed long stretches of time to focus on growing her portfolio and her sales.

But she also had family obligations. Her elderly parents needed attention, and she was the daughter who lived closest to them. She was dealing with a persistent problem, and explained “They don’t respect my time. I’m self-employed, and they feel they can call me any time of the day.”

Her family clearly didn’t take her work seriously, and thought she was available at any time, since her schedule was “flexible.” This was wreaking havoc with her ability to do studio work, and to accomplish much.

Another artist I know is caught between in-laws who live with her and making time for stepchildren as well. She also works a part-time job while trying to get her small business off the ground. I give her a lot of credit for doing an amazing job juggling everything, because each week involves a complex system of scheduling and crossing her fingers that it all goes smoothly.

Fulfilling your desire to be an artist and develop a business while dealing with the distractions and commitments of everyday life can be very frustrating. There are sacrifices to be made, but also planning to be done. Consider these essentials when working towards creating a balance:

Claim your space. Separate your studio area from family space, and keep it that way. Some artists do their best work when they are out of the house. Having rented studio space reinforces the business nature of your art, and it takes you away from distractions that can pull you off-track. That studio space may end up being your creative haven. Turn off the phone, and give yourself the time to make art.

Set your boundaries. This takes self-discipline and commitment. Family members must agree to respect your work hours and give you the time to create. A closed door should mean “do not disturb” unless in emergency. Get childcare for young children who need supervision. It’s a business expense, but worth it!

Make your schedule. Create a regular routine that works around your other obligations as much as possible, but that is consistent so that others know and respect your work hours.

I asked some artist friends how they coped with busy schedules, successfully balancing their business with family life.

Artist Robin Pedrero is an early riser. She says, “Getting up earlier than my family really gives me a jump on things. It enables me to start working on my business before I need to take care of theirs …”  She keeps an ambitious studio schedule and tends to work out in the afternoons.

Painter Joyce Wynes stays on task by organizing her day. She explains, ” Because I am a fine artist and paint abstract images on canvas, that is my first priority. I set myself a goal that I complete 1 painting a week or 4 paintings per month. That means I set aside most of my work time everyday to paint or coming up with ideas for my next paintings. That usually takes up from 3-5 hours daily.

Any extra time after that is used for promotion, social media and research. A To-Do list daily helps keep me on task. There are always going to be interruptions because life happens, but I find that as long as I have my list, I can quickly get back on track. I use my phone calendar & alerts to remind me when my schedule has to be changed for a day. Organization is the only way I can accomplish what I do, so I make sure that I stay focused to the job at hand.”

How have you found a way to balance the time to make art, run your business and spend with your family? 

 

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Comments

  1. This one hits hard and granted, not all the situations mentioned are of grave consequence. But it is about values and what motivates your decisions. Your art will not love you back.

    My first wife with terminal cancer, my father succumbing to Alzheimer’s Disease, my healthy but lonely mother… When your circumstance is over you will remain; and the truth that you did do your finest work by caring for those in need is peace itself. No regrets.

    Elderly parents, children…this is the stuff of Life. As these things pass you will see that your depth of character will impart a depth to your artwork which is not otherwise available to it. You can not fake this stuff (or hide it).

    Love never fails. Maybe it isn’t time for art–but the time for Love is critical. It’s crucial, and its time is always NOW. How can that be lost time?

    On that note, a scripture which I really love: Joel 2:25, “And I will restore the YEARS that the locust has eaten, the cankerworm and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm…” Couple that with Romans 8:28 and be encouraged! You are being strengthened and deepened; your heart is growing. So is your expression.

    • James, I agree that love is critical. We all have many things in our lives that simply come from the heart and that we do without question. It’s the making time for the vision of the place art has in our lives that is sometimes so difficult.

      I personally had a very supportive spouse who happily watched our kids many, many weekends while I was away at shows, and that was an amazing situation. Granted, he did take them out for fast food and to the movies every time I was away – and they started looking forward to my travel!!

  2. marie payne says:

    I have rented space at a gallery away from family & phone & spend afternoons more or less organizing & running an arts events business. Any creative making usually happens in the evenings. For now this arrangement works for me.

    • Marie, quite a few artists have mentioned that they do most of their work in the evenings. I also found late hours to be less stressful, with fewer distractions or phone calls.

  3. Yes, I think balance is important.
    Art is important in my life, I also believe my Art is feeding on life.
    For me the best way is the establish weekly objectives.
    My daily planner is my best friend, this way I’m keeeping track of my time and I’m making sure to use my time with efficiency.

    • Thanks for your comment. Sylvie, I use a daily planner too! It may be old school, but having that physical calendar in front of me helps to keep me on track.

  4. Mary Saunders says:

    My dad made a cartoon like that for me when my sons were little. I had a skirt on, and a cat, dog, or child was pulling the skirt off while my arms were filled with a child and I was looking back at it happening. Now I am at another phase of life, with different challenges. I came here by linking from Belize Dance. Thanks.

  5. This is a topic I struggle with daily. It’s good to hear what works for others. I take care of my two year old grandson 20-25 hours a week and then paint on my off days. I’ve found that since I’m not a morning person that devoting the morning to business and afternoons to painting works best for me ,,,,,so far.

    Thanks for the timely article.

  6. Thanks for sharing this! Yeeesss!!! it is hard to balance everything, especially with a one-year old. At the end I believe is a matter of organizing and setting priorities and goals.

  7. I choose to live child-free, have a specific place for my art that no one can get to while it’s drying, have a yearly and daily To-Do list and update it on Dropbox from wherever I am. I don’t give out a phone and don’t do business with venues that want to interrupt my focus, unless I hire a rep one day, other than my boyfriend offering his phone to answer people or sell my art.

    He also does the cooking which helps me focus on the biz, and when the many times I did not get support in times past, I would confront close ones to tell them my goals and work out a mutual agreement, and if that didn’t work with some, I now work all night long on creating art videos for teaching online where it’s quiet to record, and sleep during the days.

    Socially, it is hard to go to brunch at times that I love, but that is not often. I have one best friend, spend nights unwindng with my guy, and family lives in another state, which is fine. I work a part time job for benefits, to get exercise, buy supplies, and pay bills while making my painting dreams happen.

    Being organized about everything in my space helps incredibly to have it aid me in time saving matters than fight against me. Things must have easy access, not be a safety hazard, and all colors and tools must be in view at all times so I don’t take away a possibility from not seeing the option there.

    I also invest time in focusing on a meditative spirit that turns your thoughts into realities you want to have happen that has had a huge influence in how my world has now worked for me much better than before by the frame of mind and higher levels of energy one lives in.

    And finding a way to automate things, like an email autoresponder to help people sign up to follow me and learn or get free stuff I’m offering, helps save tremendous time.

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