coloured pencils on Arches Hot Press, 6" x 6"
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
Reading blogs may help you to be more productive as an artist!
At the end of January, I did a post about What increases your artistic productivity - and invited people to comment on what they found helped them. It attracted a lot of comments and lots of really good insight into what works for other people!
I used to have to make sense of lots of different perspectives as part of my job so it was fun to take the comments and see whether a pattern emerged and, if so, what it was. Well the answer is that it did - and it reminded me quite a bit of some aspects of 'The Seven Habits of Effective People' by Stephen Covey. Hence the conclusion which is my version of the seven habits translated into artspeak! I'm toying with the idea of developing this into an article - so please let me know what you think.
What helps to increase productivity
- Goal/results oriented approaches help a lot:
- Deadlines enable some artists, such as Nicole Caulfield (Nicole Caulfield Art Journal) and Marsha Robinett (The Extraordinary Pencil) to stay focused, increase their effort and get artwork or other tasks finished on time. Deadlines make Nicole so productive that she even looks forward to having a deadline to work to!
....if I have a deadline, I'm cheerful and PRODUCTIVE!!
Deadlines are great too - I'll invent them if I don't have any, like 'I'll post this on my blog by such and such a day'. Having to keep a blog has transformed my output.
- Having a project for some people helps them to frame, focus and generate ideas and material. Some people found that multiple projects were helpful. I know I always need an alternative to work on when I get 'stuck'.
Starting a major project has been the single biggest inspiration for me to work regularly and deeply. My Waterways Project gave me a frame work to gather ideas, generate work, draw, orgainize my sketchbook.
Lindsay (Non Linear Arts)
- Having specific goals focuses effort. Keeping a sketchbook and drawing every day was mentioned by a few people including Tania (The Scratchboard). Specific goals are valued by Rose Welty (Rose's art Lines) as she explained in her post 'It helps me, it doesn't help me. She also likes planning how she is going to accomplish something.
Having a specific list of goals really helps me. I need to know each day exactly what the art time is supposed to accomplish. Without that, I either fail to fight the battle with the kids over "quiet time" or I spend the whole time wondering what I should do.
Rose Welty (Rose's Art Lines)
- Time management - in the short and long term - is important
- Finding a time which works for you seems to be very helpful. Artists seem to split between early birds and night owls - most mentioned that they favoured early morning while, for some, the middle of the night enabled good work! Early birds included Casey Klahn (The Colorist); Miki (Pastel and More) and Carol Huddleston (Carol Hud Fine Art). Miki gets into work early and paints before work starts! The night owls are Sarah Wimperis (The Red Shoes) and Jeanette (Illustrated Life); the latter having been proactive in turning her insomnia into an opportunity to do more drawing!
- Having a strategy for the long haul and pacing yourself is important. For Chris Bolmeier (Chris Bolmeier Art) this means avoiding being overwhelmed by too many demands on her time. She focuses on getting the balance right by making sure she finds time for business as well as painting. Petra Voegtle (Images and Imagination) finds it very helpful to have set times for getting specific business tasks done after which she gets back to the easel.
- Rejuvenation of your wellbeing and your visual brain is also important.
'if you paint sitting down, then stand up & have a break. if you paint standing up, then sit down & have a break.'
Adam Cope (Dordogne Painting Days)
- environment impacts on productivity Having a studio environment - or a chair - which works for you enables productive work. Tania needs a dedicated art space. Casey wants a chair like mine while Jeanette wants a nice hard one! People often like background noise - music is favoured by people like Marsha (who favours jazz) while Robyn (Have Dogs, Will Travel) likes her radio. Felicity Grace (Sketches by Fiz) just needs sunshine and to hear Joni Mitchell's Hejira! Television splits opinions. ihanna (Create and Live Happy) likes working with creativity oriented TV programmes on in the background while Tania and Carol both think television does not help productivity.
- Being with other artists - Jax Chachitz (Atelier Jax) prefers to be in a studio near other artists. That simply isn't an option for many people which I guess is why communication via the internet has become important for a number of artists. However showing work too early inhibits some artists.
- Reading art blogs can inspire and helps stimulate artistic productivity! Seriously! The rationale seems to be rather similar to the more traditional stimulus of looking at images in art books if you can't find a handy gallery, Actually looking at different sorts of art helps people to respond in a visual way - and a number of people considered they were often more productive after looking at art and illustrated blogs.
- "The computer" was seen as a serious timewaster by some and to be avoided by others. I guess it depends on what you do with it but it does seem to have a 'suck you in/stay too long' effect on quite a lot of people!
Computers are a BIG distraction and time waster and need to be balanced against the benefit of being in touch with other artists!
- "Inspirational books" A number of people commented on the fact that "inspirational books" did nothing for them. They actually antagonised and irritated some artists. I was intrigued by this - see my response below!
- A lack of a balance in their life Trying too hard/too much painting can make some people stale. This seems to be the artist equivalent of 'burn-out' or writer's block - and that's not something which goes away quickly or easily if it hits you hard.
I did notice that at least one of my respondents listed The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey as one of their favourite books. If you want a short synopsis then you can read more about it on a few websites including his own, Wikipedia and QuickMBA.
I also noticed that a number of the habits which contributed to productivity seemed to echo a number of Covey's suggestions.
His notion is founded on the idea that the principles and habits you adopt can inform the way you choose to live your life. I've used his seven 'habit' headings and what they are supposed to be about and then tried to apply them to what it means to be an effective and productive artist. Read on to see what I made of it. The links are to an explanation of each habit on Stephen Covey's website.
- Habit 1 - be proactive As an artist you don't leave things to chance. You know you can determine your own future and you choose to focus on the things which matter to you and which you can influence. These will normally include: your subject matter, how you paint, your studio environment, who you do business/associate with, your marketing and distribution channels.
- habit 2 - begin with the end in mind You can imagine yourself as a successful artist and know what you need to do to become one. Your art has a clear direction; you have stated goals for your career as an artist and you know what your personal and artistic priorities are.
- habit 3 - put first things first You are very disciplined about how you work on your art, your art career and your art business. You focus on results and manage your time well. You make time for the routine and achieve a balance between producing art and managing your art business. You're very clear that the urgent must not drive out the important (exhibitions versus tax returns!). You avoid procrastination and becoming easily distracted by the pressing, proximate, popular and pleasant (eg loitering in art supplies shops!) by being clear what you need to do and what MUST get done. You develop habits (the prioritised 'to do' list which is clear about results) which clearly demonstrate how you focus on essential activities in order to be productive, achieve results and become more successful.
- habit 4 - think win-win Artists who live their lives according to the 'win-win' principle/habit have integrity about what they do and how they work. They are mature and confident in their approach to the art environment in which they live and work and understand success very often comes because you work successfully with other people (eg with gallery owners or as part of an artists' co-operative). 'Win-win' artists are empathetic and supportive of development. They contribute ideas and critique art with a view to being clear about what needs to be said but do this in a way which is considerate of other people's own ideas about art and their feelings. ("There is no one right way of making art"). Above all, they believe that there is always plenty to go round and that it's easier to be more successful if you live and work together in a spirit of co-operation rather than competition.
Win-win sees life as a cooperative arena, not a competitive one. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions.
- habit 5 - seek first to understand and then to be understood This habit relates to communication and emphasises the importance of listening intelligently and without the filters which are about 'what does this mean for me' or 'how do I fit this bit of information into how I see the world'. This means artists are open to new knowledge and ideas and interpretations of the world about them and how artists see this. They don't judge art according to their own perspective on how art 'should' be done. Instead they seek to understand what an artist is trying to do and why they work as they do before reaching a judgement. For me it means we all recognise we have a lot to learn from one another.
- habit 6 - synergize This is the habit of creative co-operation and is about recognising the value of the contributions of others and the value of effective team working. As an artist you don't try and do it all yourself. You recognise that you can accomplish and achieve more by working with others who can help you than you can on your own. (When working as a consultant I used to call this the 2+2=6 approach.). Who those others are is up to you - it could be gallery owners or getting your children to do the packing and postage!
- habit 7 - sharpen the saw This is the habit of maintenance and self renewal. All artists need to nourish and develop their spiritual, mental, physical and social/emotional wellbeing. Some use images, some use the friendship of other artists, some use exercise and keep fit, some place an emphasis on the maintenance of their health, some manage their money and business well to avoid stress and anxiety and some reinvent themselves on a periodic basis so their art remains fresh and vibrant. This habit on its own enables you to function effectively in every other respect. Think about what you need to renew yourself.
If you have anything to contribute on this topic which might be helpful to others please leave a comment below.