Alfred Stieglitz said to Georgia O’Keeffe, “A woman can’t have kids and also be an artist. I don’t want you to have kids.” She didn’t. After the recent Stephen King letter (he claims he only works four hours a day) I’ve been wondering just how much of a professional one might be on four, three, even one hour a day. In the daily letters that come to my inbox there’s generally one from a woman who wants to know how she can possibly work it all in.
Here on Kauai I’ve met a woman who figured it out. She did it along the lines of Stephen King’s method. “Two hours every day, rain or shine, even on my birthdays.” In her twenties, when she was starting her family, she decided she could always find two hours a day for work. Trouble was she was only doing it four or five days a month. For her it had to be every day in order to pay off. “I was blessed with a strong sense of the value of my time,” she says. She began to think about it as a ferry that went out at 9 every morning and came back in at 11. She was either on that ferry or she wasn’t. Some days she had to rush to catch it, but she pretty well always did. For twenty years. She is now, as they say, rich and famous. Her kids are grown up and have caught their own ferries. She and her husband moved to the island from the lower 48 three years ago. She still works the same hours. She’s got the habit. High energy; genuine work. People think she works all the time. She still loves to work. “I wouldn’t love it so much if I did it too much,” she says. “And there are other things in life, like grandchildren, bird-watching, loving.”
Here on the patio I’m tossed from wave to wave, surfing on the temporary luxury of no particular direction. For this month at least I’m a roaring dilettante. Here, it’s easy. Perhaps this is a good thing. The clouds roll by, the sea-shouldering whales pass, and the vast ocean reminds me there are greater things in this world. There are no ferries to be caught in Kauai.
Esoterica: When our twins Sara and James came along we turned to Dr. Spock, our child-rearing guide for David, our first. Spock had only one lousy paragraph in there. It said, essentially, “If you’re blessed with twins — get help.” We did.
The following are selected responses to the above and other letters. Thank you for writing.
Making the time
by Dorothy Clews, Queensland, Australia
I am a mother, dishwasher, wife, etc etc. and because I live in rural Australia, I also do all those other activities that artists may have to do or chose to do, including photography, promotion, grant applications, marketing, website designing, not to mention community art which involves a whole heap of other skills, many of which I learnt as a mother, generally know as multitasking. I weave 4 hours a days most days. But in between tapestries (which, can if large, take 6 to 9 months to complete) I do have time out, to find new inspiration and impetus, whether it is on the beach or a visit to the city. But I do not think that time put in makes an artist, just how, what and why you do what you do; the end result; and whether other people consider you an artist. Which is probably just as provocative, given that almost anything goes, and if you say you are an artist, you are. Regardless of what anyone else thinks. As for fitting it in, if someone wants to do something enough they will make the time, finding the time is not good enough it does not work. Deadlines are a marvelous motivator.
Greatest creativity of all
by Nina, Texas, USA
I am a single Mom, and I BINGE work, maybe 2 hours a day for 3 months. I do 20 maybe pieces, then I “rest” by matting and framing, then I take a month and try to find new venues, galleries etc. Then I repeat the cycle. I think having just ONE kid “helps.” A woman doesn’t “drown” in domesticity. Also the fact that I am single and living on the edge helps. I NEED to sell art for $, I am not relying on a hub/partner, or 2nd income. Now my daughter is almost ready for dates. If she is EVER out on a date, and I am slightly concerned, (hopefully she’ll start dating in COLLEGE) I would wait up and do my pointillism… very soothing. If some Stieglitz type of guy had “told” me to not have kids, I would have told him to stick it elsewhere. Georgia missed out on the most amazing creation — a baby!!
by Arla J Swift, Harrison Lake, BC., Canada
As an innkeeper, I’ve shared the breakfast table with a lot of ladies in my time, and amongst those ladies, a frustrated artist or two, or more. And I think they are frustrated because “making art” is an essentially selfish occupation, and as a woman, one is not “allowed” to be selfish. Women are supposed to be the nurturers and the caregivers. If it isn’t your children, it’s your parents — so on and so forth. But standing on the periphery of it all — what I see as the basic problem is this. For a creative person, it is necessary, at one time or another, for someone to have faith in them when they don’t have faith in themselves. And this is the sort of thing that happens very rarely for women — because their immediate family — those people they nurture — don’t really want to upset the apple cart — they’re quite happy having someone nurturing around who is totally attuned to their needs, wants, and desires. And they would like to keep it that way. That’s only natural. And so, in one way or another, and often in quite a subliminal manner they would be shocked to even acknowledge if uncovered in the light of day, they do not offer any encouragement. Or, even worse, they make a virtue out of a vice — they do not offer any impediment.
(RG note) An illustrated essay by Joan Altabe: Old Masters: Overlooked Women Artists
Signs 150 per year
by oliver, Houston TX, USA
Does work include accounting, record keeping, contacting galleries, preparing and shipping work to them, other marketing, teaching, networking items, reading thought-provoking materials, getting materials, models, traveling etc. and or research? Maybe 2 to 4 hours per day is enough to do something, but how much time goes to all the other duties? Maybe it is more an attitude and making choices consistent with each other and taking advantage of what the world brings. I sign three pieces per week, with 2 weeks off, over a year. That means 150 new pieces per year. I try to ensure that at least two galleries per month average are contacted. I’ve also done a bulk mailing in the last two years and have far exceeded that count.
by Sharalee Regehr
I am a single mother and support my children with my art and it is very hard. The painting is the fun part, though it is often work, it is also very rewarding. I do not have a gallery and I sell my own work. It is so time consuming and I have difficulty doing both at the same time. To paint in the same day as I am doing marketing or meeting with clients is very difficult for me. The worst of the distractions is accounting. I unfortunately do not have the finances to hire and accountant and support my two growing children. How do you balance the divergent tasks that artists have to perform and still be an artist? I am so right brained and spontaneous that it is difficult for me to switch horses to a more disciplined way of thinking and then in the same breath go and paint.
Makes full time salary painting part time
I’m in agreement with Steven King and the woman artist who works 2 hours a day. I make a full-time salary painting part time. It can be done, but it does require discipline. I find it preferable in part because when you add up all the additional hours involved in an art career, framing, marketing, phone calls, delivering work, etc, it works out to many more hours invested than just painting time. That is how it works for those of us who choose to make our living from painting. But my choice to limit my painting hours is also because I have varied interests, and commitments including husband and children, and even though art is my vocation I’m not a 9-5 ‘er and wouldn’t want to be. This is often difficult for my type A artist husband, whom has done mostly commercial work, and doesn’t understand not putting in a full days work (or even the fact that I may work in bursts, sometimes not painting for weeks), or my way of living life fully, which for me means enjoying doing many things in life other than painting.
In the genes
by Stephen Connor
I have a very special needs daughter who requires 24/7 care. With all that, I am an artist too. At 48 I find the fire still burns to create. Any tips on managing the day are of use. As some of the demands on my time are ebbing I find a somewhat large time-space for my art. Since I have worked as a commercial graphic designer, one of the ways I have recently been “forcing” myself to get things done is participating in local art shows. This gives me objectives that have a calendar date. I must say though, I am truly happier if I’m able to work regularly. At the point in life I am recognizing this must be in the genes!
by Pamela M Simpson, Woodstock, CT, USA
Recently I have come to the same conclusion as your friend. The consistent 3 hours of painting I try to put in a day is more important then those marathon painting trips my husband and I take every few months. My regular day usually includes caring for our six school-aged children plus taking care of art business matters for both my husband and myself, so getting in 3 hours is a challenge everyday. I recently hired a cleaning person to come once every two weeks to help me get the house in order. My sister calls her my personal trainer. We work together for 3 hours. She has helped me put entire rooms in order so that now they are easy for either the children or I to clean. I have worked hard with the children to show them how to do chores and they are very helpful. My career is going well and my husband and children are happy.
Credit card capability a must
by Sandy Sandy, Tabernacle, NJ, USA
Regarding Audrey’s question in the last clickback, I currently do about 75% of my gross sales on credit card. It has been a godsend to me and to the growth of my business. The funds are almost instantly transferred into my checking account. At this time, I prefer to market my own work. I have built a good regional client base over the last few years which is currently expanding globally through my web site. Last October alone, I sold eight originals to the same client across the country over the internet. All this was made much easier through the use of my secure shopping cart and accepting Mastercard and Visa. With the completion of my new studio/gallery, I am looking forward to being able to “facilitate” a buyer right here at home. Many of my customers have become good friends and I enjoy “entertaining and catering to them.” I live in a fairly remote area and have the luxury of no “walk-ins”. It probably would be a different story if I lived in town. I am still an “artist in training” and maybe some day, when I reach a certain caliber, I too can have an assortment of galleries eager to promote my work. Right now, I don’t want to double my prices to cater to galleries and lose the client base I’ve built up. It would be nice not to have to worry about the framing and selling end of it, but on the other hand, I agree with Robert, “Do it your way & figure it out for yourself.”
(RG note) Something I didn’t realize until another artist pointed it out is that many people are getting “points” from their credit card purchases these days. This means that they throw their plastic at you with wild and enthusiastic abandon. Also, so many people are perennially in debt, but apparently they still want to indulge themselves with the things that make life worth living.
Internet Visa problems
by Yaroslaw Rozputnyak, Moscow, Russia
I must say the special Internet-VISA is accepting from the Russia normally, but for all VISAs the Internet-payment is not reliable action, example -– as late as 7 January I have tried to register commercial site (“com”), have paid annual fee with ordinary VISA Classic, they answered the payment was not made, then 10 January I have repeated this sum second time, and again no result. I have checked VISA, the money gone twice, and they answer nothing. Was it because of ordinary VISA Classic (not special Internet kind VISA) or because of narrow line in form for my e-mail (too small?) Was it because of bad bank service or bad server administration, but there are reasons why people have doubt to buy pictures from not very well known artist via Internet. Maybe they will count those payments at last. Maybe I have lost my money. But really in the nature (and the Internet is the part of human nature) there is a balance of bad and good — about at the same time we have received order from collector via our amateur Internet-art shop (http://artsale.euro.ru ) to create new tapestry. Of course, the artist must have galleries — usual ones or the Internet kind – It is just important that people see the artist’s works.
Hawaiian art galleries
by Raymond C Chang
In your wanderings around Hawaii you have undoubtedly seen some of the commercial art galleries. It’s one of the major industries of the islands. Will you be commenting on this phenomenon?
(RG note) You can see letters about the phenomenon from a previous Hawaii (Maui) trip (Under the Banyan Tree) (The Hawaii School) The second one deals with some of the better known Hawaiian artists. There are no clickbacks to these letters. It was before we started to do them.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 96 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2002.