This morning, Janet Morgan of Brooklyn, N.Y., wrote, “My husband Gregory Frux and I will soon be leaving our jobs to become full-time artists. We’ve been doing some brainstorming. We both have projects and trips in our wish-books. We’ve done residencies and will most likely do more. Have you any thoughts on changing from having very little time to having lots of time for art?”
Thanks, Janet. What fun that both of you are taking the leap at the same time. People with mutual joys and mutual concerns always have lots to talk about. Like Siamese twins you get to read each other’s moods and anxieties — valuable, but at times problematical. We creators are also islands unto ourselves and generally need some degree of independence. “Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” said Kahlil Gibran. Here are a few thoughts:
It’s still worth a try to coordinate your projected work zones and your travel zones. A bicycle-built-for-two is most fun when creative couples cycle in unison. Residencies, often an interference to creative flow, nevertheless open the doors of possibility. As a free unit you can be completely self-governing. Freedom from the eight-hour-grind gives the opportunity for round-the-calendar work and travel. The trip’s the thing. Yesterday, my daughter Sara phoned from Paris. She has temporarily swapped her New York studio for a Parisian one. No money changed hands. She flew on points. “Dad,” she explained on the phone, “You always told me that you can solve your creative problems by taking a trip.” She’s over the moon about the 10th arrondissement, the new studio, the Pleyel Grand, the drapes, the cutlery and Tiki the singing cage-bird that came with the place. Travel reboots.
With regard to the idea of having lots of time — be warned by British scholar C. Northcote Parkinson: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Lots-of-time only comes to those who manage it. As John Lithgow pointed out, “Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.” In art, there’s so much stuff, so little time. Whole days can simply evaporate. Time may be a gift, but time’s not infinite at any time. “Time has been transformed,” said Kahlil Gibran, “and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration.”
PS: “Love and art do not embrace what is beautiful but what is made beautiful by this embrace.” (Karl Kraus, 1874-1936)
Esoterica: Among our subscribers there are quite a few creative partners — married and otherwise. I’m sure you’ll get some suggestions. Partners need to be the best of friends. Partners also need to partner with the greater community. Congratulations Greg and Janet. Without your day job you will be better able to embrace the joy. It’s the best. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” (John Burroughs)
Partnership contributes to longevity
by Sandra Noble Goss, Owen Sound, ON, Canada
My husband and I have worked together as jewelry designers and makers since going back to school together to study the craft in 1970. We each design, make our own, and collaborate only occasionally. Over the years we’ve worked out strategies to stay married, and to share a studio and life. It’s a lot of togetherness. We’ve learned not to make ‘helpful’ comments on new designs until asked for our opinion. We try not to interfere with the other’s creative flow by making suggestions. “You know what you should do?” comments are not allowed until asked for. We also respect the other’s right to innovative techniques and actually ask permission to use it after the other has had enough time to fully explore the new concept or technique. It sounds more formal than it is, but it’s been good to have that understanding and has allowed us to share a studio, a marriage and parenthood for 35 years. Good luck to Janet and Gregory — since the artistic life is often solitary, it is wonderful to have your partner to share it with. I often think that it has contributed to our longevity as artists.
Keep separate some of the time
by Linda Holloway, Brookwood, AL, USA
Janet and Gregory will have a great time in their creative endeavors. Larry and I have been married for 36 years, and we are close in every aspect of our lives. I am a travel journalist and Larry is my photographer. In our “artistic world” we share a unique bond. I can write an article, and Larry knows exactly which photo to print with the article. If I look at one of the digital images from a trip, I can write an article around the photo. Larry also paints in oils on canvas, and with one stroke of the brush, I can gain a thousands words of inspiration. Our children are grown, and we are traveling even more that we have in the past. Our son is a videographer, and our daughter teaches drama and is writing the “perfect” screenplay. Our hobbies are very different and that has sustained our artistic collaboration. I am in love with preservation of old buildings, and Larry loves landscape design. My advice to Janet and Gregory — to keep it together forever — keep it separate some of the time.
Still not enough time
by Ursula Reese, ON, Canada
Just a word of caution for Janet… I have had two very busy careers prior to becoming a full-time artist. Half way through my life I decided to quit my career and do what I really wanted to do all my life — Paint! If someone would have told me then that I would be busier than ever before, I wouldn’t have believed it. I love every minute of it. But do I have lots of time? No! I don’t even have enough time for everything I want to do with my art.
No time on your hands
by Brian Jones, AZ, USA
Running a successful art studio is much more demanding than any job. It requires constant attention and a diligent promotion plan. Done well, you will have little time on your hands. You will spend half your time just taking care of business and finding new locations to show. I would recommend joining your local arts organizations and getting involved there. Do travel. I make my goals and plans for each year while on a summer trip. When I travel, I scout for galleries as well as local points of interest.
Making the painting muse jealous
by Gene Black, Anniston, AL, USA
I find that the less time I have the more I accomplish. To keep myself grounded when I have “lots of time” I recall this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
I have no problem “getting in the mood” to paint. When I’m not ready to paint, I simply run through my collection of painting and creativity books until I find that place inside me that begs to paint. On the rare occasion that it doesn’t work, I simply do something else entirely (watch a movie, read a book of fiction, read poetry, play the piano, cook, etc.) This is when the painting muse “gets jealous” and then I need to paint. The swift or slow passage of time while painting is yet another aspect of time that fascinates me.
As Austin Dobson stated, “Time goes, you say? Ah, no! Alas, Time stays, we go.” Yes, we are travellers through time. “Speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.” (Mrs. Whatsit, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle)
Full time — little time
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville FL, USA
I was surprised at how little free time I had when I became a full time artist. We have the illusion that working for ourselves means having lots of free time. Time management becomes all the more important when we are self employed. I paint on the way to meetings, when I take my daughter back to college, and any other time I can squeeze it in, including late at night. I really work 7 days a week, even on vacations.
Enjoying the journey
by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, Florida, USA
It seems that everywhere I turn, lately, the subject is of time. Time used for creating, creating a symbol of time spent. Managing time to get the full use of our time. Wasting time, feeling negative about time, (life) lost. The problem with managing time is you are working against the clock, causing your time to fly by. Sure you get a lot done, but at the end of the day you wonder where the day went. This works great for when you have a job, to get through your shift quicker. I only have an hour to get this done (in a rush) vs. I still have an hour to go (watching the clock). We are always in a hurry, impatient, a need for instant results. As a self-reliant artist, every moment should be spent enjoying the journey. Time to go!
Learning to prioritize
by Hungry Bear, Mariposa, CA, USA
Now that I am a full time artist I have found that my time is filled up as much as it ever was when I had a job. The difference is I am so involved in my enterprises that I lose track of time often forgetting to eat and going to bed very late. A date book has helped. I also use a note pad to plan my next day before I go to bed. I have learned to prioritize. I put a higher value on things that have time constraints and save things that don’t have deadlines for when I am feeling creative and in the mood. I also plan leisurely and relaxing activities because I want to enjoy my life as well as create. It also helps me get away from my projects so I don’t get burned out and I can come at my art with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.
by Peg Miller, Wheeler, OR, USA
Everyone these days is so time-conscious. More and more I meet people who are trying to escape their version of the rat race. Janet and Gregory, however, don’t seem to need an income. I often recall how Mom would tell me to get into Jewel for the benefits. So, if I’d done that I would be retired with an income but I suppose the idea of doing art would have been crushed years before. Here’s the part of the letter that I love: “Travel reboots.” A two-word sentence that conveys so much. Wouldn’t it be great to come up with a whatever that explores two-word sentences?
(RG note) Thanks, Peg. Good idea. Income crushes. Time flies.
Residencies and creative flow
by Don Campbell, Renton, WA, USA
How about expanding on the “residencies, often an interference to creative flow” sentence. To a lot of people, my getting a studio is a waste of money. After all, I have a large house not to mention a large garage, so why would I want to pay rent they ask.
(RG note) By “residencies” I think we meant the growing popularity of “artists in residence” — sinecures for weeks or months in retreats, workshops, colleges, open studios and other creative learning environments. These sometimes include a tempting honorarium or other benefit which may or may not derail a self-directed rugged individualist.
Living the experience
by Sylvio Gagnon, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Regarding the recent discussions about plein air — a better definition is painting outdoors where all the senses come into play while the painter expresses his feelings onto the canvas. True plein air painting is usually completed alla prima, in one sitting, usually in a few hours because light conditions generally change quickly.
The original French terminology, which I think is more accurate, was peindre sur le motif which means painting directly before the subject. For some, this is the best way to “fire up the insides” because the painter lives a unique experience with the subject before him. Painting from a photo or from memory is a different sort of experience. There is no actual, physical communion between the painter and the subject.
Why would some of us settle for second best? Many good reasons. Some people cannot stand the flies or the cold, some have no means of transportation or are physically handicapped, etc. So they work in the studio from photos or memory, which brings the controversy of “authenticity.” Between reading A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle, and actually traveling there, I prefer the latter. The same principle applies to painting. I prefer to live the experience than to think about it.
by Jane Meyers, Napa, CA, USA
I know you hear this frequently, because two of my friends who get your letter say it all the time, so if all three of us think it, there must be more. That is, it’s uncanny that what you are writing about that day is something I have been thinking about or a problem I need to tackle or need a different approach to. It’s just wonderful that we have “met” you and you are right there coaching us. Yesterday I was asked to paint a painting of the mountains for a mountain home, and I’ve never done one before and felt inadequate — then your letter — and right this minute, I have the palette in mind, I have three deep memories of impressive times in the High Sierra and I am formulating my composition. You have made my eyes well up with tears of happiness and recognition. Thank you so much.
(RG note) Thanks Jane. We often get emails from people who needed to hear this-and-that on such-and-such a day. In my delusional moments I think I might be tapping into “The Great Cosmic Consciousness.” But when you think about it, with about 135,000 artists currently opening these letters twice a week, I’ve got to hit on a few who just happen to be vibrating on the same frequency. Think of it — in our solitary game — we work out puzzles and find joys that are similar to those that are simultaneously worked out and found by others. Our community of joyous puzzlers hangs out in pretty well in every corner of this blue planet. With regard to art, we all speak a similar language. With regard to language, we are solitudes, and this is unfortunate. Take this one from Samaneh Aboozar copied here without edit: “Hi. I am surry. I don’t speak and wright English. But I am a painter of Iran. Paintings here are very beautiful. Good luck.” Yes, please go ahead and drop this fellow painter a note.
oil painting print
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