Fighting the double demons


Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Tim Zeiss of Chicago, Illinois, wrote, “I’m a painter and graphic novelist. I’m 27 and out of college 3 years. I’ve had 18 shows and sold work in every one. I rent a really cool little basement studio a mile away from my apartment. I have loads of opportunities but I still have a really hard time going to my studio. I have a 9 to 5 office job and I get home pretty spent. I have to force myself to paint. I can’t beat the allure of the couch, or ignore self-doubts and worries. I feel like I’m in a rut of a prosaic job. Do you have any advice for getting one’s butt in gear and beating the fears? The ‘Energy Draining Non-Art Life’ is tugging at the back of my brain while a ‘Fear of The Blank Canvas’ tugs at the front.”


“Pelican’s Hay-Day”
mixed media
by Tim Zeiss

Thanks, Tim. You’re like a fly between two swatters. But let me tell you my problems. Mine is more of an obsessive-compulsive mental health thing, but it’s also real. Blank canvases — I can’t stop going after the darned things. Right now my studio is a jumble of books and the comings and goings of shipping experts. Our home is full of extended holiday cheer, to say nothing of relatives and friends. I moved my wife’s car into the driveway and set up a painting sanctuary in the garage. Yesterday, for example, with the house full of revellers, I nipped out there. “This is sick,” I said to myself, but the painting was not too bad.


“Tentacle Goosh”
mixed media
by Tim Zeiss

So here are a few thoughts on your predicament: You need your studio right at your home. You need to have your paints always squeezed out and ready to go. You need some paint already on your canvas so it’s not a blank one anymore. With one stroke already down, you’ll find the energy to leap over your couch and put on another. You need to stop thinking about ends and think of processes. This comes automatically when you live with your stuff, even when you’re bagged out.



mixed media
by Tim Zeiss

Getting out of your prosaic job is a little more sticky. The insecurity around leaving it and becoming an independent worker is often merely a matter of temperament. The transition becomes easier when you have evidence of art-success. This takes a steel-clad will. Try cutting out ancillary activities–girlfriends, eating, etc. Give yourself a time frame–say six character-filled months of day-job and art-working only. With a bit of luck you’ll be able to kiss the office goodbye. Incidentally, people around here think your work is jumping with imagination and bubbling with potential.



“Honey Paw, Forgive Me”
mixed media
by Tim Zeiss

Best regards,


PS: “Character is a bundle of habits, tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent on circumstance and context.” (Malcolm Gladwell)


“I-Beam Fruitbat”
mixed media
by Tim Zeiss




Esoterica: Long do we wrestle with the mysteries of motivation. What makes some folks jump out of bed and others lie in? Without a motive we are dead turkeys; with one we can win over both the world and ourselves. Passion is earned in the doing, not arbitrarily handed out as a gift. “It’s motive alone which gives character to the actions of men.” (Jean de La Bruyere)



Some questions for Tim
by Alberto Varela

Sounds like Tim is floundering around. It also sounds as if he sells a little. First does he expect to get rich from his art work — or is he like some of us to produce art just because we’re compelled as artists to do so. Is this just to have a successful career or is he a Real Artist? Does he specialize in something? What is it that drives him? Does he have a financial goal or a career artist goal to knock ’em dead? How passionate is he about his art work? Does it show? I agree he has to smear himself with paint. I have a turquoise front door, a red entry way, a purple bathroom, a green bathroom. Frames on the walls and on the floor in the dining room, garage, bathroom etc. I collect a little bit of art from artist friends. Does he hang out with other artists? Does he belong to an art group? Passion, passion.


Motivation from many ideas
by Nancy Hyer, Gainesville, FL, USA


original painting
by Nancy Hyer

In addition to finding the motivation and energy to create art, there is also the dilemma of the ever so crowded menagerie of ideas floating around in my mind. How to pick “the one” that will keep me interested and bring me back to the drawing table again… soon. Often the ideas are so numerous, I find myself frozen in a world of indecision. Just picking one and going forth, even if it isn’t really “the one,” is an exercise of persistence and then discovery. They are all worth putting down on paper or canvas. And often the result is a delightful surprise.



There are 3 comments for Motivation from many ideas by Nancy Hyer

From: Jackie Ivey-Weaver — Jan 10, 2010

At 78, I must learn to paint first, not use it as a reward.

Many paintings started, must focus on one!!

Hope you try what Harley Brown said ” Put a mark anywhere and let the canvas know who is boss”

From: Liz Reday — Jan 10, 2010

Great painting! Love it….love the edges and the feel like something soft and like blotting paper…moody but lovely. What are size? Oil?

From: anon — Jan 11, 2010

Good example of a painting where drips are very meaningful – as oposed to some paintings with drips that were published here a while ago.


Set up the atmosphere
by Eveleen Power, Ireland


acrylic painting
by Eveleen Power

Regarding Tim Zeiss’s struggle to paint as well as hold down a full time job, and how to make the time for it, I empathize and agree with having your studio at your own home. My garage is converted into a studio and even then it can seem too far away from the noise and bustle of the house. It takes every ounce of energy to open the back door to leave the chaos inside. What has definitely helped me is have the paints ready squeezed out on the canvas, a canvas with the background painted in (in a colour that makes me feel good), the right music to get me in the zone. And just the decision to go out for ten minutes could turn into longer. Just have the atmosphere set up first.

There are 2 comments for Set up the atmosphere by Eveleen Power

From: Mary Bullock — Jan 08, 2010

Beautiful painting! I especially love the atmospheric effect as the ocean recedes into the distance – just lovely.

From: Marti Meyer — Jan 08, 2010

I put my stsudio in the basement, but found with a growing famly that I never seemd to get down there……….so I put my painting board on a nail on the kitchen wall………got to it MANY times a day…..while waiting for people to get home or things to boil……..sometimes only to add that much needed eyelash…….but I find it helps to put my art where I live. Good luck to ya…


Going all the way
by Sara Spanjers, Tucson, AZ, USA


“Port Lobos Chicks”
oil painting
by Sara Spanjers

It is the acceptance of what exists in our lives that allows us to make motion in both areas or ride the wave to one side. Tim, your art has both artistic and graphic expression, very unique and a wonderment to view. Fighting within ourselves is too destructive to ourselves. I also have those tendencies and at a ripened age of 53 am just getting the battles subsided to an allowance or new path altogether. You are so young, gifted, and maybe the fight isn’t about getting to the canvas, but going all the way with your art!





Wet a brush a day
by John F. Burk, Timonium, MD, USA


“The outermost house”
acrylic painting
by John F. Burk

I have been an ad agency art director and freelance creative for over 40 years, lastly a successful agency creative director laid-off at the age of 62. Most of that time I have waged the same war with myself, coming home spent, but unhappy not painting. I am now a full-time painter, though making ends meet has become a creative endeavor. Happily, I can say I feel a large movement in my abilities since this change. There is one strategy I developed while double-timing it, though, that I’d like to pass on. I sought to “wet a brush every day,” no matter how spent, even if it was for only a 20 minute session. I found surely I could get up for that much additional effort each day, and did so. Making a daily exercise of it, even briefly, helps to produce gains in ability and in moving a canvas along. The real discovery, though, is that my 20-minute intent often led to an evening at work that made me anxious to get back to it the next evening. If the session was a rocky one, I’d get my rags out and clean it up for the day. That didn’t happen quite so much.

There is 1 comment for Wet a brush a day by John F. Burk

From: David Sharpe — Jan 08, 2010

John- I’m in exactly the same spot as you (age, occupation) but alas-still working in an agency as a CD here in Toronto Canada.

I have a studio in a converted gargage out back but still find it tough to get up the energy after a long day- but your words ‘Wet a brush every day’ is a great headline! It goes up on my door to the studio this weekend! Pushing myself forward in a small way everyday and to do as you suggest is, for me at least, the only way I’ve found to get over that inertia. One of the earlier posts nailed it I think….they said ‘do you want to be a painter -or a painter that works?

Send me your email and I’ll send you a picture of the sign!

Thanks again!



Thrill of a new space
by William Dale Panzer, Taos, NM, USA


original painting
by William Dale Panzer

I am now living in my great studio space. It has been a very satisfying creative experience setting this space up. It was an auto repair shop originally. I have had some difficulty getting back to painting in this space but my writing of song lyrics and poetry has flourished. When the sky is blue, I really want to be out of doors doing photography and taking in all of the visual treats that Northern New Mexico offers. A few weeks ago I purchased The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Working the program outlined in that book has definitely opened my creative channels. I highly recommend it! I have actually gotten back to painting and finding new outlets for my work. It looks like I will be printing and selling T Shirts with my Ski oriented images to Ski Shops. We definitely need to “think out of the box” and try new stuff in these times. Currently, I am in the process of doing Feng Shui on this studio.

There are 2 comments for Thrill of a new space by William Dale Panzer

From: Robert Hutchison — Jan 07, 2010

Damn good for you, William!

From: Anonymous — Jan 08, 2010

Great attitude and great self-portrait. You have lots of character!


Organization pays off
by John Fitzsimmons, Fayetteville, NY, USA


“Once the twilight”
oil painting
by John Fitzsimmons

When I was this age I was able to do it all, work all day, paint then go out for a few beers. But you can’t do that forever. It is like losing your hair, it happens one hair at a time, and you don’t realize that the reason you can’t do it all anymore is that you are a few months older and that the “other things” are becoming vastly more demanding at the same time. 99.9999% of the time, the art disappears.

It took me until I was 50 to realize that until I put the art first it will always be last. Getting everything else done first means getting to your art only on a Sunday afternoon around 4. I started putting Thursday morning from 8 to 12 aside to paint and that made all the difference. How about getting up early, paint for 2 hours, then go to work? Or work a 4 day week? If you are organized and anticipate it, you can get a lot of painting done in 4 hours.


Get your finances in place
by oliver, TX, USA


by oliver

I certainly wouldn’t leave a day job until I had a few things pretty secured….. on a six month plan of devotion to work, I’d have a year of funds in the bank, enough to pay for living expenses, materials, marketing expenses etc. I’d also have already trimmed my costs to the bone. I’d have a concentrated show schedule lined up so that hopefully my reserves can be extended with sales. I’d want to have broken even on my art for a while too – that means materials, utilities, marketing expenses, studio costs etc. Note, the transition to self employed is tough, there is a discipline self starting when there are no commitments to really drive you that is tough.

Recall that many great artists and writers have had “day” jobs until relatively late in their careers. Franz Kafka worked as a low level administrator in the government. His The Trial, about bureaucracies, it appears to me arguably has some inspiration from his day job. Too, connection with non-artists may help ground you, which may be important, because ultimately they are the consumers of art.


Write a poem a day
by Lisa Vihos, Sheboygan, WI, USA

Two years ago, I had an epiphany at a writing workshop I attended and I realized that I needed to figure out a way once and for all to practice the art of writing in some consistent manner. I came up with the idea of making a commitment to writing one poem every week. Not only would I write this poem, but I would send it out to a small group of friends who I got to agree to read the poem. I was not sure when I made the commitment if I would actually be able to carry it out, but I thought, what the heck, try. Well, 105 weeks later, my distribution list has grown from 23 friends and relatives to 145 people, many whom I do not even know. I probably have written twice as many poems that I have not put out there for whatever reason, and I have tons of ideas for things I want to do yet with my writing.


Stand up to work
by Rod Cleasby, Witney, Oxfordshire, UK


“Save me”
by Rod Cleasby

Stand up. It’s really that simple. Remove the couch, stool or chair from the studio, raise the canvas up to the new level and go for it standing up. There is something in yours and my body that switches on when you stand up.

In 2005 I changed from doing one job (teaching) to two: teaching and doing. Btw: the evening job was after a full 9 hrs of prep and teaching. First, the only way I had to do my evening job was on my feet and I found that from 7pm thro to 10.30pm I forgot that I was tired. After doing this for a while I tried the sitting thing and it was a disaster. My body decided that sitting was too close to resting and switched off.

Plus, standing is good for you. A pal of mine teaches physical fitness, so I asked him a while back, what exercises I could do as my job is always sitting down. Many people have this problem, especially with computers in the work place. I expected him to give me a series of clever exercises and to join a Pilates class. He didn’t. He told me to stand up. Sit to eat, stand to work, lay down to go to sleep.

There is 1 comment for Stand up to work by Rod Cleasby

From: Bonnie Hamlin — Jan 08, 2010

I can’t find the supporting studies right now, but apparently our minds are more creative when we stand and more technical when we sit. For watercolours I stood for the design part and sat for the finishing, but with oils I stand all of the time. Then there’s Robert who appears to sit most of the time and is extremely creative. An interesting theory though.


Studio first
by Lauri Luck, Forestville, CA, USA


original painting
by Lauri Luck

When I write out my schedule on the calendar for the week or month I always write out my studio schedule FIRST — that way job, appointments, get-togethers etc., seem to revolve around your scheduled studio time. Like creating a savings account — the first amount out of your paycheck goes into savings otherwise if you invest only what’s left — well then you’d have a pretty empty savings account. Same with studio time.

If you are finding you are too tired after work — and who doesn’t? — then schedule your studio time BEFORE you head to your job. Get up early, invest your freshest hours in yourself & your art and give what’s left to your job. Your job will probably benefit from your sense of accomplishment in the studio.

As for taking the fear out — take the emotion out of it — don’t question it — make going to your studio your responsibility just like you do when you get up and go to your job. By putting your studio time first on your calendar and first in your day you are making it first in your life. As you do this EVERYTHING will start to change.

So create a workable schedule with room to grow, lay out your clothes, set your alarm and then go do it.

There are 2 comments for Studio first by Lauri Luck

From: Marsha Savage — Jan 08, 2010

This is the best comment so far. I totally agree with Lauri. Good analogy with the savings account.

From: Liz Reday — Jan 10, 2010

Also, you can tell yourself that you only have to go into your studio for, say, fifteen minutes, or just to clean up your palette, etc. It’s along the lines of “wet a brush a day”….the trick is, don’t put heavy pressure on yourself to produce, just tell yourself that you’ll just play around for a little while and if you don’t feel like it, then no biggie. That soft approach seems to work for me. A bit like one day at a time, but in this case it would be one half hour at a time. It will seem like half an hour, but when you look up, six hours went past. Time dissolves. But you have to start light as a feather.


[fbcomments url=””] 




Hearts and Bones

oil painting
by Joann Dufau, Chilliwack, BC, Canada


You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Cherie Sibley of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, who wrote, “I recalled the words of Robert Henri, mentor to so many: ‘Art is painting, not painted!’ The process is what it is all about. That is the addiction.”

And also Ljiljana & Radoslav Putnik of Pula, Croatia, who wrote, “Thanks a lot for your very nice and inspired letters about arts, life and philosophy through the year 2009! We enjoyed!!!Happy New Year!!!”

And also Karina Bjerregaard of Denmark, who wrote, “I found that wiping my dirty brushes on the blank canvases both saved brush-cleaning and gave me “something” to work with. In some cases the painting would be half done before I started it!”



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Fighting the double demons



From: Christina — Jan 04, 2010

I totally appreciate Tim’s comments, as I also had a 9-5 job and found it difficult to do my own work afterwards. In fact, this predicament led me to Berlin, Germany, where I could get a part time job with health benefits and still be able to pay my rent. I know this is more difficult in the U.S., but the part time situation (working 3 days) has really helped. You can better stay in the art groove. I also work at home, and when I see my stuff set up and ready to go, I get really tempted by it.

From: Rene — Jan 05, 2010

Tim, having a full time job and fulfilling your passion for painting is the main problem. Unless your job and painting are directly related this life style will be hard to deal with. I know because my job and painting were totally unrelated. At the end of the day I was too tired to paint. I did find a few hours in the evening two or three days a week and weekends for my painting but I have the work space in my home. A studio removed from my home would not work for me. You might have to re-think your job-studio-art relationship. Like Dr. Phil says “how is this working for you”? Robert has given you some really sound advice. Now you need to look at your situation and determine what will work for you.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Jan 05, 2010

I absolutely must have a home studio.

From: Karen — Jan 05, 2010

Tim. I can totally relate to what you’re saying. I’m a graphic designer with a demanding day job that revolves around deadlines and overtime. I have a studio halfway between work and home but I’m usually too tired to go there, even though I have visions of future paintings constantly burning in my head. I’ve been fairly successful at selling my work the few times I’ve shown it at open houses, so I feel encouraged that there might be a market for my work. I’ve been thinking that I need a “mini-studio” at home where I could work on smaller pieces, sketches and concepts. Robert’s remarks and others are telling me that sounds like a move in the right direction. I plan to keep my main studio away from home, but have a smaller studio space right at home. I’ve got a toolbox that fits my current palette and paints to carry back and forth. I’m working on setting up half of my home office/spare bedroom to be a compact mini-studio space. I like studying “plein air” painting set ups because they give me ideas on how to work in a really small space. I figure that once I get my mini-home-studio set up, I can throw my dinner in the oven, put the clothes in the washer and still get in a bit of painting nearly every day!

From: Laura Reilly – — Jan 05, 2010

Tim, I feel your pain! For many years, I had demanding full-time day jobs, and tried to paint at home at night and on weekends. The problem was, the jobs I had were challenging, interesting and intellectually stimulating, and I was successful in those jobs – but in my heart, I longed to create. I was pulled in 2 equally compelling directions, but all day I dreamed of the paintings I would make after work. After each day’s work and family obligations were met, there was no energy left for my painting, even though I had studio space at home. My heart was breaking a little every day.

The solution for me was to get non-demanding night and weekend work, and save my best daytime energy for my family and my painting. After several years, my career and skill has grown and I am now a successful full-time artist and entrepeneur with a rich and rewarding life. I am most fortunate!

From: Ljiljana & Radoslav Putnik — Jan 05, 2010

Thanks a lot for your very nice and inspired letters

about arts, life and philosophy. We enjoyed!!!Happy New Year!!!


From: Mario Kujawski — Jan 05, 2010

I was lucky, had a nervous breakdown and had my psychiatrists recommend I get disability from teaching. i now have a studio and do my art work and non fiction writing on a daily basis. Being an artist full time also rrquires discipline. Good Luck

From: Dave Reid — Jan 05, 2010

Tim; I think Robert is right on – move your painting into your apartment. Failing that, try exercises (weights, sit-ups, etc.) to oxygenate your body or Yoga to break away from end-of-day work related thoughts and take your dinner with you to the studio – eat and think/plan there. Hang copies of some sales slips in the studio to remind yourself you are appreciated and do sell. Then do some paintings and plan your next big move. Dave

From: Rosemarie Manson — Jan 05, 2010

My ‘studio’ consists of a 6 foot x 4 foot space behind the couch in my family room!!! I am ‘in the thick of things’ – TV in front of me, washer and dryer close by, computer sharing my painting space – AND I LOVE IT! Multi-tasking is my thing, so I hop from one activity to another. There’s always a painting on the go – the paints are opened, brushes cleaned, and a surface ready to fill. Not the most ideal situation, but it works for me.

Smithfield, RI

From: Brenda Swenson — Jan 05, 2010

I too have a studio in my home. This can be a blessing and a curse. I can find a thousand things that I need or should do around my house. But on the other hand I love the freedom of walking into my studio whenever I have a moment. I keep current pieces I am working on propped up in the room. I find viewing paintings out of the corner of my eyes often brings out needed corrections or adjustments I may not have seen when I was in the midst of the piece.

I find it is a good idea to end a painting session a note off to the side with what I need to do next (soften edge, darken valve…). When I walk into the studio I know exactly where to jump back into a painting.

From: Karen Hunter-McLaughlin — Jan 05, 2010

I have a day job as well, and a studio in my house. I still struggle with the same issues as Tim. I currently have 3+ works in progress, yet yesterday, I came home and passed right by the palette on the way to a rest. An iron-clad will and a touch of OCD might be what the doctor ordered but for me those are hard to come by. I find winter to be an especially hard time to motivate (hibernation perhaps?). I suggest a support/art group. For me it’s been an invaluable tool. Having like artists in my corner (and in my head, and in my email box, and on my Facebook page…)- it’s a constant reminder that there are others out there that have the same doubts and regressions as me. We motivate, encourage and sympathize with each other. Art may seem to be a solitary sport, but my most positive art experiences have been the opposite.

Philadelphia, PA

From: Randy Davis — Jan 05, 2010

I can tell you from 30 years of experience that what Robert is saying has LOTS of merit in the real world. I am 61 yrs old, have my own decorative art and scenic art business that is non stop exhaustion. Physically as well as mentally, not even mentioning the economic spiritual demons! Even less than both of you, I have no real art world success feedback to fall back on, only commercial success.

It is daunting to the bone, but I feel defiant towards anything and all things that try to prevent me from engaging in the ONE real process that gives me the peace of soul I dearly need on a day to day basis!

I have painting “stations” set up all over, from the next bedroom, to a full studio above the garage and I do have to report it DOES work well to have various set ups ready and waiting. Time is the bandito and being spontaneous is needed as the norm not the exception. It comes down to an issue of “just starting”. The boogy man is thought and judgment, not necessarily physical and mental exhaustion! Just put it to the surface, your psyche will take care of the rest.

From: Carolyn Edlund — Jan 05, 2010

Tim’s problem is all too universally felt among painters and crafts persons alike.

Yes, having the studio, or at least a condensed workspace, at home will go a long way toward facilitating compelling immersion in our respective crafts. (An aside: this is wonderful when insomnia hits—get up and paint!)

A couple of notes to add to your stellar advice:

On those occasions when you don’t feel like working (tired, blank canvas fear, etc)—

• take yourself into the workspace and occupy your time with arts endeavors such as reading arts publications and looking at art for inspiration, or

• if photographs or drawings factor into your creative process—look at them thinking about how they might manifest in the next painting and

• make a priority order list for a sequence of paintings using the resource material

• if there are paintings in progress—study them, make a plan for what needs to be addressed next and write that plan down.

For oil painters:

• Use freezer wrap atop the palette (secure with bulldog clips; they are easier and faster to remove than is tape). This provides an easily removed mixing surface with easy cleanup.

• Fold a sheet of the wrap into a narrow strip to hold the blobs of paint direct from the tubes; this strip can be wrapped on its own and saved day after day replenishing paint as needed.

• Between painting sessions cover the palette w plastic wrap to preserve the paint for the next session.

(I’m currently searching for an appropriately sized airtight container to replace the plastic wrap.)

Hope you find this helpful!

From: George Perdue — Jan 05, 2010

I think your advice to Tim is on the mark regarding the location of the studio. My studio was 45 minutes north of my home in Glen Williams Ontario. I moved back inside 6 or 7 years ago. My productivity about doubled. So did the “sickness.” Fortunately, my wife is supportive in the extreme — as long as I stay in my designated space. Now that space is behind the open concept kitchen. I can look at work in progress from the kitchen table, from the TV room, and from the entrance hall. These casual glances all suck you in to put on a few strokes at all times of day and night. It can have some downsides. More hours alone in the studio does play on my mind — so I get together to paint outside at least once a week. A problem with no apparent solution is paint on rugs, floors, kitchen sink, never mind all manner of clothes not designated as painting clothes. Then there is space creep. Framed paintings start to occupy the few steps up from the studio space. Somehow they keep on taking territory including the couch. The large kitchen table is often covered with various activities like framing and reading, save for two small areas for a plate or two. This situation can exist for up to a week, then word comes down to clean it up. A few more days pass and the cycle repeats. It is good to know you are not alone.

From: Theresa Bayer — Jan 05, 2010

There will probably always be outside obligations of one kind or another. An artist can take these on and still thrive and improve — I speak from experience. If you worry about obligations, it just robs you of energy you need to do art (not to mention your health), so just relax and do the best you can — and yes, you will probably have to cut out a few extra-curricular activities for the time being.

Meanwhile, get your mind in gear. Focusing on what you want energizes you. Others may call that fantasizing or daydreaming, but it’s a solid way of gathering inspiration. Meditation is also a great way to go — it’s totally worth the time. Thinking of what you don’t want, or agonizing over what you want but think you can’t have, is painful and draining, and that’s called worry. Banish it from your life.

Re. blank canvas, tone the canvas first. That’s the best and easiest way to start a painting.

Re. studio, do it at home. If it’s painting, that’s easy. It might be a bit more of a problem if you were doing pottery or sculpture.

From: Debra LePage — Jan 05, 2010

There is something about paying rent that makes me skip the frivolous (housework!) and get myself into the studio on a regular basis. I walk or bus the mile to my studio and love just being able to pick up where I left off the day before. I use a lot of water and can make quite a mess. Our 2 bedroom condo downtown Chicago has absolutely no space to leave things set up. The downside is feeling creative and not being able to act on it at 11pm or any other odd time.

The most ideal situation was when I had a studio in a renovated tack room in a barn steps away from the house when we lived in rural Ohio. It was easy to walk out there anytime yet was away from the phone, laundry etc. And it was FREE.

Ideally, it would be good to have both a space in the house AND one away. Someday……

From: Dwight Williams — Jan 05, 2010

Wow! So many comments. But this, Tim, Robert and the others who say move your art work home are right. Have it always ready to go. And besides, you’ll save studio rent money. Works for me for over 40 years.

From: Penny Collins — Jan 05, 2010

Tim, I have a great suggestion for you: Wake up early and paint for an hour in the morning!

That way, you feel great all day for doing what is most important to you. When you get home, you can do paint some more, or if you are tired, just crash on the couch without feeling guilty.

The same applies to exercise: It’s much better to get up early to do your 30 minutes physical activity, than wait til after work. Early morning exercise gives you energy all day, and you feel great for getting it out of the way. Again, when you get home, you might want to do some more exercise, or you can crash on the couch guilt-free.

I have a studio in the spare bedroom of our 2-bedroom apartment. But often in the evening I find that I bring my paints, canvas, water, brushes, etc out to the coffee table, sit on the couch and put a movie on while painting. I’d probably be more focused if I stayed in the studio, but it feels so indulgent and relaxing to sit on the couch and paint while Princess Mononoke plays in the background.

Two of my goals for 2010 are to create the life-long habits of 1) waking at 5.30am to be physically active for 30 minutes, and then 2) painting from 6-7am, before going to my 9-5 office job.

It’s the only way for me to do the work required to transition from my current career to being a professional artist.

Make painting your number one priority and get it done first thing in the morning!

From: Dwight Haverford — Jan 05, 2010

I find I can make stuff in a windstorm or a crawl space. It doesn’t matter much, except that one venue is more commodious than another and permits different sorts of work. Over the years, I adapt to what I have at the moment. It’s either that find a pile of excuses and get nothing done.

From: Peter W. Brown — Jan 05, 2010

I think you gave some terrific advice to Mr. Zeiss regarding his double demons, but perhaps his problem of balancing a job with his art production is not an either/or proposition. When I was a young artist and facing a similar situation, I took a middle road. I looked for a job that was art-related, and I ended up working in a museum. This eventually turned into to a long career as an exhibit designer and curator. My daily “grind,” and it wasn’t really a grind, fed my interest in art, and it fed me. I met hundreds of artists, and spent my days looking at thousands of pieces of historical and contemporary art.

Needless to say, my occupation provided me with something akin to a 25 year-long grant to study and think about art on a daily basis, and it also was a great inspiration for my own work. It created a steady income and made it possible for me to pay my bills and raise a family without undo worries. In consequence, my art has always been my own, in a world of economic freedom, and I have never had to kow-tow to an art dealer or gallery owner.

I thrived within this arrangement to the point that when I retired from the exhibit work, I became an art teacher. I find that I make more art during the school year, than I make during my summer’s off which is filled with travel and other adventures.

As for the necessity of a home studio, which has always been an off and on situation for me, I have not found it a requirement. When I have been without a studio, I have made a place in my home for works in progress. This has been on a kitchen wall or even in the bathroom. It was just a place where in I could see what I was working on every day. I always had three of four unfinished paintings to look at and think about. When I found my solution, my paint box was close at hand. That painting was quickly a done deal.

I have a studio, now, and it is just next door. I like the place, but when I cannot figure out what to do with a piece, I cart it home and look at it while I am brushing my teeth. My lovely wife often asks me about the wet oil painting in our domicile, but I claim artistic freedom, brush my teeth a bit longer, and get that painting up to the studio, which I happily share with her.

From: Carol Way Wood — Jan 05, 2010

I couldn’t agree with you more. At 61, I find myself home alone, except for my animal friends, financially insecure – but determined to make it all work. I have a part time job which is emotionally draining (it’s in the mental health sector) and I, too, come home spent, but after feeding myself and my animal friends I sit down to work in my bedroom studio and work until midnight. I love it. I do get over tired, but I love my life. I usually can’t wait to get to it. I know studios work for some people, but working at home has always been my first choice. I would like to add, that I have been painting and selling my work since I was 14.

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 05, 2010

A word to Tim from one who has been there. I can sit here and hold your hand but it would do no good.

I’ve had a real job for years and still managed to get into the studio every night and pump out work. I’ve been in countless shows, exhibits and several one man shows, all while holding a full time job. You have to set you priorities. Do you want to be a painter or a worker who paints in his spare time.

I don’t want to be too harsh here but I can come up with two thousand good excuses why I can’t paint tonight. They are all stalls and nothing more. Artists put up with rejection, small studios or no studios, spouses who demand attention, lack of money for paint, life in general and jobs that some have to got go to make money. So what’s new? Take a hard long look at your life and ask do you really want to paint or be one of those who came up with a great excuse why not to paint.

I too had heart attacks when confronted with a blank canvas.. in the beginning. Now I can’t wait to cover them with images. If you have something to say and have the will, go for it. You don’t want to be one ot those people who at the end of their life says “What if? ”

p.s. Over the two week Christmas holiday I sat in my studio every day and produced fifteen new works and still don’t see this ending. Don’t just do it, be it!

From: LaVonne Tarbox-Crone — Jan 05, 2010

Do a home studio even if you have to give up the dining or living room space! I can speak personally for the advantage of having paint always ready…and watercolor is perfect because you can always leave them out . For three years I worked full time…and painted full time right next to my kitchen counter. It really helped me launch myself.

I still love and use my in house ‘studio’.

New South Wales, Australia

From: Jackie Knott — Jan 06, 2010

Tim, yours is all of our common experience. Much of your dilemma will be cured in time. Meanwhile: it is imperative in your present situation to have a home studio, even if it means sacrificing half your living room. Your “commute” to your studio will not seem so much of a chore. Come home, eat, relax for awhile, then go to your “studio” at a set appointment time. Approach your art with the same dedication as your paid job. Establish a reasonable amount of time to create, two to four hours? Since you are essentially working two full-time jobs, give yourself off time, at least one whole day of the week. Don’t feel you must devote all your off time to your art – you must rejuvenate your mind and body. Even a 27 year old can run out of steam. And don’t quit your day job yet. The stress of meager support will inhibit your creativity as much as the burden of not being able to give yourself totally to your passion.

From: Kevin Pincus — Jan 06, 2010

You forgot to Tell this guy to “STOP CRYING!” (Don’t mean to sound harsh.) I am a painter living in San Francisco CA. Upon finishing my MFA I moved to SF to paint. It has been 8 years now and I have been working full time as a carpenter for 7 of those 8 years. I manage to make it to my studio every night, which, (by the way), happens to be a 20 minute drive from my home. Lately I have allowed myself 1 night off a week. But for the most part, I am in there working every night. Even if I am not painting I am thinking and taking notes on my current pieces.

I cant begin to count the hours of lost sleep or the many sacrifices that I have made as a result of my compulsion and choice to be in my studio. I have had numerous shows that did not result in a lot of sales but has connected me to other like minded and not-so like minded painters and artists.

The fact that one is showing and even selling in this current economy is lucky. Some of us are not so fortunate. Regardless, we still make it into the studio to become better painters and to live in the process. Tired or not, if you want it bad enough you can get off the couch and take it. I am living proof of this and I still would not consider myself a selling artist. What I am, is a working artist, both in the studio and on the construction site, with a long way to go and a lot to learn.

From: Bev Hanna — Jan 06, 2010

I have a similar problem to Tim’s, even though my studio is in my house. What kills my creativity is commission work. For years, my paintings have been focused on “the market”, to the extent that I don’t even know what I want to paint any more. I’ve spent decades painting what other people think I should, and I haven’t a clue what I want to do with my art.

I have made the decision to stop doing commission work, but where do I go from here? How can I find out what “I” want to do?

From: Doug Mays — Jan 06, 2010

My basement studio is very handy; it’s big, bright with natural light and it’s ready, ready to allow the creativity to come in and stay awhile.. I have most of the conveniences within a few steps of my easel — TV, music and coffee pot. It is also reasonably sound proof which really helps when I’m belting out an aria with Placido Domingo’s accompaniment. Oh yes, in the event a family member or friend were to forget whose sacred space this 300 square feet belongs to, I’ve put a sign on the studio door that reminds them.

From: Eileen Keane — Jan 06, 2010

I read your letters over and over when they reach my inbox. My demons are depression and lack of motivation. I’m a LongArm machine quilter who quilts for customers. I also have many quilts in my imagination that are crying out to be made. My personal and work studios are both in my home, on different floors. I hate going upstairs to work, but I’m not creating in my quilting studio either. I’m sitting, either on the computer or in front of the TV telling myself I should be doing something. Do you have any advice for me?

From: Sandy Troudt — Jan 06, 2010
From: Sheila Watson — Jan 06, 2010

About 25 years ago in an article about Alex Coleville, he said that the hardest part of the day for him was getting to the studio. He wasn’t giving free tips to artists so he didn’t say how he got himself there.

At the time I was in the same boat as Tim Zeiss and, although my studio was only a few feet from the house, it was often a struggle to get there. But I was doing it and realized that my strategy was to create a mental image of myself at work on a painting and the pleasure I was getting from it. At present I always have something on the go and am no longer working elsewhere, but still at times have to get past all the other things in life that can stop me from going out there, so I still resort to the same technique.

From: Brian LaSaga — Jan 06, 2010

I agree with Kevin Pincus. Nothing stops an artist from wanting to paint if the passion is there…..well said Kevin, and again, great advice from Robert.

From: John Ferrie — Jan 07, 2010

Dear Robert,

For years and years I dreamed of having an artists studio. I pictured a cool warehouse space (Not unlike the Bat Cave) where I could go and do my most profound work.

This was all the while I was in art school, doing projects at home and dreaming of my space Nirvana.

After art school and when all the galleries weren’t booking me for endless exhibitions and a contract of fame and fortune, I continued to paint in my apartment.

And for years I painted, did exhibitions and dreamed of not living where I worked.

A friend of mine had a space in a famous Vancouver artist building and offered me half of his HUGE studio. It was a great space with large tables, a stereo system, excellent lighting and ventilation and an office with an answering machine. HOW COOL! I thought….or so I thought. I moved in immediately and spent several weeks not only preparing my new space, but telling everyone about “the studio” as I was now calling it. I could not get over how clean and neat my apartment became once I had moved out my paints, canvas and cart…I wanted my apartment to be free and clear. I now had, after all a proper artist studio. I would make a big fuss about tellng people I was spending several hours a day at “the studio”.

In five months, I never got a thing done. NOT ONE PAINTING!

I was easily distracted if I didn’t have my act together by 12. If I had to work at my waitering job at 5, I would have to do laundry, have a nap, make lunch and watch Judge Judy before I could ever consider going to “the studio”. If I did go to “the studio”, I would sit there dumb founded in that sterile environment and not know what i was doing. I would sneak some supplies back to my apartment and was doing some work at home, late at night. I finally looked at my dust covered paint and canvas in ‘the studio” and realized nothing was happening there and I shut it down.

Back at home, with paints and canvas cluttering up my apartment, I was as prolific as ever and back on my game. Excited to be a painter again.

I have continued to live and work in the same space ever since. Often sacrificing a dining room for an easel. I am the KING of multi tasking.

I can paint, watch a movie, make chocolate chip cookies, do a load of laundry and come and go to my painting as the inspiration hits me, sometimes for hours, often for just a few minutes.

But this, again, is just me.

John Ferrie

From: Deb Droog — Jan 07, 2010

Work is work and you are very fortunate to be able to work at whatever your heart wants to if you want it bad enough. I was born a painter but had to make a living and support a family so I became a graphic designer. Worked at it with a painter’s eye which I think only enhanced my designs. I had fun every day because I was creating images. Given my media was a computer but I still was able to create. Fortunately, I am no longer working and now have the time to paint or do what ever I want to. If you have to work find a job you can love and you will never work a day. If you really want to paint, if you are passionate and driven as an artist, then you will paint. It really is simple. Either do it or don’t. Excuses are many if we are looking for them either consciously or unconsciously. Find peace in your soul and the rest will come.

From: Marsha Savage — Jan 08, 2010

I love what John Ferrie said. He is so right. When the studio is in the home, we are able to paint for 1 minute as we walk by, or 10 minutes — which then before we know it, becomes 2 hours.

I also agree with Rick, and a couple of others, if the will and passion is there, a way will be found. I too, say quit crying, go to work, come home and get inspired in some way — or the alternative as someone else said, get up early, work out for 20 minutes, spend 1 hour in your home studio (dining room, etc.) and then shower and go to work. Your day job will profit from the well being you have from already accomplishing much before getting to the day job.

All the rest will follow. At 27 years old, it is hard to understand that what you think is the “ideal” is probably not really!

From: Cindy Revell — Jan 08, 2010

Bev, about your comment “I have made the decision to stop doing commission work, but where do I go from here? How can I find out what “I” want to do?”

Just start painting all kinds of things and the experience will show you what you love best. Paint out of doors, paint the scene from your studio in all different kinds of weather, seasons etc, paint yourself, your neighbour, a loved one. Set up some pots and pans and paint those, rustle up some fruit, pine cones or any other natural objects that you find and paint those. Paint some special pottery or china. Paint your dog or cat. Paint a street scene. Paint a nocturnal scene. Out of all that painting you’ll find out what you are most drawn to.

From: Frank Miles — Jan 08, 2010
From: Bob Edgerton — Jan 08, 2010

More years ago than I appreciate thinking about I was a GI in Saigon, off duty, and lingering about inside a small gallery the size of a walk in closet. At the rear of the space, perhaps eight feet inside the door, a painter, the shop owner, worked stretching a canvas. An explosion occurred nearby which he, having lived through more of it than I (newly in country), understood to be a mortar and likely to be followed by several more. He grabbed ahold of my fatigue jacket and pulled me into a back room where there was a table surrounded and surmounted by sandbags, where we hunkered down for the next ten minutes. While we were there he pulled out a small sketch pad and began to doodle. There’s nothing more I can add to that lesson.

From: sandra kessler — Jan 11, 2010

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.

From: Greg Rapier — Jan 15, 2010

I know how Tim Zeiss feels (Fighting the double demons). I started painting as a young boy and would do an oil painting or two mostly as a hobby sometime not touching a brush for years. Then I would have to paint four or five paintings. In 1994 I set my love of racing cars aside and took up my brush and painted over 100 oil paintings since. Then I had some unflattering remarks made by some artist’s that subscribe here on Painter’s keys. At first I thought that it didn’t bother me. But after a few weeks it did to the point I stopped painting. I lost my painters heart, my will to paint. Last year I only painted three painting and one of those I didn’t finish. Then a few days after Christmas a client that I have painted many paintings for ask if I would do another painting for him. He is a promoter of a race track and has me do paintings of the tracks champions that he gives to the champions as part of their awards. I said I will try to get the painting done for him as I had a lot of other things going on at the time. I didn’t know if I could even create an oil paint like I have done in the past. My heart was full of doubt and fear that I wouldn’t be able to create a good enough painting. I also knew that if I didn’t try that I may never have painted again. So I picked up my brush and went into my studio and started working. I painted ever minute that I could fine the time. I would paint before I went to my job and after getting home at 1 AM I painted till 3:30 am getting up at 9 AM and painting till 1 PM till I had to go back to work again. The painting was finished with two days to spear. I sent a picture of the painting by email to the client and he loves it. So now I have overcome my fears and have restored my love of painting. I will paint to fuel my passion to create and to paint. I don’t care if anyone likes my art because I paint because I love to paint.

Greg Rapier

From: Sarah — Jan 20, 2010

Greg, as an artist you must nurture your fragile ego – make it stronger than any other critic. You are the only one who knows the kind of artist you are. Everyone else critiques from the point of what kind of artist they think you should be. If you recognize that, you will never be affected by critiques in a negative way. Just take from others what helps you on your road. In the same way, help others.



Leave A Reply

No Featured Workshop
No Featured Workshop

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.