What do Professional Artists do when they are not in front of their easel?
Many may think of artists as spending our time happily painting away our days and nights in front of our easels, coming up with paintings and various artworks one after the other as if by magic. To many the “gift” of being able to draw and paint is natural and doesn’t have to be worked on. Some may not think of how all the rest of the infrastructure of running an arts practice gets done, or if there is any to address at all.
The reality is that the precious time that we have in creating our art works is less than you may think.
Arts practices or business, like all others, have a lot of paperwork to do. We also have to make sure that our materials are stocked and art is a lifelong education. This means that many artists are not only teachers but lifelong students.
As an example let me break down the duties that may fill any working day (including weekends and evenings). I am a student and professional artist and have started doing some teaching. Any of these activities may be included in a typical day.
- Read email and respond to any urgent requests or issues
- Catch up with blogs and web sites of importance (reading)
- Check white board for any exhibition deliveries or pick ups that are due
- Check for any entries for exhibitions that need to be submitted
- Update white board and cork boards on studio wall for events
- Check the mail, do a post office box run
- Address any issue arising from the mail
- Check office diary for any notes for the day make adjustments if required
- Plan schedule for the day if not done already
- Archive artworks
- Filing of paperwork
- Reorganise iPhoto library and categorise images for referencing
- Back-up or archiving of files from computer
- Stock take materials to make sure I have enough for planned artworks
- Visit suppliers for materials purchase
- Visit framer for frames/matt boards/framing
- Bookings for tutoring
- Tutoring sessions including travel to site
- Assessing student’s work
- Volunteering as tutor at local gallery in their workshops
- Attend art demonstration/workshop
- Attend TAFE for studio time and classes
- Plan and organise art course/s and workshops for myself for the coming year
- Update/upgrade the course and course plans for teaching drawing or painting in the coming year
- Write a new course to deliver in the coming year
- Research new and improved methods of delivering art course that I have written and new methods of delivery
- Research new technology for delivery of art tutoring and lessons
- Upgrade or research for new technology for aid in production (computers, iPads, iPhones, software, graphic tablets etc)
- Attend meetings and research
- Attend management or OHS workshop or lecture
- Attend business networking event
- Participate in webinar for business or promotional information
- Read art reference book, management or OHS book or guide
- Reorganise and clean studio
- Clean materials and tools
- Meet with client
- Meet with or approach gallery owners/managers
- Meet with or approach collectors or sales outlets
- Plan, organise, hang solo exhibitions
- Plan, design, produce advertising material for exhibitions
- Design, produce stationery (business cards, letterheads etc) and arrange printing with printer
- Write blogs or commentaries for websites and newsletters
- Catch up with and network with other artists
- Photography trip for new reference material
- Research on web for trends in the market for art
- Get taxation done and meeting with tax agent/accountant
- Director’s meeting to discuss business plans for marketing, sales, infrastructure, plans, issue and general running of the business both fine and graphic art
- Day trip to various locations to draw or paint on site for practice and for references for studio paintings
- Painting or drawing in the studio
It is quite possible that I have missed some things. I hope however that this gives a hint of what other duties may come into a typical day for an artist. So the next time you are at an exhibition or anywhere looking at an artwork – a painting for example, refrain from asking the artist “how long did it take to paint it?”. The truth is that for most paintings, there are hundreds of hours of research and training, experimenting and practice behind the final production of each one. When you buy an artwork you are not only investing in what it has taken to produce that single piece, you are acquiring the accumulated experience, expertise and knowledge as well as talent of that artist. This is not even counting the infrastructure that goes into running an arts practise.
More to it than you may have thought? I hope this has given you a glimpse into my world, the one that I am happy to live, learn, teach, train and work in.