Posts Tagged ‘in the studio’

Time management and art

January 15th, 2014 | 5 Comments

Five lessons I have learned from having a goal of painting 1,500 hours in 2014

As we entered 2014, I found that I had created a New Year’s resolution for myself.

The resolution was more of a personal goal — what Jim Collins might call a “big, hairy audacious goal.”

I knew that I wanted to give my all to painting in the forthcoming year. I also knew that giving my all takes time — a commitment of time. The idea of painting (and sketching) for six hours per day popped into my mind. That’s 30 hours per week.

time management and art
Stopwatch running. (Game show announcer voice: Wristwear generously provided by George W. Stone.)

Extrapolating this figure over the course of a year, I realized I was staring at a goal of 1,500 hours of painting and sketching in 2014.

So there I was in my studio on January 2, with an Ironman stopwatch strapped to my wrist, pressing the start button when I got to work, pressing the stop button when I stepped away from the easel, and logging my progress into a worksheet, seeing how it all adds up. Call me a nerd? So what!

Now two weeks — 10 work days — into the year, I have logged 27.5 hours of creative time. Unfortunately, that’s already more than 30 hours behind my six-hours-per-day target. However, on a positive note, I have already completed three wall-worthy paintings.

Four lessons I have learned so far

As you’d expect, I’ve even more keenly aware of how I invest my time. I feel like a football (soccer) referee keeping time in a match. But I’ve also unexpectedly learned several subtle lessons.

1. Get to work. Second-guess less.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve really cut down on how much I second-guess my work in general. I’m more likely to turn my sketches into paintings, sooner. In the past, there had moments when I have endlessly tinkered with a good design for a painting. One time in particular, a sketch went through 20 iterations, which turned out to be an exercise in diminishing returns. In retrospect, the first sketch was pretty good — good enough to be painted.

Now, by contrast, I feel like the process of working — simply sitting down at the table, computer, or easel — is more important when the stopwatch is running. Not every painting I make will be great, or good, for that matter. Yet, if I can keep working, I’m more likely to make good work, and potentially great work. Even if I make minor, sub-par work here and there, I’m closer to making something good, because I keep learning as I go. The key is to keep working. Process will take of product.

2. Tracking time fosters accountability and focus.

When the stopwatch is on, it’s all about making art. A laser-like focus develops, and distractions get pushed out of the way. Checking the twitter feed is for break time. ! )

3. Keep on keeping on.

On a number of occasions, using a stopwatch has motivated me to not take a break — to keep motoring along — especially when I’m approaching an hourly milestone in a given day. If I see that I’ve painted 52 minutes so far, I somehow feel encouraged to paint another eight minutes, to “top things off” at the hour mark, and then take a quick break.

It’s a lot like doing bicep curls at the gym. No one stops at nine. You have to go for ten.

And, when I’m staring at the prospect of working on a complicated section of a painting, that same top-things-off mentality often kicks in. Rather than be stymied by the complexity of a section, I think about the smaller goal, of painting just a few minutes to get started. In turn, the complex section seems to break into more manageable parts.

4. It all adds up.

The stopwatch has certainly helped me realize how effort adds up. In the past, I often wondered whether I was painting enough. For whatever reason, I thought I was being lazy. Now that I’m accounting for my creative time, I’m easier on myself, because I’m able to remind myself of what I have already accomplished. It’s much easier to say “I’m doing the best I can, given my resources, circumstances and obligations.”

5. Compartmentalization has its benefits.

Fifth and finally, when I take a break, or move on to other work (such as unrelated consulting services I provide for clients), I feel more able to shut out pressures related to my creative work. A football match seems more enjoyable when the creative work is on hold.

Too big of a goal? To be determined.

Ultimately, I might be overreaching with my goal of 1,500 creative hours this year. A goal of 1,200 or 1,000 hours might be more realistic. After all, I have client work to do, and there are many other things to do. I enjoy posting my work to social streams. Life in general needs to be attended to. The value of visiting with friends and family cannot be overstated.

The key is finding ways to focus, while maintaining a balance. When I reach the end of January, I’ll revisit my progress, and consider adjusting my BHAG for 2014 accordingly.

Have you experimented with keeping track of your art-making activities? Share your story below.


In the Studio: May 18, 2012

May 18th, 2012 | No Comments

in the studio may 18, 2012
In the studio, May 18, 2012: New paintings stacked among the old as late afternoon light blazes through the window. In the foreground is Sapion, which I painted last November. Read about Sapion.


With summer solstice just five weeks away, the daylight of the Arizona desert is growing eye-piercingly bright, white-washing everything in sight. Keeping my studio’s shades lowered is the only way I can prevent my retinas from melting!

There is nothing like desert light. It’s mesmerizing and merciless, life-giving and lethal. It offers inspiration and commands a healthy respect.

And so, with sunlight lending an added glow to my fluorescent paints, I’m giving all I’ve got to making new paintings that have a minimal pop-art vibe. I’m drawing upon all of the things that inspire me visually, synthesizing them into something not seen before, exploring as I go.

Many of these new works are based on sketches I created months ago — in some cases, years ago. If those sketches appeal to me now just as they did before, I know they are worth pursuing today.


In the studio January 17, 2010: Abstract pop art?

January 17th, 2010 | 2 Comments

abstract pop art
Work in progress: A painting called Hypermodic Spastaculatron, as of 5pm on January 17, 2010. Lots of fluorescent paint going on. Is it abstract pop art, or something entirely different?

The latest news from my studio is this:

My Spring/Summer 2010 collection of paintings is officially “on.” Projected launch date is May 15, 2010.

This will be a decidedly “maximalist” series of paintings. (See more in this style in my maximal abstract art gallery.) This will be a departure from my Fall 2009 Collection, which was focused completely on minimal, geometric compositions.

I am not sure whether labels from the 20th century, such “abstract” and “pop art” really define what I’m painting. (“Abstract pop art” doesn’t quite work, either!) What I’m painting is something new, something that defies categorization, something that hasn’t been seen before. I’m gathering new shapes, patterns, and colors and throwing them into the future.

A New Year’s ambition of mine is to paint one painting per week. The Spring/Summer collection would therefore roll out with 16 pieces, if I’m lucky. Year to date, I have completed 0 paintings. Today, I am still working on version #3 of painting #1 in the collection, shown above. I shall persist.

abstract pop art
Choosing my colors: In the studio on Saturday, January 16

All of this considered, I want to show you progress on my work as best as I can. Yet, I also want to keep the collection under wraps until the launch date. Therefore, I shall offer you glimpses of paintings in progress, when available. Just like above.