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Balancing Being an Artist with a Day Job

I recently completed another commission for a house painting in time for it to be a Christmas gift. Others who saw the finished painting asked how long it took me to complete it and, would it be too difficult to have me paint something for them in time for Christmas? Unfortunately, it was too late for me to accept another commission this close to the holidays because like several other artists, I am unable to work full time on my art. I hold down a full-time job to pay the bills and work on my artwork in my "free time." So that only leaves me the few evening hours after I get home from my job and the weekends, which is what I use to spend larger chunks of time completing each piece. That makes finishing paintings take longer than it would if I had all day, every day, to devote to working on them. Maybe someday, if I get enough steady commissions coming in, I can make art my full time work but for now that is just not financially viable.

So how does one balance working and finding time to create art? Well, I am certainly no expert, but I can share what I do to make it work. The first, and I feel the most important step, is to be realistic about timing. When I add up all the hours I spend on a house portrait it may add up to about a full week of time, but again, that is if I was working for hours and hours every day on the piece. In fact, when I first started, I used a log book to keep track of how many hours I spent actually working on a piece to give me an idea of how much time I really would need to finish for the future. Some days when I get home from work I have other responsibilities and commitments which keep me from spending any time painting or drawing. And let's be completely honest... after a full day's work sometimes I'm too tired to focus on working on my art. So, often that leaves only the weekends for me to really put in some serious time on the pieces, which draws out the completion time. And that's when I have to stay determined to make sure I don't over-schedule my weekends so that I have plenty of time for my art.

The other issue that goes hand in hand with being realistic about timing is working when I have enough energy and can really focus on doing my best. Like I said, some days after work I am too tired to give my artwork my full attention. As I have learned in the past, if I try working on something when I'm tired I make more mistakes and run into more issues than when I am well rested and can really concentrate on what I'm doing. That being said, people often ask if I enjoy doing house portraits for people and if I find it relaxing to spend hours and hours just painting or drawing. The answer to those questions is yes... and no.

If I didn't enjoy painting people's homes I wouldn't take on those commissions or give out my business card so that others can see what I've done and decide if they'd like to hire me to do the same for them. However, I can't say that I find it relaxing. If I am hired to create something for a client, rather than just selling one of the pieces I've created on my own, I feel a lot more pressure to make sure I get every little detail right. Especially when you're doing something that holds a lot of emotional weight, like someone's family home, you want to make sure they are truly happy with the end result. So, in fact, painting houses can be rather stressful sometimes - especially when I'm under a time crunch. But it is truly gratifying when a piece is finally finished and your client is happy with the end result.

In summary, if you too are an artist who holds down a full-time job that takes time away from creating your artwork you need to figure out what works best for you. But, in general I think sticking to a realistic timeline and working when you are fully rested and energized so that you can give your piece your full attention will definitely help with the tricky balancing act it can become between work and artwork.

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