Many times I have been asked how do I manage teaching, curating, gallery, family and other things while still keeping my studio practice going. The quick answer is time management. However, it is more than that. I keep a very active exhibition schedule that demands continuous production. There is no reason why your studio career should be diminished because you decided to go into education. The sad reality that I have seen in many artists/educators is that teaching becomes their front runner and their art practice just trails behind. They feel guilty when they cannot get in their studios as often as they wish. Many become complacent. At that point, many great artists are stuck in not favorable situation. I strongly believe that if you are really serious about your studio practice, you will make it work regardless of your teaching schedule.
Following are five steps that I believe will help you manage a productive studio practice while taking care of your teaching career.
1. Be ambitious. If you have no ambition or desire to move your art career ahead, no one is going to do it for you. You will not grow as an artist. Ambition has a way of motivating us to do things that are not easy, convenient or comfortable. If your studio practice is suffering, you first need the desire to do something about it. Read a book, visit art galleries, go to openings, watch an artist interview, or do any other activity that will motivate you to get going. I started a blog of artists in their studios as a way to share with the world the studio spaces of contemporary artists. For me, it is also a personal resource of inspiration that reminds me to work harder on my own practice. Check it out at www.artistsintheirstudios.com. Another awesome resource is the weekly Art Next Level podcast. It features interviews with artists, curators, gallery owners and other art and wellness professionals. Not only you will find the stories inspiring but you will also want to share them with your students.
2. Schedule your studio time. Organization is very important to get you going. I assume that you are organized with your class schedule. You know the days and times you are supposed to show up for every class. In the same manner, you have to organize your life in order to make room for your studio because you do not have the luxury of walking into it when you feel inspired. Start by doing an inventory of your weekly activity. For me, I have the habit of scheduling certain days a week for my studio practice. I only schedule the time I go in the studio, not the time I leave. I cherish each moment I spend in my studio because I know every minute is precious. I don’t recommend putting yourself a goal of specific hours because when you don’t meet your quota, you feel guilty about it. You do not want to make art out of guilt. Art is not about punching in and punching out. At the end, it is not about what goes into but about what comes out of the studio that counts. Nobody is going to ask you for your time sheet. However, everyone will want to see the result of your production.
3. Make teaching an asset rather than a hurdle. If you don’t enjoy teaching, you should not do it. If you enjoy it, I assume you are good at it. When your students enjoy spending the day in your class, their good energy flows into your life as well. What can you do to feed your creative juices while teaching? If you teach a studio class, demonstrate and work along with your students from time to time. Take breaks to enrich your mind. In the Higher Ed world, it is very easy to get stuck in the day by day activity. Before you know it, years have passed by and your studio practice is not any better than it was ten years ago.
4. Live a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t have a healthy lifestyle, you will not have enough energy after a full day of teaching to do anything else. Are you eating healthy and resting enough? Are you exercising and maintaining your body in good shape to meet the demands of a busy schedule? Teaching is a highly demanding career that will leave you energy-less often. I personally do juicing every morning and drink a homemade power drink to keep my energy level high. The body is a high performance machine that needs to be well taken care of in order to function properly. Get a good night sleep the night before you schedule a long day in the studio.
5. Keep an active exhibition schedule. The truth is that if you do not have definite deadlines, sometimes nothing gets done or takes forever to get done. Think about how your students work. You always give them deadlines to get things done. Grades are due on certain days. Deadlines have a magical power to makes us move to a certain pace. The same should be true for your studio practice. If you do not have any activity coming up, chances are you may not be producing enough. Maybe it is good time to look into applying for juried show or group shows. Use your network to look for exhibit opportunities. Find out what is you logical next level and make significant advances towards it. Do whatever it takes to keep a pace that advances your art career. That also means having time for networking and art management activities.
In most cases, there is no excuse for you not to find a way to be productive. When I started teaching some ten years ago, I found it very difficult to get my studio practice going. Over the years, I have learned to keep a highly productive studio practice. I wish someone had given me this few words of advice back then. If I can do it, you can too. My exhibition schedule is a priority for me. That means that I will be scheduling plenty of time in the studio. I never said it was going to be easy and it never is. Where there is a will, there is a way. So there, make life changes and create the art you always wanted!