Sunday, March 30, 2014

Discipline and the Artist

Do List:  You might not be able to read it, but I hope I can!

I've interviewed dozens of professional artists over the years.  Some love oil, others are pastel diehards; some enjoy the landscape, some prefer the figure; some are denizens of the studio, while others are plein air purists.  They're all different, but they do share one common feature:  They are disciplined.

It's discipline that separates the professional from the casual Sunday painter.

Being disciplined doesn't mean you have to live your life according to your inner Marine drill instructor.  But for the professional artist it does mean:

  • Being organized
  • Planning tasks
  • Sticking to a schedule
  • Managing time
  • Following through
  • Working to improve your craft

I consider myself a disciplined artist.  When I get up in the morning, and after I've dealt with coffee, breakfast and walking the dog, I check my e-mail and social media feeds.  I deal right away with those things that need immediate responses; other items I mark for later.  Next, I deal with any other computer housekeeping issues such as database updates, student registrations or financial records.

If I'm not teaching - teaching automatically forces me on a schedule - I may go to the studio and work on studio projects.  This can be working on a painting, gessoing panels, cutting paper or preparing for the next workshop.  Or, depending on my "do list," I may sit at the computer awhile longer to work on a magazine article or book.   Also, because I'm a plein air painter, I may head to the field.  But I plan this in, too.  Painting in the field might include a hike, which makes painting part of my exercise regimen.

I never go off to work without a plan.  I want my time be maximized.  When I walk the dog after breakfast, I'm usually already thumbing through my mental "do list."  I want to go to the studio - or to the field or computer - fired up.

Speaking of "do lists" - I keep mine on a letter-sized yellow pad and update it frequently.  It's right by my computer.  I have it organized by categories:  Art, Writing, Workshops, Miscellaneous.  I prioritize items, marking with an "A" the ones that are important and starring the ones that are even more so.  I'll put dates on ones with deadlines.  I put a check mark next to tasks I've started. (Yes, I've tried the computer versions of task lists, but paper works best for me.  I also use a paper calendar.)  Additionally, I have a separate list of goals that I look at monthly.  Many of the tasks on my "do list" are long-range goals that have been broken down into short-range tasks.  Any workshops or classes I take for improving my craft are scheduled and are part of that list.

After lunch, it's more of the same.  The "do list" rules.

It's easier to stay disciplined, of course, if you can keep motivated.  Next time, I'll write about motivation.

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