Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday Figure Drawing, More about Time Management

Here's another drawing from a Wednesday session, this time a long pose. I usually choke on the longer poses, but this time spent a little more time on the structure. We had some great artists last night, including the model herself. Brooke is not only a great model but an amazing painter, and I keep trying to get her to draw with us! The quality of the work all around at the figure sessions is really improving, and It's great to be in such good company.

The pose was pretty straight forward, so it was a little easier, but I simplified the tone quite a bit, instead of going for more of of a detailed more line oriented render.

Developing Time Management Skills for a freelancer and Work-at-Home Artist

 It was a long working day, having effectively started some time at around 7:00, ending at 9:30 at night (with breaks of course!) There's work time, and then there's work time effectively spent, and with the Pomodoro technique I'm learning the difference. 6 hours of 25 minute sessions with 5 minute breaks in between beats 8 hours of diminishing returns.

 Fortunately the figure sessions, with 20 minute sessions and five minute breaks, falls right in line with my everyday working method. It's made me rethink: what is a an 8 hour work day? What's a 10 hour work day? How can it best be spent? As a freelancer and work-at-home artist, when I'm working on self-motivated projects there often aren't set, external deadlines, so I'm forced to structure my day in a meaningful way. It's easy to get distracted. It's easy to fool yourself into thinking you've put in more time than you have. 

To make the most of your work day, you need to have a way to account for your time, especially when those distractions can be such compelling ones, like the internet. Many of us don't have that incredible focus that allows us to work hours on end--I do for certain tasks, but not for all of them, particularly drawing, since I find it most demanding. I envy people who have that kind of relentless endurance, but I'm not one of them. You don't have to be one of them either. Everyone has their own working method and pace, but it all comes down to how you manage your time. Not having that endurance doesn't make you a lesser artist, but if you don't, you need to discover what will help you to stay on task.

So I need tools to keep me motivated. Audio books are incredibly helpful, especially fun ones. Right now I'm listening to a lot of Sarah Dessen, my current favorite young adult author. If a book requires too much of my attention, it only makes it harder to keep focused, but when it's an enjoyable and easily engaging book, it gives me one more reason to look forward to working. Since I only listen to audio books while working, this can be a big motivator.

The other ritual I have is putting on my shoes. This may seem odd, but putting on my shoes is a cue for me that I'm officially working. Working at home, I don't have to put on my shoes. I could work in my boxer shorts if I wanted to. But maybe it's like the way Mister Rogers takes off his dress shoes and puts on his sneakers at the beginning of every show--the shoes somehow affect my attitude. Don't ask me why. Whatever ritual you have that does this for you--a cup of coffee, a shower, seize on it. Work is ritual, and in working at home, you need to separate what you do with the rest of your time, and work. When work time easily flows into every other task at home, it's easier to be just kind of working sometimes, or preoccupied with the idea that you should be working. I haven't fully masters this skill, but the Pomodoro technique has helped. So what's your cue to start working? Starting can sometimes be the hardest part.

Which brings me back to the Pomodoro technique mentioned earlier. If you need to at first, or if other responsibilities require it, maybe 10 minutes of sustained activity and then a five minute break will work better for you. Not all of us have the luxury of a full, uninterrupted work day. So if your time is divided, how can you maximize the time you do have? How can you make it more focused? How can you give yourself a cue that now is work mode, and that all other distractions have to fall to the wayside? Take your work time seriously.

But even if it's drawing in front of the TV, there's value in having small goals, for example: I'm going to finish this drawing at the end of this TV show. If all you have are small snatches of time, take advantage of them, which again, means, take them seriously. Making small goals and achieving them helps to give you the small satisfactions required to go to the next step. 

But I Didn't Have Enough Time! 

It's bad enough to give this as an excuse as a student, but never give this as an excuse as a professional, even if it's simply a workshop. If you need a deadline extension, ask for it, but never excuse the quality of your work because you "didn't have enough time." Of course, sometimes you won't have as much time as you would like, in which case, your fundamental craft comes into play, your ability to give something polish, to pay attention to every part of the image. You may not have time to give the piece the level of rigor that you would like, but you do have a fundamental responsibility as a professional to make sure it's polished. The words, "I didn't have enough time" simply indicate to an editor or art director that you aren't ready. Every piece should have this fundamental polish, which is why it's so important to maximize the time you have. So give yourself the tools you need, whatever they might be! Time management is as important a part of your craft as any other skill. 


  1. I am so glad I found this blog. I feel like im reading from the inside of my own head. Im just starting my career as a freelance artist and I struggle with time and work and wasting time and not having a life but still not getting anything done all the time. Its really refreshing to read these posts. Thanks.

  2. I'm glad you're finding it useful. I'm just discovering how to use my time effectively and really figuring it out as I go. My freelance career is only truly beginning right now, at the age of 38, 14 years after I graduated from the San Jose State illustration program. So it's been a long haul, and it isn't over yet. As long as you keep drawing, keep working, it might take a long time but as long as you don't give up I think it can happen.