Be the Early Bird (Updated)

As an artist, productivity is often on my mind. As in, How can I get more paintings done? or When can I devote regular time to my  blog, or do more plein air painting, or, or, or . . . etc? But, mostly, since I want to earn the bulk of my income from selling paintings, it's "how can I get more paintings done?"

Well, after having a conversation with an artist friend who is very productive despite having a family with young children, I have done ONE thing to significantly change my level of productivity. He told me that on his studio days he's working at 6 am. I've often heard that some of the most productive people are early risers, and, of course, it makes since. It's something I've just told myself is not for me. I'm a night owl. I love those late hours when everyone is in bed and I can really buckle down and get things done. Except, I don't. I have every intention of getting things done. But, I don't. And, I finally had to admit to that to myself. What I'm really doing during that time is pouring over that night's box score and stats from the Ranger game, cruising political websites, watching the latest Arrow or Justified episode, doodling in my sketchbook, . . . etc.  I enjoy that time, but it's not productive. And, I'm tired in the morning. 

The ONE Thing

SO. I've begun getting up early to be sitting at the easel by 5:30 am Monday thru Friday. That gives me an extra 10 hours of painting time per week. At  7:30 I begin getting ready for my day at Gemini, where I teach and get about 20 hrs of studio time. A consequence of getting up by 5:30 am is that I have to get to bed much earlier. So now I'm in bed by 10:30 pm. I lose those great night time hours, but as I said before, they weren't productive anyway. This change in schedule has forced me to be more deliberate overall with the use of my time. I've found myself thinking ahead much more, because I want that work time to be maximized. Paraphrasing Ben Franklin, "Don't put off till tomorrow what can be done today." Before going to bed I make sure my palette is clean and on the taboret, and that my egg cooking skillet is clean and in position on the stove top. 

Further Inspiration . . . 

One person I admire quite a bit in the world is Alex Epstein. He's the founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and the man behind the mic on the podcast "Power Hour" . On the May 9th episode of Power Hour Alex talked about what he's learned about productivity over the years and how he applied those practices to his latest challenge of writing his forthcoming book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels from cover to cover in four months. If you listen to one episode of Power Hour, listen to the May 9th episode!

  Update . . . 

So, since I wrote this original post, a couple of things have changed ( to say the least). First, the school year has ended so I'm no longer required to be somewhere between the hours of 9 and 6. Second - and this is a big one - my daughter was born! Those two things have dramatically changed my schedule. But, anticipating this, I sat down and wrote out a schedule for myself. I know, Duh, right? Well, I've never done that before, and I know I'm not the only one. At least, I've never written myself a schedule and stuck with it. But this time is different. I'm committed, I'm doing it, and I love it. Here's the schedule I wrote out for myself:

7:00 - 9:00 -- Paint

9:00 - 10:00 -- Breakfast/Shower

10:00 - 1:00 -- Paint

1:00 - 2:00 -- Lunch

2:00 - 4:00 -- Read/Answer emails/Write/Sketch/Think

4:00 -- Workout/Shower

5:00 -- Cook Dinner

That's what I wrote out. In practice, it's been modified. I get up between 6:30 and 6:45, make coffee and set up my palette. I grab a couple of Lara bars (Peanut Butter Cookie ONLY) and a fresh mug of coffee and get it on - skipping the 9 to 10 breakfast and shower. Yes, I'm in the clothes I slept in for most of the day. So I start painting at 7, not breaking until around 10:30 or 11 when my wife pokes her head in the studio with my daughter to say Hi. I hug and smooch my daughter for a bit and continue painting till 1. Then lunch till 2, and back in the studio till 4. 

With my newborn daughter, my 10 yr old stepson and my wife all being home right now, it is a challenge to stick to my schedule. I won't say I've been able to totally do it every day, but pretty darn close. The distractions are many, and we all have them. That's why we have to wake up every day resolved to stick to our guns and get things done. 



To Which Gallery Should I Send This Painting?

Short answer: To the one who acts like they want it. 

Many artists have their work represented by multiple galleries. I currently have work in two different galleries. This is a good thing, but sometimes it can be difficult to decide where to send a painting. Sometimes a gallery is  having a particular show that they want you to participate in. In that case, the decision is easy. You make a painting for that show, and send it to that gallery. But, as is often the case for me, I make a painting I want to make, and then have to decide to which gallery it goes.

There are logistic considerations. One gallery I have to ship to, one I don't. In regards to the painting in question, packing and shipping cost is especially important. This painting is on the large side. Advantage: local gallery.

I also think about which gallery has an audience that might respond to the subject matter of the painting. For example, I'd send my Cowboy paintings to my gallery in Colorado, and my Clam Chowder paintings to my gallery in New England. For this painting, I think both galleries would have an interested audience. 

Next, which gallery do I need to feed at this time? Meaning, how long has it been since I last sent them a painting? The gallery I have to ship to is hungry. But, they are also the gallery I have to ship to.  Again, I'd like to avoid that upfront cost. 

What to do, what to do?


Well, I've made up my mind. It came down to this: One gallery reached out to me to say they like the painting, and hope I send it to them. And, one gallery didn't. So, I'm going to ship the painting. I will pay the cost of packing and shipping, and suffer the anxiety of placing my painting in the care of a pimply-faced teenager at Fed-Ex. Why? Because, sometimes I spend months working on a painting, and it's kind of nice to feel that my gallery appreciates that. Frankly, most galleries have no idea what goes in to making paintings, and don't care. It's just a commodity to them, a piece of inventory. 

As long as artists need galleries (and I think we still do), we have to deal with galleries who are enthusiastic about our work. Take a look at the roster of artists on some gallery websites. They're endless. I counted 140 artists on the roster of one gallery where I used to show. With that many artitsts, it's easy to get lost. And, can you really expect that gallery to give attention to 140 different artists? True, it's our job to distinguish ourselves, but there's only so much wall space. 

So, to have a gallery express excitement about my work means something. It, hopefully, means that they will do more to expose my work. They will be proud to associate the work with their gallery. Bottom line, they will probably put more energy into selling the painting. And, that's what it all comes down to: Selling the painting.