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A Day in the Life

The Night Before
I’ve been looking over my blog and realizing I haven’t written anything for this blog for a couple of months. I written interviews, newsletters, press releases, statements… I’ve started several articles for this blog also, mainly about shows I’ve visited that I wanted to share.

Tonight, I am sitting at home while my children and their friends watch TV downstairs. I am sitting at my computer opposite my husband (and business partner) who is filling in details into my artworks database. We keep this up to date so that in future I can remember what piece was shown where, how much it sold for, and to whom; what medium I used, surface and so on. I got the idea to do this from one of the books I read this year – that Santa brought me – on how to prosper as an artist. In all honesty, it was one of the only useful tidbits in those books. For me, as a beginning professional, full time artist, very very few of them had anything to offer that wasn’t just common sense. In fact, several infuriated me by ‘writing down to me’. One in particular very popular one was a complete waste of money. But I digress.

We are sitting here and as he updates our Bento database I file my receipts, and keep my very simple accounting system up to date. I keep my own system using a lined journal that records paids and received, sales taxes and so on. It works for me, and is flexible enough that I can record details of what each purchase is. I had long enough of a career in business that I like to total up what I spent on each kind of item, and look for interesting trends, or obvious waste, areas to save on, and so forth. I find this kind of activity soothing, grounding. It reminds me that being an artist is running a business, really very much like any other business. Notwithstanding the unusual category that art falls into – luxury, aesthetic, reaching the parts of the soul and mind that few other things in our society does.

The Night Ends, the Morning Begins… I am continuing writing this in the morning…
I’ve tried a couple of times to conduct a time analysis study of myself, to keep minute details of what I do each day, the kinds of activity I spend my time on. These actually fell by the wayside when I realized I spent the majority of time in my studio simply looking, thinking, reacting. I might end up using perhaps 30 minutes to put actual paint on surfaces. Other days, I will paint madly with no break and emerge an art object myself – do I count time cleaning up in the shower in my time analysis study? I wondered. When a ‘product’ can be the product of thought for months, then a mad half day in the studio, how on earth can I quantify that? I certainly can’t keep a time and motion study of my thoughts. Although in my more rigorous analytical mode, I might have tried…

Analysis notwithstanding, largely, I have a hard-working and disciplined week. This is my full-time career, and I take it very seriously. I try not to stress myself out (my biggest failure, I fear!), but I do want to succeed, to grow and develop as an artist. As well as my own business matters, I also help run the Plano Arts Association with my (now) good friend Katrine, who is also an artist and entrepreneur; I run local art competitions for school; I have to volunteer as an announcer at swim meets, for my daughter’s swim team. Of course, I am also a mother and spend my evenings running around taking them where they need to be, feeding them, talking to them. Being a mother and being an artist are very integrated things for me. I’ve often heard people say that making and selling art is like giving birth. Well, frankly, it isn’t. It’s really nothing like it. In my experience. The feelings and experience have been nothing like at all, for me, anyway.

In one regard these two intersect in my life. My children have a way to engage with me, as their mother, in a way many other children never will. They see my works forming, growing, developing. They see my emotional progress on each work, and we don’t always need words to express things to each other. We are all used to “looking” and more importantly to “seeing”, they of my work, and I of theirs. Expressing using images exposes your inner self truly, but in a contradictory sense remains utterly private. So we can share our emotional landscapes without intruding on each others’ most private inner chambers.

They also see me carry on after disappointments, celebrate after successes, work hard, and direct my activities in a way that they wouldn’t if I had remained in a conventional career. They also see how I bring the higher, intellectual sides of art into my everyday life, and make that the focus of my thoughts. Art weaves beauty, history, science, maths, politics and philosophy together. As a child and now adult for whom the intellect matters more than most other things, and my children seeming to be of the same ilk, it is important to me that I can model for them how to live with that. Amusements for people with these interests can sometimes be thin on the ground in our everyday culture, and I want them to see how I carve it out for myself.

A Day in the Life School is out today, so I have to finish writing this article quickly, and rouse my children (they have a friend sleeping over). I have to drop her off on the way to Dallas to take some works to a gallery at 9am; on my way back I must take some pajamas to a friend who bought them (swim team fundraiser); meet a journalist at Starbucks to talk about the Plano Arts Association; call a collector about delivery of a work to her; drop my kids off a destination Imagination meeting (I am no longer the team manager this year, phew!); get one of them ready by 4pm for this evening’s swim meet; and this evening, I’ll perhaps be delivering a large artwork, but I’ll certainly be getting ready for my flight to Corpus Christi for the Third Coast National exhibit at K Space Contemporary. I’m flying back early on Sunday so that I can make it to the reception for a show at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas, that also has my work in it.

This is perhaps not a totally typical day. You will notice that at no time do I get to pick up a brush. This is certainly not untypical. I do have a backlog of commissions I am working on, and my own new series, and all the while I am doing these other activities thoughts of that calm, serene (or hectic, torn, marked) surface that I am painting on lazily drift back and forth, like rafts on a slow, dark river (or rush tormented in the shadows of the trees along the bank). The fact that the majority of my brain is pretty much always engaged with thinking and processing  my works to arrive at the right combinations, ideas, associations, memories and images probably makes me a bit of a distracted wife, mother and friend. The fact that I have worked to create a life in which I get to siphon it off is priceless to me. It feels so good to find the right way to spend time in this life, the one that suits you best of all.

But for now, I have to rush and shower and get ready for a day that is everything I ever wished for.

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  • Fi October 18, 2010, 12:44 am

    Thanks for writing about your ordinary day Alison. I too find myself caught up in a lot of running around each day, but the creativity, the problem solving, the idea generation, is always bubbling away in the background. Having this time away from the canvas, this ‘down time’ is actually essential to creating work that has had time to mature properly.