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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inceasing Value and Quality of Studio Time

"Bugle Call" on peacock wing feather, available at Lucas Art Gallery, Graham WA

How do you enable yourself to stay at work for long hours in isolation in your studio? Have you found means through good music, scented candles, maybe a radio show? Do you find your enthusiasm waning after several hours with no one to speak to or listen to?

It's a problem that I'm sure all of us encounter from time to time. One can only take so much isolation at work with our craft before we just have to get out, have someone to talk with, see something different. Breaking up the monotony is most definitely needed with some degree of regularity, lest the very quality of our work stagnate and grow stale.

I try to toss in variety wherever I can. During the cold, gray, dark winter months though, that can be a challenge. When the weather is bright and the days are long, a quick escape into the mountains offers immediate reprieve and refreshes the spirit - the scents on the wind, the bright sun, so many colours in nature around us. When skies turn a cold gray, though, and access to those hiking trails become challenges in their own right, not to mention the short daylight hours keeping us on shorter treks, I've turned to breaking up the monotony within the studio.

Music certainly helps a lot, and adds so much to the working environment. My tastes in music are a little obscure, centering heavily on Scots-Celtic, or Trad. The internet has made obtaining such music so very easy where it would have been nearly impossible without. A cheerful tempo comes through on the other end of one's brush and adds lively strokes to the painting itself. After a while, though, one again feels wanting... for something.

I found all new steam within audio books. This was something my husband had turned to back when he drove long-haul. Books on CD made long hours in a truck much more endurable. I thought I'd try this option in the studio. I began with "The Other Queen" by Philippa Gregory. I'm a sucker for an historic story, and was stuck between this and "Master and Commander". I must say I am amazed at how a good story well read and told can make the studio hours fly by! Even more so, at the end of the book I was amazed at the amount of production that had flown across my table!

Yes, I think I can spend the remainder of these dark months working away, and I don't think "cabin fever" is going to get the better of me as it once had. Now instead of selecting music labels, I'm also selecting book titles for studio time. I am looking forward to trips down to the library to see what sort of history books they might have on CD, or historic fiction- or any sort of adventuresome tale to liven up the work. Hmmm, a fifteen-hour book? Oh yes, I should think I can get a LOT of work done while listening to that!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bracing for Growth

A friend does readings that I have found to be incredibly spot-on. Occasionally she generously offers a free one-card-draw with these Balance cards that she created. The card that [info]haikujaguar drew for me in her one-card draw did come as a bit of a surprise. The Sapling. It's hard to think that business growth may still be very much in its sapling stage, but it very well could be.

This was her interpretation:
Wow, I almost feel sorry for you, because I drew the Sapling and that shows up at the beginning of big and lasting things, indicating that they're about to grow.

I don't know if you can handle much more growth at the rate your growth is growing!

So... um... I will look at this and say, "Please schedule in some rest time for yourself, or you will collapse in the orchard." :)

Being that business and professional pursuits were very much on my mind when I asked for a card, I can't imagine what else it would be, other than business and profession. Though I was hoping for a card that indicated travel and adventure! ;D

The best ways I can think of to be ready for further growth is improving one's workplace and streamlining how things get done.

I think that proper insulation of the studio definitely HAS to be on the must-do list sometime this year. The room is too frigid in winter to work in there, and too expensive to heat. The most I can do in there these days is stain mouldings and join frames. And that's a shame! It's a nice-sized room! Yes, must put some attention to this workspace and make it a better, more comfortable working environment.

With so many eagles and flags being requested, for veterans and for Scouts, I've gotten into the routine of having the mats, glass, and frames all ready to go - several of them - at any given time. It just makes production so much easier, because the formula for those never varies. Red and blue mats, with muted blue mat for the background; bullnose moulding, dark walnut stain. Keep it simple and straightforward, and the work-time will improve. Can't do that with everything else though, because the colours, themes, subject matter, and individual tastes are so varied! There's no buttonholing anything else. But at least with the single most popular, it's a set standard.

I haven't done it yet, but I do plan on charting incoming commissions- orientation, subject matter, customer's stats, need-by date, etc. It will be a tactile thing, hand-done on large paper and tacked to the studio wall. This is to hopefully help streamline things, but even more so to make sure that no one is missed. I'm very much a visual thinker, and if it's all drawn out and in front of me, I can more easily follow.

Email. I must apologize if I have not yet responded to your email! the holidays were overwhelming and I'm still trying to catch up. During all of last year my inbox was admittedly in a constant state of overwhelm- there were so many queries coming in as a result of that wandering painted-feathers email that I just could not get on top of it all and paint too. I'm tackling that problem.

I have divided up business emails in my inbox. I flag any email pertaining to business, from clear queries right on down to a simple friendly "hey, I like your work". All those little red flags greet me and tell me "HEY, you need to get on these!" When I respond to them, I move them to the "answered queries" folder. if I hear back from a person and it turns out that they would like to order, then that email and anything else they sent goes to the "active orders" folder. This way I can follow the conversation and keep up on the little details that they want to include in their commissioned piece.

Admittedly, it's bit cumbersome, but it's a start in organization. :)
Have you come upon any methods and techniques in dealing with business email that you've found extremely useful? If so, I'm all ears! ;D

Monday, January 05, 2009

2009 - Commit

Upon reviewing my goals for this year (which I will post later), I could see that some may be on the ambitious side. Ambitious, but certainly not impossible if the path is clear and the plans are well laid. Most are business related, but some are about personal growth and fun. In the wake of all that happened last year, I've raised the trajectory a bit higher, pushing a little further, and even shooting for something I've never done before.

With some intimidating plans in sight, how do I move forward and put it into action? If I think about one or two of these too hard, a pessimistic little voice nags at me- "What are you thinking? Aim a little lower, it'll be easier!" I start to think of all the reasons why I shouldn't try, things that could prevent any success.

Now aiming higher causes a natural hesitation in people and prevents them from proceeding - it can even cause "fear". Jack White wrote a great e-book for artists on that, called The Malady of Fear. As he has said several times, "water seeks its own level". If you want to move beyond that you have to push yourself. Don't accept "can't" and stay at your current level. As Hannah Moore once said, "Obstacles are those frightful things that you see when you take your eyes off your goal." So recognize them, but see them as hurdles to leap over or find your way around, don't look at them as brick walls preventing you from seeing your goal or from seeing the path ahead that will get you there.

I've summed up my actions on these goals this year in one word: Commit. This is most definitely an action word, one that requires strength and faith and determination. The dictionary defines "commit" in several ways, the relevant ones of which I will list and explain how I'll put them to work:

1. - to give in trust or charge; consign.
2. - to consign for preservation: to commit ideas to writing; to commit a poem to memory.
3. -
to bind or obligate, as by pledge or assurance; pledge: to commit oneself to a promise; to be committed to a course of action.
4. - to do; perform; perpetrate
5. - to pledge or engage oneself: an athlete who commits to the highest standards.

I'm trusting my instincts and committing to these goals for 2009. A lot of thought and planning was put into them, and as long as I am committed to them and don't lose sight of them they can be achieved.

I have committed these ideas to writing to clarify how I'm going to get from "here" to "there". I have a cheap notebook specifically designated for that purpose. All the possibilities are jotted down when the thought occurs - any possible lead, time-frame, challenge, procedure or must-do - anything that pertains to these goals is recorded - whether by writing, drawing, pasting clips, whatever it takes to make it all very clear and to show me that these indeed are attainable.

One of my seemingly too-high-to-reach goals for this year is a trip to Scotland. Thinking on that one too hard definitely dredges up apprehensions. I've never been to the UK before. That's a long way to travel, and an expensive trip! Fear and apprehension make me want to back down, but I won't. I'm committed to it. I've already committed by ordering the event passport to The Gathering in Edinburgh. Where will I go beyond that? We shall see! But I do have a lot of ideas, and I'm building on them all the time. :)