Summer Assignment: Get Out of Your Studio

Tuesday July 01, 2008 by Juliette Wolf-Robin, ADBASE

Posted in: Stimulating Creativity

The title "professional artist" conjures up idyllic images of a leisurely life spent pondering ideas and making art on a whim. Your parents may even wonder out-loud what it is you actually do with your day. But as any professional artist can attest, the reality is that the "job" consists mainly of taking on all the responsibilities of being in business, as well as looking for clients, before an opportunity to be creative begins. Running a business involves marketing, estimating, billing, managing staff, researching the latest software, computers, printers, cameras and other tools of the trade, as well as knowing a little about everything in order to produce and deliver jobs successfully. The life of a freelancer is dominated by the perpetual search for new business. How do you stay creative with so many right brain tasks demanding your attention?

Your success as an artist depends on your ability to manage a business. It is also critically important, however, that you stay inspired. That is why my marketing advice today is that you step away from the studio. Take time to care for your most valuable asset: your creativity. Make a concerted effort to keep your mind fresh and keep new ideas flowing.

Of course, you must prepare for this time away. Free time never presents itself openly; it must be scheduled, as any job would be. Work it around your upcoming marketing program. Consider when you will be producing and delivering your next promotional piece. Then plan your personal "recharging" escape just before it is sent. In this way you will be better mentally prepared for the next round of projects.

How will you recharge? Where will you find inspiration on demand? Begin by going back and looking at the work of the masters in your field; remember why you originally wanted to be an artist. Re-engage yourself with the use of color. Jasper John's exhibit at the MET in New York, of all grey and black work, for example, reminds one of the nuances within the absence of color.

When was the last occasion you spent time alone in New York just visiting museums and galleries? This is not the same as a family vacation. This is your selfish, quiet time when you get back in touch with the root of creativity. If you prefer more structured programs, consider ways that will help make you a better artist; whether it's taking a drawing class or a workshop, attending an industry conference or meeting with a consultant.

Need help reconnecting with what's going on out there or who to call? Check out the following resources for some ideas:

  • http://www.myurbansherpa.net
    A new website on New York City developed by Alison Curry, who many of you may know as one of our industry's own.
  • http://flavorpill.com
    Great for staying up on events, exhibit and interesting happenings in a number of major cities.

Another invaluable resource specifically for our industry is the Dart email newsletter. It outlines photo and illustration exhibits going on around the country each week. It's put out by American Illustration-American Photography but doesn't appear on any web site. Send them an email to sign up for it: dart@ai-ap.com

Looking for a hotel? This web site provides incredibly helpful information from other travelers about where to stay in any city on any budget: http://www.tripadvisor.com

There are infinite possibilities, even if you don't leave your hometown. Start with the local galleries or museums. Then go to a library or bookstore and spend an entire day just pouring over books. Start with the art books then sneak over and peak at those entrepreneurial business books and finish with a few glances at some inspirational guidebooks. I guarantee you'll walk away with some new ideas.

A revamp of your portfolio and web site may be needed for you to get excited about making those cold calls again. Your friends, your spouse, your partner and the people who work with you everyday are most often too close to give unfiltered advice. Pay a consultant to help you edit and look at your body of images with a fresh perspective. You can find top industry professionals on the ADBASE site.

Find ways to get enthusiastic about what you do before sending out your next mailer. It's imperative that you recharge. Make it your next assignment. Get out of your studio. It's your job.