The Positives (& Pitfalls) Of The Social Artist
by Daric Gill
An artist’s occupation can be full of socialization. Art openings, studio gatherings, or normal artist meet-ups have plenty to offer an artist if they are so inclined. Congregating with other like-minded people can aid in idea making, business propositions, and escape the general studio (or day-job) rut. Most see it as a necessity to stay relevant in the quickly changing world of art. But it can also hold a large base of distraction if one isn’t careful. In this article, I’ll discuss the merits of the social artist as well as the inhibitors that can sometimes lead to more procrastination than a primer.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with simply having a good time with friends. This article is aimed at the artist who is looking to be more social or is interested in getting a little more from their social exuberance.
Are you really looking for pleasure, procrastination, or priming? All are ok as long as you’re honest with yourself.
THE ART PARTY
In recent years I’ve seen a rise in the art party. These are usually relaxed gatherings of artist friends where the main goal is to pass some time as a group while making non-strenuous artwork and sharing ideas.
The Positive: This can be a good place to be if you’re struggling to get yourself into the studio and need that extra push to make something. It’s not an everyday thing, but to some, it can be a little booster shot.
The Pitfall: High risk of becoming more ‘party’ than ‘art’. Many people start with enthusiastic intentions, but then struggle to translate the energy to real work. It’s easy to continually hope to have more done next time or turn into the person who is more interested in looking like an artist than being one.
Remedy: Centered things around personal achievements. Make a goal of progression and hit it. Acting the part of an artist without actually taking part in the actions can seem a bit pretentious. It’s important to make something if you want to wear the artist’s persona.
THE DRINK & DRAW
Love drinking? Love drawing? The drink & draw is a perfect match. Usually set at a bar or place where liquor is served, the drink & draw is a really good place to prime the idea-making pump.
The Positive: Relaxing (sometimes themed) social gathering where booze can free up some stiff mental gears. Great for test-driving ideas with low pressure.
The Pitfall: Drink, Draw… Drunk. Ask yourself, do you really need more doodle time? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Having fun is the priority, and that’s ok. Just don’t assume that it is always going to produce a final showpiece. If located at a bar, it also has the potential to eat into your wallet.
Remedy: If you find you’re drinking more than drawing, maybe skip a few meetings and just draw at home. Not as fun, I know. But if you want to work more and play less — it’s that simple. Or find a way to spend a week or so working your sketches into a final piece.
GROUP STUDIO PARTIES
So you’ve worked really hard and need to relax a bit with friends. Awesome! Many art collectives will treat themselves to a nice dinner or drink after spending hours in the studio. Often times, this is a group of studio mates or artist pals who share spaces together.
The Positive: This is a good way to create self-made deadlines. Sometimes it’s used to get people in the studio to work instead of having an empty space. Groups can very easily set daily work deadlines for each other.
The Pitfall: Becoming a softy who worked hard for a few hours and feels like it merits reward. What if you have a day job and everyone else is leaving to get food or drinks? You can fall into the “What the heck, it’s been a long day. I’m going to reward myself.”
Remedy: This one is tricky. Finding a balance of work/play is crucial for staying sane. But if you plan on treating yourself to a reward, make sure you deserve it first. Don’t make a habit of calling it a reward when it’s closer to giving up for something easier and more interesting. There’s a magical tipping point of accomplishment for each person. Stopping just shy of that point is a very harmful habit to productivity.
The Art Opening
Wine and cheese? Check. Business cards aplenty? Double Check. Too many events to go to each week? Definitely.
The Positive: The art opening is a great way to stay up to snuff with current artists and their openings in your city. In addition, showing support for other artists and their openings can help aid when it’s time for you to desire the same attention. Potential clients and future art venues are in potent supply at the art opening.
The Pitfall: Make sure that it’s not all show openings and no art-making. It can be really easy to find yourself in the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” situation. It’s important that you have openings too. Otherwise, you’re just another guest book name.
Remedy: Look at your calendar and find the dates of key openings you wish to attend. Schedule checkpoints in your work to coincide with these dates. Set a goal to finish work right before you go to an opening. Don’t go until you’re finished.
Coffee & Conversations
Meeting over coffee can be an excellent way to vent or do some really important ideation. It can get you out of your head and into the real world.
The Positive: It’s a safe client-space and caffeine can be just what the doctor ordered for long sessions in the studio. Whether it’s plugging in the headphones and sketching your hands off or meeting with artist friends, the coffee shop can be a vastly productive space.
The Pitfall: But be warned, I’m the first to admit how fickle the working time can be over coffee. Some days are quite productive while others can be a non-stop barrage of distractions. Free wi-fi, or no wi-fi, impromptu conversations with friends, and focussing too heavily on anything NOT art related can really get in the way of art ideation.
Remedy: Change up your working space from time to time. Located where there are limited cafes? Visit new auxiliary spaces. If I’m allowed, I even tote my own Thermos full of coffee. Examples: the library, a park, outdoors, restaurants, etc.
Sometimes productivity is as simple as this: Ditch the distractions & get to work
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2 thoughts on “A Guide For Improving Productivity For the Social Artist”
Daric, I enjoy reading your articles. I like the way you used positive, pitfall…but gave a remedy. The life of a fulltime artist brings about stresses & procrastination but most importantly I would think self discipline. You appear to be pretty balanced….or are you fooling me?
Thank you Donna! You’re absolutely spot on about artists needing self-discipline. In fact, that trait is more important to a self-sustaining career in the arts than raw talent. I think many people (artists included) forget that being an artist is being an entrepreneur. And to be successful at operating your own business one must be honest with themselves regarding where they can ‘trim the fat’. Most self-employed people would probably agree that it’s incredibly hard to find that balance between work and play. There’s always room for improvement, but I do feel that I’ve found a good sense of work/play balance in my life. The information passed to me by veterans in the field was not always easy to come by, but extremely helpful when it arrived. Of course, I certainly don’t have all the answers… not even close… but I do have some experience and I want to make what I know as open source as I can. Thanks again Donna. Your point is very insightful.