Making Time for the Studio

by Lisa Call on December 30, 2016

in About Me

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How I Use My Time

For the last 8 years I have posted a list of 100 accomplishments for the preceding year.   I’ll be posting my list for 2016 in the next day or 2..

The main purpose of the list is to celebrate all that I have accomplished.

Why?  Because I’m like most of you – I spend way too much of my time focused on all the stuff I didn’t get done and all the stuff I need to do versus remembering how much I actually did get done.

This practice helps me slow down and recognize I do get a lot done.

Invariably at the end of the exercise I realize that I am happy with how I have spent my time.

Make that mostly happy.

I’m always wishing for more studio time.

Every year I set a goal to work in my studio (actually making art – not doing biz stuff or anything online) 800-1000 hours during the year (15-20 hours a week).  And every year I’m bummed I don’t come close making that goal.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to make that happen on a more consistent basis.


Reviewing the Past – Studio Time

Firs tup is sorting out what might be a realistic studio goal.  Is 800-1000 hours a year reasonable?  Looking at my numbers from my previous 8 100 accomplishments lists it doesn’t seem like it:

  • 2008 – 446
  • 2009 – 388
  • 2010 – 536
  • 2011 – 459
  • 2012 – 520
  • 2013 – 350
  • 2014 – 382
  • 2015 – 416
  • 2016 – almost 500 (there are still a few days left!)

That’s an average of 437 hours per year (about 8 hours a week on average) over the past 9 years.


I started recording my studio hours years and years ago on advice from my accountant, to prove I actually was a professional artist.  I found the tracking to be such a huge benefit to my studio practice I eventually moved the recording from a separate sheet of paper to my sketchbook.

I kept studio records before 2008 but I unfortunately tossed those out as they were stored with my tax records.

From looking through my blog the only other year I can find is 2007 – when I hit 865 hours.  And I’m pretty sure that was the norm from 2003-2007.  I used to routinely hit 15-20 hours a week in the studio back then.


Why Was I Not Making my Goal?

Why am I no longer able to make 15-20 hours a week in the studio?

By reflecting on the past I observed the following:

  • It was right around 2007/2008 when I got serious about getting my art out in to the world.  The business side of art (pursuing opportunities, shipping art, writing, bookkeeping, connecting with collectors, getting art from “done” to “ready to exhibit”, etc, etc) – it all takes a big chunk of time.

  There are weeks I spend much more time at the computer than at the sewing machine.


  • And then there is the day job.

  I worked 40-50 hours a week as a software engineer from 2002-2014.  So the job alone was not the issue as  I was still able to reach 15-20 hours a week and still work.


  • And then in 2011 I started teaching workshops – in addition to my art and my day job.

  At the beginning I did most of the work on the weekends, which really cut into my studio time.

  The first few years I only taught two different classes (working in a series and abstraction) but looking at 2013 and 2014 I can really see the impact of teaching over 8 different workshops.

  That was a huge amount of work!  Not just the teaching, the marketing to fill the classes also takes a lot of time.

  • When I quit my software job in 2014, my studio time didn’t go up.  I think because I finally took some time off.

  I hiked a lot of 14,000 ft peaks in Colorado that year.  After working 80-100 hours a week for many years it was a much needed and enjoyed down time.

  •  In 2015 I arrived in New Zealand and I stopped working weekends.  As a result, studio time did not go up.  And I started having months at a time go buy with no artwork being made as I was moving and traveling back to the US for exhibits and to pack up my house.  Splitting time between two locations, one with a very sub-optimal studio wasn’t really working.


  • My teaching is now my day job and while it takes less time than a full time software job, it’s not a lot less.  I work 20-40 hours a week teaching depending on how many classes I have running.


  • In mid 2016 I consolidated my studios into one.  In the last 5 months I’ve and the last 5 months I’ve had nearly complete studio here in New Zealand.  And sure enough I’ve spend between 15 and 20 hours a week in the studio during that time.

  I was definitely putting in more than 40 hours a week and working on weekends to make it happen, but I was determined to finish my 100 days project.

To summarize…between the business side of art, working significantly fewer hours each week (most weekends and evenings off), and my day job (be it software or teaching) – I find it hard to get to the studio as much as I desire.


Something Has to Change

If I am going to make more art going forward I need to change something.  The options I considered:

  1. Cut back on the business side of my art.
  2. Work more hours
  3. Teach a lot less.

While I considered #1 – in the end I know it would never make me happy.  So I didn’t consider it for long.

I could go back to #2 and work more hours.  But I don’t want to get too crazy again.  Working 80-100 hours a week is too much work – even if it is in the studio. It doesn’t leave enough time for all the hiking and adventures I also enjoy.

So that leaves #3 is top of the list of what I’d like to do. While I love love teaching, I don’t love it more than I love my own artwork.   I’d love to focus solely on my artwork – that is the dream!

To do this, first need to be making more money from the sales of my artwork.  And/or I need to drastically reduce my expenses.  Both of which are going to take some time to set up.


The Plan for 2017

In 2017 I’m opting for #2 – I’m going to work more hours.  And those hours will be used to set things up so in 2018 I can select option #3.

This means a huge focus on getting my art into galleries and setting up recurring opportunities to sell my work.

Which means I will also need to be making the work to sell and am committing to 15-20 hours a week in the studio.

And I will maintain my usual teaching schedule through 2017.  I have 6 on classes scheduled for early in the year and will likely teach most of them again later in the year.  I also have 3 in person teaching gigs planned for the year.  And the 2017 master classes will start in March.  I will be teaching 2 master classes this year – a exhibit/sales focused class and a studio focused class.  More details on these coming soon over on Make Big Art.

The Plan for 2018 and Beyond

In 2018 I hope to up my studio hours to at least 25 hours a week and continue to sell and exhibit my work enough to cover the majority of my expenses (or even all of my expenses!)

As for workshops – I’m making no promises as to what I will or won’t be teaching.  A few in person workshops will likely always be on the list.  As for online classes – it all depends on how 2017 goes.

So….f you want to take a class from me – you might want to do it in 2017.




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