i was recently a featured artist on the ArtsyShark website, which you can see here. part of the interview was to discuss what i’m currently working on, but this time of year i’m typically more focused on administrative tasks over painting. although i was originally hesitant to bring it up, i asked carolyn if i should write a little bit about my organization of business practices vs. creative practices and how i batch tasks. she thought other artists would be interested, and i’ve been pleasantly surprised by the responses and follow up questions. so, to further expand on that, i thought i would go a little more into my daily practices.
because of the idiosyncrasies of an encaustic studio, as well as those of my studio, my practice developed into a certain rhythm. the year wound up divided into four separate periods; the heat of summer was too hot to paint, and the deep cold of winter was too cold. at first, i just took these periods as breaks, or focused on work which would be done outside the studio. but these forced breaks have become a rather integral period i use for my career development and those things which must be done and don’t involve studio time; updating the websites, photographing completed works, etc.
another eccentricity of an encaustic studio is, unless you have everything set on a timer or have other work to do, typically you can’t just walk into a studio and start slathering molten wax. the paints have to be warmed up, and my studio takes about an hour for everything to be at the point where i can start working. i know everyone has their own special routines they go through during this time. for me, i usually sit with a cup of coffee, cat in lap and i look at, among other things, calls and requests for proposal (rfp). there are a variety of sites i go through (a list of sites i typically look at are on my link page here), and i’ve gotten it down to a point where it goes rather quickly. i have loosely based criteria i look for in a call and anything which looks vaguely interesting i bookmark in my browser.
the bookmark system, for me, is really were the rubber meets the road. it’s what allows me to be organized and on top of what i’m doing. probably residual freakish-anal-retentive-leftover-behavior from my days as a project manager, i break everything down by due date. the bookmark system is broken up into sets of folders as shown below:
exciting, eh!?! when i bookmark a call, i tag it with the due date of the call in front of the call title, i.e. “2.17.12 apexart :: Unsolicited Proposal Program” and drop it into the appropriate month folder. if the call is something important, is an rfp which will take time to develop, or is a call i know i want to apply for but is due at the beginning of the month, i’ll drop it into the folder for the month before or whatever month i plan to begin working on that call. my preference is to allow 6 weeks to work on an rfp. at this point i don’t worry too much about organizing the dates within the folders. i’m just sorting.
the month organization itself starts at the beginning of the month. instead of searching through calls, i’ll spend the morning going through the calls bookmarked for the month and organizing them by date. i’ll also note the due dates on a desk calendar, starring those which i know i’m going to apply for. it may seem repetitive, but i don’t want to have to turn on the computer to look at dates and how my month is laying out. i’ll also note down conference calls, webinars, or anything else i have scheduled for the month. something to take note of with calls are there are different types of due dates. some are postmark, but not all, so you must make sure you know which is which. if it’s not clear, ask. if you note the call thinking it’s postmark, but it’s received by, you’re work is going for nothing. when it is a “received by” date, i build in time for delivery and adjust the call date accordingly.
now that the month is organized, when i’m perusing the listings, news, etc., in the morning i also have my own deadlines noted. on mondays, i’ll spend a bit more time reviewing them to determine if i really want to apply or not. you don’t have to apply to them all, and i definitely don’t. but looking at them all mapped out with the important ones starred lets me know what the workload is going to be like. last fall i had something like 7 calls, 5 rfps (including residency applications) and 2 grant applications due within 5 weeks. almost all of them were important, so it becomes an issue of prioritizing, planning ahead and starting early. although i didn’t apply for all of the calls, i would never have made the deadlines without being organized and planning ahead.
organization like this can seem monotonous. when i was younger, i felt that to have these kinds of practices or to have routines was the absolute death of creativity. ruts were ruts no matter how you looked at them. there is a distinction though between a routine which makes your life easier and a rut. and having these small routines frees me from having to make small, unimportant decisions all the time and frees me to focus on what’s really important. i hope this helps, somewhat. what makes your life easier and allows you to be more prepared?