On Making Time to Make Personal Work


34e4816af4a411e2a9ed22000a1fb773_7Part of achieving the work/life balance that I’ve been striving for is making time for creating personal work. I’ve written about this before, but as working artists go, I think busy working illustrators, in particular — especially busy illustrators — struggle with finding time to make work just for the sake of making work (as opposed to making work specifically for a client, and that’s what I mean by “personal” work). I’ve been really lucky in that I continue to get (and take) a really nice amount of paying work and with great clients on fantastic projects. And I’m so grateful for that. But the flip side is that time for creative exploration (unattached to any particular outcome) has fallen by the wayside. I made a decision before I left for Paris that from now until the end of the year I would take every Wednesday afternoon (for at least 5 hours) to make personal work in my studio. It would be sacred time, and only illness or other extreme circumstances could interrupt it.  Even if I am up against tight deadlines with client work, I’ll take this time to play in my studio.

Yesterday was my first of these Wednesdays, and it was everything I’d hoped for: relaxing and fun. I’d started a new abstract painting a couple of months ago and it’s been sitting in various stages of completion for a long time. In addition, I have several blank, gessoed canvases waiting for paint. So the first thing I did was hang them on the vast studio wall that has been sitting unadorned since I moved there in March. I have never before had the luxury of so much wall or floor space in a studio, and I am thrilled to be using it now.

My goal was to really dig into the abstract that I’d started, and I spent the afternoon incorporating line work into the piece — an idea I’d been wanting to carry out for some time. I really love doing detailed line work. I find it incredibly calming. I mostly do it with pens in my sketchbook but today I decided to take it to a canvas with a small brush and some soft body acrylic paint. The result is below.


This piece is called Le Chemin, which means The Path in French. It’s 16×24 inches, gouache and acrylic on canvas.


It was a hot one in my studio yesterday. When it’s hot outside, it’s particularly hot in my studio. When it’s cold, it’s particularly cold. Admittedly, I spent a good part of the afternoon taking breaks to sit on my sofa to drink water and recover from the minor swelter. I have to remind myself that sitting and doing nothing for periods of time is not only part of the creative process, but part of how to not be a crazy workaholic. And that, my friends, is precisely what I am aiming for.