Why don’t you draw more?

I completed 10 drawings in 2014, and 10 in 2013.  I’m pleased with that number, but you might wonder “Why don’t you draw more?”  The answer is complicated!  I’m not here to make excuses, I’m here to help my fellow artists feel less guilty about their own production rate, and help others understand why I’m fine with my rate.  There’s more involved than the actual art creation!

First of all, I have a full-time job as a software engineer at a startup company, so that consumes a minimum of 40 hours per week.  Art is not my “hobby”, though—it’s my other career.  Every day, I have art-related stuff to do.  I’m no less of a professional for having a non-art-related career that I enjoy and that pays the bills and subsidizes my art business.  It just means I can’t do my art activities full-time.

Second, my drawings take many hours to complete.  A 5”x7” image of a monarch butterfly may take up to 20 hours; a 15”x20” image of a tree may take 80 or more hours.  It’s the nature of colored pencil, one of the few downsides of the medium.

Third, there’s everything else.  To illustrate: last Sunday I spent most of the day doing art-related tasks that involved no drawing at all.  It was all stuff that needed to be done:

  • Uploaded a new image to my website and two other websites on which I have galleries
  • Updated prices and calendar page on my website
  • Reviewed several dozen potential reference photos to narrow down to what my next drawing will be
  • Submitted an entry for an upcoming juried exhibit
  • Set up a new set of 120 colored pencils, organized in containers by color family
  • Corresponded with the education coordinator regarding my upcoming workshop
  • Emailed advance information to the registrants of my upcoming workshop
  • Assembled packets for my upcoming workshop
  • Corresponded with a commission client
  • Made giclee prints for client
  • Read latest issue of Professional Artist magazine
  • Closed out income and expense folders from 2014
  • Created new business spreadsheet for 2015
  • Reviewed sale ads from online art supply retailers for possible bargains

I get tired just reading all that!  I didn’t even realize I’d accomplished so much until I wrote it out.  Anyway, this is a good example of how a day can be consumed by doing necessary art-related tasks without actually creating art.  And this is not unusual.  Other tasks that may come up are:

  • Answering queries from my website
  • Preparing presentations
  • Delivering or picking up artwork from the framer
  • Delivering or picking up artwork from an exhibit
  • Attending an exhibit opening reception
  • Packaging artwork for shipment
  • Taking artwork to USPS or UPS
  • Blogging
  • Buying supplies, either online or at a local store
  • Planning and running CPSA chapter meetings and events
  • Printing and packaging cards and prints for sale
  • Scanning artwork and processing the digital images
  • Recording my income, expenses and mileage in a spreadsheet and filing receipts

Many of the tasks on these lists would not be there if I was doing my art only recreationally, but since I am trying to meet professional goals and make a business of it, they are necessary.  So 10 finished drawings per year is fine with me.