10.10.2011

Marketing Mondays: The Verdict? Guilty

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No, this has not suddently turned into a law blog. I was moved to create this short post after reading a comment in a recent MM, Do You Ever Think of Giving Up?  Nancy Natale wrote:

"Sometimes I think it would be nice to have
guilt-free time off."


Guilt: Why are we doing this to ourselves?


Yeah, yeah, I know one reason: We spend so much money each month for studio space that we feel we need to be in there every spare moment. But, really, if you own a car, do you feel compelled to drive it endlessly? Of course not. If you own a home, do you feel compelled to stay in just because of that mortgage you're paying. No you don't.  And you don't feel guilty about going out, either.

Many of us spend so much time doing other things, like working a nine-to-five, that we feel we need to squeeze out every spare moment in the studio. That's understandable.
But why the guilt when we aren't in the studio making art? It is a Calvinist work ethic? (We're not Calvinists.)  Is it something we learned in art school? (Hardly. We were all smoking weed and having sex.)  Is it the pressure of "making it"? (Taking a day off is not going to tip the scales either way.)  Is is age?  (I felt that weight when I was 25, and I'll bet you did too.)

Of course we want to spend our time in the studio. It's where we work. It's where we think. It's where we come home to ourselves. But . . .


. . . where does this emotional burden come from?

Please, let's discuss.

26 comments:

Ruth Hiller said...

I have been told most of my life, by corporate "friends" that I don't work because I am artist. "It must be so much fun being in the studio making things". "You can do whatever you want." You don't really work at a job".

SO for me it's leftover angst from coming from the corporate world of 9-5 and it being commendable the more hours you spent at "work".

Because, if I'm not in the studio constantly, then I am doing nothing! Or so I am told. It has taken a lot of years to let go of that belief!

Judy Shreve said...

For me what is fascinating - is I find I really benefit creatively from time spent away from my studio. I do best when I have space to allow ideas to bubble-up. It's that 'Calvinist' attitude that keeps me from doing my best work. I can't force art - even though I do believe showing up in your studio on a regular basis keeps you friends with your muse. Or just maybe we all need to return to smoking more and having more sex - lol

annell said...

I only speak for myself. I need to be in the studio, working... the more I do, the more I need to do. And as we get older, we realize life is not long, if we are do anything it must be now. I also think if the muse comes by, she will not stay if you are not in the studio at work.

Nancy Natale said...

Well, I never said I couldn't live with the guilt!

I think the emotional burden comes not only from the financial and career investments but also from comparing myself to other artists, who I am sure ARE in there every spare minute painting away while I'm lounging on the couch watching E News.

It's all a question of how "we" spend our time plus the ADD this speeded-up but frittered-away culture gives us. If we're not checking Facebook 10 times a day, writing a blog post, emailing friends, watching some useless reality program, talking to friends and chewing gum all at once, then we are not part of the culture.

The studio becomes a real haven. I think it's not only the desire to go to the studio to make work but to escape from all the demands made on us. In the studio, I am in control of how I spend my time, what music I listen to, and whether I work, read, eat lunch or nap. I'm making all the decisions - about working and about everything else. I think if they knew what it was, everyone would want a studio.

On the other hand, because I do have to earn a living outside the studio, I do feel the pressure to produce art and stay in the competitive game. I also have an internal pressure unrelated to sales or income because I know that emotionally I won't feel right unless I am making art. Whether that emotional imbalance comes from an excess of guilt or a decrease in satisfaction from seeing my ideas realized, it does exist. If I want to feel "right", I have to get to the studio. OK, so I'm addicted.

Barbara Carr said...

There's a good, positive posting on this subject on David Slonim's blog on April 4, 2011, "Obstacles to art making": http://davidslonim.wordpress.com/page/3/. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Jhina Alvarado said...

"Making it" as an artist takes time and commitment, which for me means spending as much time in the studio as possible. It's a job, you have to put your hours in. I hate it when artists whine about not being in galleries or getting shows when they spend less than 5 hours a week painting or don't do the necessary marketing. It doesn't just happen because you say you're an artist. Very few people just get "discovered" by doing nothing. You have to make it happen by putting in the hours. So for me, when I take a week off (like I did last week), I feel guilty because I feel like I am not putting in the necessary time needed to be a professional (and practicing what I preach), even though all professions give you some time off when needed. No one would ever call me an unprofessional teacher when I am not constantly teaching or decide to take a vacation .

I know it's ridiculous, but for me, I feel like I have to prove to myself (not as much) and others (all the time) that art is my profession and I am taking it seriously. It's a full-time job for me and I have to treat it like one, even though I already have another full-time job. If I am not painting all the time, then I must not take it as seriously as my teaching job, and I won't meet my goals. It's hard to let this belief go, but then it is also part of the reason I get a lot of work done and I am where I am. This belief makes it impossible for me not to be a "slacker'.

Karen Jacobs said...

I prefer to work in a home studio so don't feel the same 'need' to use rented space... though most of our homes have required a second mortgage to make that space suitable. The guilt comes from the years of hard work acquiring wall space in decent galleries... don't want to lose that because there are so many younger artists lined up to take my place. Gave thought to declaring myself retired when the economy tanked but can't bring myself to do it. I don't know how to retire voluntarily.

CMC said...

Work ethic that is hammered into most of us is my thoughts on the guilt thing. I feel it myself, although I know that I need to have a life so that some of that life and other interests will come through in my work.

CMC said...

Nancy. Did you sneak onto my studio and plant a camera?LOL RIght now sitting on couch reading an old book. New York: The Art World. And waiting for varnish to dry.

Mark said...

Maybe guilt and shame have an important evolutionary function? I know this country could use a little more sense of shame. All this "realty" tv exists because people have no shame. They will confess anything and do anything as long as they are on television. People commit crimes and call them mistakes. So while I am not in favor of guilt we must ask ourselves what positive function it may have. I don't know the answer but just another way to view it.

Steve Eichenberger said...

Q: Why do I feel more guilty when not making art than when not doing other things?

A: Mainly, it's because I believe I'm squandering my potential if I'm not making art.

Other ingredients:
-- Life is speeding by!
-- Need to contribute my fair share to joint income (two full time artists household)
-- Lost opportunity
-- Economic uncertainty adds urgency to work harder
-- Sense of betrayal to my inner artist if I watch TiVo, go for a walk, or _______
-- Other artists have achieved greatness with the same human limitations I have, so to the extent I don't measure up to them, I feel like it's my fault for not exerting enough effort
-- Need to work hard now for my future older self (and partner)
-- It's such a privilege to be an artist, I want to live up to the privilege
-- Recent switch of media makes me feel guilty

In general I hold this notion over my head: I could be a much better artist if I could just get out of my own way.

This is actually a huge issue for me; nearly paralyzingly so. I'm working on figuring it out so I can overcome it. I'm glad you posed the question point blank, so I could mull it over -- and see others' responses.

Philip Koch said...

Sometimes I think we artists all have a kind of "divine madness." Other times I think we're just nutty.

When I was a young artist I worked like mad to learn everything so I could paint genuinely accomplished work. As years went by I learned it usually took way longer to make a painting reach its potential than I'd originally imagined.

So often we artists are asked the question "How long did it take you to paint this painting?' I have to bite my tongue not to snap back at the questioner "a heck of a lot longer than you're thinking, buddy."

The irony is that once you've invested so much of yourself and your time in making your art you're then really obligated to your paintings to find an audience for them. Having shows, doing the publicity, shipping, etc. is part of the dues you pay to make your original investment of time in your studio meaningful. Is it something of a vicious circle?
Yes. But so it was for all those artists who've gone before you- O'Keefe, Sargent, Homer, you name it...

Eva said...

I don't feel guilt anymore but have come to understand art making as a 24/7 thing, something that happens both inside and outside the studio. And for better or worse, art became my sex and my weed, so there's no distractions!

kim matthews said...

At some point when I was reading one of those "how to make it as an artist" books, I finally got the message. Yes, I have a full-time job and other responsibilities that take considerable time and energy, but until I treated my art as a real job-meaning putting in the time in a consistent, disciplined way, it would only be a hobby. From there I had only to cut myself some slack and decide that art promotion, study, and research count too. It's not easy to be effective without large, uninterrupted blocks of time but making the effort beats sitting around and wondering why I'm not further along in my career. The best way to combat guilt? Work every day, whether it's studio time or time spent doing something to make your life in the studio easier. All is one.

Amantha Tsaros said...

What a great question. I used to feel this all the time. Guilty Guilty Guilty. But now I wonder if it IS guilt - maybe for me it is fear. Fear that I can't keep up or catch up. And then the guilt part grows out of feeling that I am not doing enough to keep up.

Cyndy Goldman Art Blog said...

When things are humming in the studio (where I live and work) I feel no guilt. I paint 5-6 hours a day, 5 days a week. The guilt creeps in when I find myself forgetting to pay bills on time, falling behind in my family and personal life. This angst is part of my cycle. Showing up every day is what matters most to me. When it's time to get outside after weeks of isolation, sometimes kicking and screaming, it makes what I do outside a more thoughtful process. Realizing where you are in your art career, facing it and dropping the illusions is a freeing thing.

Anonymous said...

I have never felt guilty about not being in the shop working. My technique is as good as its going to get I have been doing this for 30 years. I am working in my mind 24/7/365 days a year thats what i love most. The less I am in the shop the better my work gets.

smellofpaint said...

@Amantha and @Mark especially:
Yes, I acknowledge all of the reasons for feeling guilty others listed -- they can be and often are present, gnawing at our concentration and undermining the free flow of our art. It made a lot of difference to me to be able to consider these feelings as not separate from everything else in my life. Are these the only things I feel guilty about? Of course not... ;-) .
It has been said that guilt is the most useless of feelings... it incapacitates your better judgement and distorts the world around you... . Feeling embarassment, even shame, may indeed be of use as self-improvement tools; guilt puts a stress on something different; it's a step beyond that line of usefulness. Consider, how we were taught these thoroughly internalized tools in our childhood. They still remain a society's primary method of disciplining and punishing and shaping -- into conditioned responses that make us easier to control and yes, manipulate. (How many have been warped almost irretrievably, I ask with true sadness?) Note that these shaping tools are not the only ones possible... and that Amantha I think is right on, when she finds FEAR lurking behind as the actual root feeling... .
Fears are truly worth your while dealing with. They are our ever-watchful minds' contribution to keeping us out of trouble; when ignored they push out in different ways. Georgia O'Keeffe had put it this way: "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. " That's a pretty high standard to live up to -- and you need not feel guilty about that either!.. :-)
>>PHILIP<<

mariandioguardi.com said...

One definition of guilt that resonates with me: "guilt is what you choose when you don't want to do anything about the situation."

Jonathan said...

It is weird. Nothing to do with squandering my talent though. A vestige of the Protestant work ethic? being Martha instead of Mary? Do the Latin-influenced feel the same?

Indigene said...

I don't feel guilty! For me, it's always about perfecting the craft,or learning something new; either way, it makes me feel GREAT!!! :)

LXV said...

This essay is only slightly off-topic, being about computer programmers, but I think it contains helpful ideas about how creative people need to respect their scheduling needs

Michelle said...

I wish there was a "like" button for all these wonderful comments. I find myself relating to so many of them - yes, partly a paranoid tendency to compare myself to others, partly a vestige of the Protestant work ethic (I DO come from Midwestern Calvinists and if my 97 year old grandmother still doesn't have time to play bingo, then I should be doing something useful, too!), partly a DESIRE to be in the haven of the studio - it IS such a gift to have a space to go to, to be an artist, I want to be there even when I am exhausted.

It has taken me a few years to realize though, as some here have mentioned, that my time taking walks is important to my work; my time reading and writing in my journal is important to my work; my time napping is important to my work (really - I feel so revived afterwards!!). The creative process involves more than just the physical act of making... I am coming to accept that.

graceann warn said...

Since I do make my living solely from my art, there is a real need to be in my studio quite a bit. When I was younger, I did feel a weird pull to the studio if I wasn't there and I was called a workaholic by friends but, looking back, it was time well spent. I believed then, as now, that the way to make my best work is to be present and push myself. Now that I've been a full time (plus) artist for 25 years, I understand the need to let go for a bit here and there which seems to occur naturally. The time off that my mind/body dictates is never too long and it provides recharge time for new ideas to formulate and then my need to make work bubbles up. I've learned to trust it.

Los Angeles Artist said...

As a working artist, the stigma of starving artists is simply that- stigma. It is a business just like any other business- you work hard, you have deadlines. The more work I get, the better my PR is, the more I work.

Dora Ficher said...

I have to say that I feel disappointment more than guilt if I'm not there for a day or 2. After that the guilt starts to creep up a little even if I'm home working. I do my computer work, and I do a lot of creating and drawing while at home so if I think about it....that guilt IS kind of silly. Good post Joanne...