For 20+ years I have been painting professionally. (Even when I was a night time and weekend warrior) I have now been working from home as a full-time artist for a little over 5 years and did it for 3 years about 10 years ago (did that make sense?) When I am not sending emails, answering emails, writing newsletters, drawing up proposals, cold-calling potentials, following up with potentials, developing ads, brainstorming marketing ideas, making time-lapse videos, uploading said videos to youtube, tracking expenses, writing blog content, talking with collectors, figuring out what the hell TikTok is, are these the right hashtags to use, oh yeah and painting in the studio (painting is hard and it is the easiest part of the job), I am a stay-at-home dad, raising our 2 year old Doc “The Wolfman” Wolfgang, making sure he knows the difference between “car” and “cow”. Yes, it can be a challenge working from home. But you can do it! I know this. It won’t be easy. I am what I think is called an introvert extrovert. I love being alone in the studio or at home with the family, but I also love to be out and about from time to time attending artist receptions, going out to eat, or playing rock n roll in a band. So now that we are all basically ordered to stay at home, I do feel the pangs, of “Well, I don’t go out a lot, but I like the ability to!” Hey I still have to get materials and supplies to make art from my favorite local art supply shop, right?!
Well the louder love artist (that’s me) has 5 (count em!) super rad, totally amazing, off-the wall, simple and practical tips to help you get through these strange times of social distancing, facemasking (be an outlaw and wear a bandana) and staying at home trying to pay the bills and still feel good about yourself and the world! Let’s get started:
1. Get Dressed. You are allotted one workday a week to stay in your underoos until lunch. But that’s it. Seriously, get out of your pajamas. You don’t have to put on a suit or business casual, but for the love of zeus, you must put some clothes on. Hey, I admit it, early on, when I took the plunge head first into the world of full-time artist, I wore the same clothes for days in a row. Not pretty. And when I first became a stay-at-home father, I hardly got out of my pajamas and before I knew it, it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything. This definitely has an impact on your psyche. What I saved on laundry, I more than made up for in low self-esteem, depression, and ominous self doubt. AND SMELL. Getting out of your sleeping attire tells your mind, soul, and body that you have finished sleeping. Nighttime is over and there is a new day ahead! You will feel better about yourself and the world. I would even recommend dedicating at least one day a week to spruce yourself up. Take time to primp yourself as if you were going into a fancy job or on a big date. So take that shower, pomp that hair up, put on the war paint, douse your face in aftershave, whatever it is that you normally do to feel god about your appearance. You will look yourself in the mirror and see your refreshed self ready to tackle the brand new amazing day.
2. Your Best Friend, H2O. Drink Water first thing in the morning. Water is life. Water is the essence of all being. Nothing on this planet, and I mean nothing, can survive with out water (not even the Australian water-holding frog that stores water in its bladder and can live for up to 5 years without taking a drink.) Water increases energy and relieves fatigue. Water prevents cramps and strains while improving blood oxygen circulation. It aids in cognitive function, and helps with nutrient absorption. I could write another list of all the way water is number, but I think you get the idea. So go drink some water!
3. Exercise. Walk, jog, bike, lift jugs of sand, do jumping jacks for 5 minutes, lift cans of soup above your head. It doesn’t matter, do something physical. I spend about half my working time in front of the computer. The other half is spent sitting down in front of an easel and I have to rest my eyes, neck and back. And by rest I don’t mean go lay down, I’m referring to a break from being in a stagnant and unhealthy position. I take breaks from work every 30 minutes or so. I get up and walk around. Stretch for a minute. Even a minute of just standing up and stretching makes a world of difference mentally and physically. I also bike and hike with my son, along with lifting weights and HIIT workouts. I have my rest days of course so my body can properly repair itself, but when I skip a day I am suppose to work out, that lonely depression starts to rear back, ready to pounce. And vice versa, when I haven’t worked out and I crush a circuit. Boy, do I feel great. It’s been scientifically proven time and time again that exercise improves your physical AS WELL AS your mental health. And right now, mental health is what has the most potential to go sour during this time of social distancing and self isolation.
4. Schedule. The dreaded “S” word. I know what you are saying. “But Will, it’s like why schedule anything? The world is ending, so why bother?” (the world is not ending, but it is changing) Now more than ever it is paramount to establish some grounding. A huge rug has been pulled out from many of us and we are left with an abyss below. It is up to each and everyone of us to sew a new rug back to gather piece by piece and plant it firmly below our feet. I like to set 3 small goals a day and 3 big goals a week. They can vary from personal to business and sometimes in between given the type of work that I do. For instance one of my daily small goals might be to ride my bike for 15 minutes. It’s not much, but I put it on the schedule. And when I finish that, I feel so accomplished. My body and mind feel great also because I put in some exercise. A bigger weekly goal might be to finish up a pet portrait commission. Notice I said “finish up”. I don’t expect to finish a pet portrait commission in one week. But I have to make sure I am chipping away so that I do finish it in a reasonable amount of time. And the only way to make sure I am on track is to schedule it. When you have a schedule, you are grounding yourself. You know what your tasks are and when to do them and you won’t get distracted by something else that comes in because you have allotted a certain task at a certain time and nothing else. This grounding will positively permeate as you need to schedule virtual meetings with others. They will do so and so on. Eventually that new rug will have been sewn and under our feet. So grab that whiteboard, excel spreadsheet (personally I use Numbers in Mac), or the tried and true pencil & paper. Start small and grow from there.
5. Do something other than work. This is sort of related to number 3 but a bit broader. Facetime or Zoom a happy hour with friends or family. Get outside for a walk (with proper social distancing). Take an online workshop in a subject that is completely opposite from what you do for work. Put together a jigsaw puzzle. Might I suggest a certain owl themed one? 🙂 Have a dance party inside your house. This sound easy, but is the absolute hardest thing for me. I am bit of a work-o-holic, so I definitely need to be reminded of this constantly. If all you do is work, your brain (and body) won’t get any down time. When you work constantly you are susceptible to unhealthy actions such as: eating junky food, burnout, less or no exercise, and most importantly you miss out on connections with close family and friends. Even in this time of social distancing, you can still schedule virtual time with family and friends afar. If you have a spouse and/or kid schedule that cookie making time, cook dinner together, binge some Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix. My favorite is sitting on our swing in the front yard at dusk and watching our local bats forage as we sip on some wine.