Americans notoriously take fewer vacations, retire later, and have fewer days off than citizens of any other industrialized country. We live in a culture that seemingly glorifies busyness. So how do we justify taking time for ourselves — to do the things we want to do, not just the things we need to do?
The answer is: We must. Scheduling time to engage in the hobbies or practices for which we have a passion is essential for our mental health — and if we also draw an income from those activities, it’s imperative for our financial and family health, as well.
Wherever plein air painting fits into your life — as a hobby, a career, or an opportunity to add to your art collection — it’s important to carve out time for it. In the Ultimate Plein Air Artist Workshop Guide in this issue, Christine Lashley says, “Art is like swimming; you are either in the water or not.”
So what is it going to take for us to make the plunge or move ourselves further upstream? When the demands of everyday life weigh heavily upon us, how do we make sure we’re devoting the time that our passion or craft deserves? These are questions that confront even the most experienced and accomplished painters.
When Thomas Jefferson Kitts found he’d booked two plein air events nearly back to back, with just a week in between, he decided to take that “found” time and use it as an opportunity to recharge, to step away from the demands of competitive painting and simply create for himself.
The artist spent five days on Monhegan Island (nearly alone in the off-season) and documented his experience for the article “Painting Without Purpose.” Not only was he able to create a number of exquisite watercolor and ink sketches, he had time to reflect on some of the lessons he’s learned over the course of his career.
“It is important to make space for your-self,” he says. “Sometimes this means going far away from the maddening crowd; other times it simply means closing the door to your studio. If you feel constantly subject to demands and distractions, then screw a bolt on your door and lock it from the inside. Tell everyone to go away; you are at the office. Carve out the time you need.”
In other words, cut through the busyness. Make art a priority in your life — even if that means just devoting a little more time to it each day or each week. Maybe that means buying a DVD featuring your favorite artist, attending your first plein air event, signing up for a workshop, or putting together a grab-and-go plein air kit so you’re always ready to take advantage of a painting or sketching opportunity when it arises. The key is to make a commitment, no matter how big or how small, to your continuing education and love of the craft.
Think about how you define which items on your to-do list are want to do and which are need to do. Prioritize art. Jump in with both feet.
Plein Air magazine, February / March 2019 Table of Contents: