Going Full Time

Posted January 11 2013

Lynn Powers articles - From Behind the Camera An interview with Carolee Clark by Lynn Powers

One of these days I plan to pursue my dream of being a full time painter. It might not happen tomorrow, but it will happen soon. I anticipate that my relationship to time and art will change. Right now I squeeze painting sessions into small chunks of time. What would it be like to have all day? I decided to ask Carolee Clark, a friend of mine and a productive, disciplined, full time artist.

How long have you been painting?
I've been a full time painter since 2000. It has been an interesting journey trying different mediums as well as deciding what was important to me with regards to my art. I think that this is what has taken the longest time. You really have to get to know yourself, why you are creating what you are, why you care about it, and what you want to say. I really believe that it is most important to believe in yourself.

How do you maintain your self discipline and stay productive?

Self discipline? That kind of makes me laugh because I think of a person being self disciplined if she does something she doesn't want to do. I have never been good at that. I am a little compulsive. I've been good at figuring out what is important to me and then being focused to create that in my life. However, I've never done anything, job-related or otherwise, that hasn't felt good to me. It always had to have some kind of play or learning involved. With art, it will be a never-ending, joyful, creative pursuit. I've worked diligently and doggedly at what has been important to me, but it has been exceptionally rewarding.

I love to paint. It's how I want to spend time. But I do impose deadlines to help me stay on track. For a year I did a painting a day and posted it on my blog. People would ask what happened to me if I didn't post a painting. Entering a show will also focus my energies, and I have to keep up with sales. If someone wants to purchase a painting, I'd better have something something to show him!

325 Highway Into The Mountains, Acrylic Painting by Carolee Clark

How do you stay fresh?
I'm friends with many other artists. I belong to a critique group, and I paint once a week with a longtime friend and very creative artist.

Do you have a weekly schedule?
Yes, in a way. One day a week I paint with a model. I also regularly attend an evening open studio to continue to hone my drawing skills. And I paint with a friend one day a week. Other than that, the days fluctuate.

469 Checkered, an acrylic painting by Carolee Clark

What does the average day look like?
After my yoga and breakfast, I'm in the studio every day by 8:30. I make a quick check of email to see if there are any emergencies or sales, and then I paint. I decide what to paint, then paint. If I complete a painting, I photograph it and post it on my web site or blog. And although I paint seven days a week, some days I deal with galleries, shipping, marketing. It's art and the business of art. It's all important if you want to make a living.

373 Melon Season, Acrylic by Carolee Clark

How did you get into galleries?
It's a lot easier if you have a friend in the gallery who can recommend your work. Plus, many galleries do not want anything that requires protection or glass. That's one of the reasons I changed from watercolor to acrylic. Also, it's easier if you are prolific. Galleries need to rotate work.

I complete about four paintings a week and usually sell about that number from my web site. Larger paintings find their way to galleries. With the small paintings, I can't get a high enough price for them at a gallery to make it worth my while. I save the large paintings for the more formal setting. Recently one of my galleries closed, and still another wants to carry my smaller, less expensive work. It's a time of adjustment for everyone.

Do you have any suggestions for people making the transition to being full-time artists?
Figure out what time of day you are most creative. Be sure you're working during those hours. Save your less creative time for shipping, working on marketing, or preparing canvases.

Also, when your friends hear you're painting full time, they will interpret that to mean ''retirement.'' Painting may be rewarding, but it's work. Honor what you do, and guard your time carefully. It's easy to have your time consumed by things other than painting.

Any parting words?
When people ask, '' Can you make a living at that?'' I want to be able to honestly say ''YES!''


For more information on Carolee Clark, visit her blog and website.