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Artist Daniel J. Keys Shares His Studio Routine

by Daniel J. Keys on 6/4/2009 10:06:12 AM

Today's Guest Post is by artist Daniel J. KeysFind out how you can be a guest author.

Today, artist Daniel J. Keys shares his time management routine with us.  We sincerely hope you find it useful in considering how you structure your studio time for maximum productivity.

My Time Management Routine

oil on linen by Daniel J. Keys

Cleaning and Preparation
The evening before, I make sure that my palette and brushes are clean., and I prepare my un-stretched canvas by taping it to a board and setting it aside.

Painting the image in my mind
I generally try to have a clear sense of the direction that I'd like for my new painting to take, so I begin thinking of the layout and what objects I'll need to get started. For a still life, I'll set out the objects that I intend to use in the painting ( tea cups, fabric, fruit, etc.) so that they're waiting for me the next morning. If I'm preparing to paint a landscape, I scout out the spot the day before and take note of the time and lighting, so that there aren't any surprises for me when I return the following day.

Completing all of this preliminary work before I begin painting may seem tedious, but it's well worth the effort - as it frees up my time the next day to get right to the good stuff: The painting process!

Pre-Painting: The Morning of beginning a new work

First things first
Being a Christian, I've learned to always put my time with God first, so the first hour of my morning is spent in prayer. By giving the first part of my day to Him, I find that I accomplish more than I could otherwise, because I have His help and divine guidance.

Marketing: A necessary Element
The second hour of my morning is spent on my computer. Living in today's world ? what with technology and all ? I've found the Internet to be an invaluable tool for marketing, as well as an excellent resource for learning.

This hour is spent replying to my many emails from clients, students, and artist friends ? and posting to my website, blogs, and other art related forums. Doing this kind of work may seem unproductive to others around you and in your household (I'm often poked fun at because of the amount of time I spend on the World Wide Web), but taking the time to network and promote my work [by posting it on blogs and artist's forums] is an effective way for me to expand my viewing audience, as well as build relationships with collectors, galleries, magazines, and fellow artists.

The set up
After these first two hours, along with a good breakfast (always important; I get very cranky without it), I get right to setting up my still life in the studio - using the objects that I set out the night before. The key to setting up a good still life is to take as much time as I need to get it correct. There's nothing worse than finding yourself half way through a painting, and realizing that the composition would've been much stronger had that teapot been three inches to the left! I don't stop moving things around until I'm totally happy with the overall layout.

What more can be said; there's nothing as exhilarating than beginning what you hope will be your next masterpiece! It's finishing the painting with the same amount of gusto that becomes the problem.

Keeping Interested
I treat completing a painting like taking a road trip: If it's a short trip where it only requires a day to arrive at my destination, no problem ? I take my time; but if it's a multi day trip, I drive for as long as I can that first day. The reason for this is that your freshest at this point of the trip, and your enthusiasm is as high as it'll get - because you're really excited about it.

 It's the same with a muti-day painting. With each passing day, I find it tiring to come back to the same piece - and I tend to lose the enthusiasm that I had in its beginning stages. This is normal, and doesn't keep me from finishing the work, but finding ways to get around this problem is always a good thing; and I find that the more I can accomplish on that first day the better  (and easier ) it is for me to stay excited about it.

 That's not to say that I rush through the first day of painting however:  getting as much done as possible while not forgetting to make sure that the quality I want is there.  I remain focused, and never take on a "there's always tomorrow" attitude. If there's still daylight, I keep painting... Usually about six to eight hours the first day, and no less than three ? four with each succeeding day until the painting is complete. I usually put in five to six days of painting a week.

Eliminating distractions
Send the kids to the movies; tell your nosy neighbor over the fence that you'll catch up on the latest neighborhood gossip later that evening; put the Blackberry away; turn the phone off

 These are all things that can be easily done to eliminate the distractions that keep us not only from accomplishing our goal for that particular day, but also from producing our very best work. One thing I don't tolerate is too many phone calls while painting; after one or two unimportant calls I just turn the phone off, or put it wherever I can't hear it. If the person on the other end has something important to tell me, they can leave a message, and I'll check the machine later. It's necessary to do this in order to stay focused and reach my ultimate painting potential.

When I just don't feel like it
Everyone has those days (and I'm certainly no exception) when you know that you should be in the studio, but you're not feeling particularly creative. It's those days that we usually wish that I had a normal job - where I fille out orders, answer a phone, or take notes in a meeting. We artists are often times under appreciated for the fact that what we do comes directly from within ourselves; we don't have prefab things to sell, assembly-line parts to put together, or numbers to crunch. On the other hand, we create, market and sell our products, without any pattern or formula to follow. So when my creative juices are not flowing, I sometimes give myself the day off from painting because I don't want to waste my time putting something on my canvas that I know I'll end up wiping off the next day. However, I know that I still need to be productive, so I use my time doing other things that are important to my business, such as networking, making phone calls to galleries, writing and sending out newsletters.

 Even if it's just writing downs ideas for future paintings, I feel good knowing I'm doing something productive. Never allowing myself to become slack. So here's my advice: Do what it takes to stay motivated, and make an effort to get to your studio everyday!


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Related Posts:

Be Selfish With Your Time

The 20 Hour Challenge

Time Management for Right Brainers

A Matter of Priority

Topics: Art Business | Productivity 

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Loading comments...

Katherine S. Harris
via web
You say you tape an unstretched canvas on a support and paint on it. If the painting on the unstretched canvas dries before you stretch it to frame, doesn't it crack? Thanks, KSH

Lori Woodward Simons
via web

Daniel can answer this too - because he has learned a lot from Richard Schmid's book "Alla Prima", but I paint with Richard often, and he tapes his painting to a board and later stretches it.

It's never caused Richard's paintings to crack. My guess is that he stretches it as soon as it is dry to the touch, and it really takes oil many months to completely dry. He also paints on linen which is less "stretchy" than cotton canvas.

Great post, Daniel.. very helpful to me.

Daniel J. Keys
via web

Lori is correct. If the painting is stretched when completely try to the touch, but not totally cured (about six months) there's no danger of cracking.

Lori- Thanks for posting a reply, and I'm pleased to know that you enjoyed the article! :)


silvia dïaz
es un gran artista , joven tiene mucho mas que mostrar . Lo felicito

Martha H Broadbent
I really love your still life. I also do still life myself. Love your the way you do the lighting

Martha H Broadbent
Tell me more about your lighting


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