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Connecting With Your Inner Despot

by Carolyn Henderson on 5/24/2011 12:36:30 PM

This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her  freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.


This is not a sentiment that sells greeting cards, but sometimes, you've just gotta get away from the people you love.


And if you're trying to paint, or sculpt, or write, or in some other way create an artwork that you plan to market, this is seriously, seriously necessary.


As I keyboard this, I am in the public library, surrounded by computer-using patrons ranging from the 11-year-old boy who is saving the galaxy from zombies (homework, obviously), to the under-twenty couple draped over one another in a single chair, to the irritated woman who is either working on her overdue taxes or trying to figure out her shipping options at Amazon. Of course, she's also squeezed right next to the two people who function as one.


Lest you think that I am distracted, be aware that I do not know any of these humanoids personally (for which I am profoundly grateful), and none of them is going to ask me 1) what we're eating for dinner, 2) who is responsible for making it tonight, 3) which animal ate a hole in the sock, 4) why the mail hasn't come yet, 5) who left the milk on the counter, or 6) how long it's been since the dog's been put out. Neither will any of them exclaim that the cat is using the plant pot, or slam the door on the way out, on the way in, and on the way out again.


Yes, I work at home.


So do you, I imagine, if you paint or sculpt, and whether or not it's your day job, you probably have stories of your own.


Now frequently our household loved ones are our best supporters, our cheering section, our sounding boards, our confidantes, and our sturdy shoulders against to lean, but at the same time, simply by virtue of their breathing the same air with us, they can also be . . .




So every so often, I get away from them.


As a rule, I like being in the hub of things, preferring not to isolate myself from humanity and the dog kingdom, and I'm pretty good at looking people in the eye while maintaining 60 words per minute, but some days I've had enough, and I find that retreating to a public arena allows me an altered working environment and fresh distractions than what I am accustomed to.


I guess you'd say that I write, en plein aire.


Face it, reality is, unless you isolate yourself in a separate building, without phone, without windows, and with a crocodile-infested moat in front of the door, you will be unable to count on blocks and chunks of pristinely quiet uninterrupted time. So Gauguin ran off to Tahiti to get away from it all; he still dealt with . . . um . . . distractions. Someone will call; someone will burst into your inner sanctum; someone will hover outside the door at the edge of your peripheral vision.


How much this happens, however, can be controlled without running off to Tahiti, as long as you assert your right to connect with your inner dictator:


1) Accept that you are an artist, and that you need time and space to create. Once you have gotten this through your own brain, drive it into the brains of the people around you. Tell them, point blank, when you want to be left alone, and for how long. Then pray.

2) If you are trying to make money or a potential living by your art, be extra firm, just like tofu. Although it takes awhile to turn a profit, it won't get done if you don't have a product. Believe in yourself and in what you're doing, and others will follow. But they won't lead the way.

3) Carve out your space. It may not be a separate barn studio, complete with locking doors, like the Norwegian Artist enjoys. (He also deals with goats peering through the window as he works.) It may be a desk in the piano room, eight feet from the front door (Home Office Space -- the Final Frontier). The key thing is that it is YOURS. If you have small children, YOURS may have to be packed away in a cardboard box at the end of every session, but don't feel guilty that you're staking a claim. Just make sure to store it out of reach.

4) Be realistic. If you share living space with anyone other than a goldfish, you will be interrupted. Discuss with the people in your life your expectations and theirs, and communicate. Be willing to give -- and take.

5) Shoot the phone. Honestly, why do so many people choose to carry one of these things around with them everywhere?




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Related Posts:

Forgetting to Turn off Your Car Lights Is Not the Only Way to Drain Your Battery

Right Brain. Artist. Left Brain.

Walk the Labyrinth

Topics: Carolyn Henderson | FineArtViews | inspiration 

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Julie Petro
Excellent article - very funny too! I run into this exact same thing with husband because as amazing and supportive as he is, he is the perpetual extroverted gregarian (is that a word?) Sometimes he's stumped by my need to be alone. Especially since we like hanging out so much. I think this will help him get it a little more.

Carolyn, I am rolling on the floor in laughter over this one and am seriously considering doing a "Google" search for that crocodile-infested moat for the strange people who drive into our neighborhood and plant themselves, doing nothing more than sitting in their cars and playing with their cell phones.

Bettye Rivers
Carolyn, you are so funny. I love to read your articles. Humor is so important in our world today. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Laughter is good for the soul.

Hilary England
Wow! So true!! I was literally just talking about this struggle today, as this has become a problem for me, and yes, I DO have a separate barn studio!! I've noticed that the people closest to me don't respect my time, and I've had to lay down some very terse rules about interrupting me in my studio, which I felt a little bad about, but was completely necessary, since the nice little chides were not cutting it. Me? I leave the phone inside of the house, and now have a BIG sign I post on the outside of my studio door, (STAY OUT!!) and I also lock it from the inside. NO moat or crocodiles, and, I did come close to running off to Tahiti, but hopefully the sign will do the trick!

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
boy, you said it. My DH (Dear Husband) is my number 1 supporter, but today I hope to have time in my studio - he on the other hand wants me to join him on a bike ride because today is a glorious day...
"just say no"

Barb Stachow
Great true...I totally agree with all your points, but especially the last one about why do people "want" to carry that extended arm everywhere they go! Phones are nothing but a problem no matter what you do for a living! Are we the only people who get annoyed with them? I wonder how many "artist" out there have no interest in being c onnected to their personel cell phone! I do not own one nor do I have any desire to get one!

Mary Ann Pals

Thanks so much for, again, writing such a wonderful article that is written in plain English that everyone can understand. I have become so fed up with art writers who write in a language I call 'art speak', words that are all sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing. "Shoot the phone", now that I understand.

Thank you,
Mary Ann Pals

Casey Craig

As I am counting the days (1.5) til school is out and I'll be up to my chin in boys...actually my oldest is taller than me now. Luckily for me I'm very used to working with distraction. I find bellowing a threat from my studio down the hall to the nearest offender works wonders and if that fails the volume on my stereo will drown out the rest ;)

Dave White
I love your humor in this, and thanks for the fresh reminder to give myself alone time and space to create!

Laurie Finkelstein
Funny and never fails that when I am alone in the house and decide to spend time painting, that suddenly people whom I have not spoken to in weeks will call and my husband or kids come home early.

Maura McGurk
Haha great minds must think alike because on my morning walk today (essential thinking time) I made a vow to "stake my claim" to a certain timeframe AND to avoid the phone during that time. But Carolyn, you've said it with a laugh--not a grimace like I did! Let's all cross our fingers!

Esther J. Williams
Carolyn, although I truly love my family and will go to the ends of the earth to make them happy, they must understand when I need to get out of town alone. I have been doing this since my girls were little ones, it is refreshing for the soul, the spirit, the 'me'.
I also am lucky to have time when they are in school and the house is all mine. Like today. I get concentrated work done and can accomplish many tasks relating to my art business. I can also allow my creative mind to develop new artworks. Like today again.
Oops, I must go, I have only two hours left of this precious artist zone.
Yes, you are a crack-up! I love it!

Deb Trotter
Gosh, Carolyn - what an appropriate post! I just blogged today on 3 reasons why artists need to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Funny - I focused on the benefits of getting away - but I love how you focused on the same thing with a healthy dose of humor. Right now it's raining and my house is quiet - which will totally change by 5:30 pm when my hubby gets home, the dogs are all barking, the phone is ringing, dinner is burning, and I am suddenly realize I failed to do the laundry (again) - which means that early tomorrow morning hubby will remind me that he still has no clean underwear ... after which, my iPhone will begin ringing, reminding me of all the things I have scheduled for the day. Hmmm - you've got me thinking. I do believe I'll toss that sucker into the toilet :)

Donald Fox
My wife and I (28 years strong) long ago created agreement to respect each other's space. We often work at home in separate spaces as well as shared space. Our biggest challenge was the 15 years her mom lived with us. She didn't quite grasp the work time concept. Kids and cats and dogs are the same way. But, you learn to prioritize and focus. Thanks for the humorous spin on the domestic work scene.

George De Chiara
This is great. I'm going to have my wife read this one. Hopefully she'll finally understand that just because I'm home, it doesn't mean I don't have work to do. Thanks Carolyn!

Alecia Baptiste
Carolyn, it's so nice to know that I'm not alone in this frustration. Getting up at 6am (though I'm not a morning person) has been a tremendous blessing because I get to work (and pray and study) with no interruptions. The time seems to fly! Now I'm contemplating my summer schedule with my wonderful husband and all 4 of my children home.

One thing that I've found that helps is assigning a chore to everyone who interrupts me while I'm working. (There's always cleaning to be done.) Then they manage to make themselves scarce. :)

It's funny that my husband and I are the only people we know that I have recently succumbed to cell phones. People looked at us rather strangely when we told them we didn't have cell phones.

Sharon Weaver
I must have the best husband because he never bothers me when I am working. Of course I have trained him that way. You see when we first got married 7 years ago, he tried to get my attention when I was working but I would just ignore him. Eventually he realized that I was not going to stop what I was doing to find his keys and thus has become much more self reliable.

Donna Robillard
Love the article! My husband works at home, too, so we respect each other's times to work. However, there come the times when others have to be told 'no' or 'another time'. So many of them think painting is just a 'fun' thing and doesn't require work. Somehow we manage to work around it - or maybe not!

Marian Fortunati
Honestly, Carolyn, the more I read your posts... realistic, honest, humorous and helpful that they are..... the more I'd like to know you... en plein person!!!!

Steve Washburn
Really liked your writing en plein aire piece! It made me think about distractions in a different light though. You gave life to those great characters, you had to recognize that they were interesting. I'm sure I've "missrecognized" some opportunities thinking they were only distractions.

Jeanne Leemon
Amen! By the way, I love the way you write!

Joanne Benson
I think we can all relate to your most enjoyable post! Enjoying my space alone tonight!

Jo Allebach
How fun to read your thoughts, Carolyn. It is kind of weird how we can be around people who we have no connection to and feel alone as you said. You are right about the phone, too. Turn it off. And what's even worse is how do they expect me to text and paint?

Phyllis O'Shields PhD
So true, getting away from the studio and home is much needed and inspiring. We get so busy sometimes it is easy to forget that we need SPACE. I love to get out of town on a regular basis an into a new enviroment.... come back totally inpired, ready to paint..
Phyllis O'Shields Fine Art

Clint Watson
Eliminating distractions when you're working is important - don't forget to get away from the computer so you don't waste valuable painting time on Facebook, Twitter or....FineArtViews :-)

Clint Watson
This reminds me of a trip we took a few years ago. My wife and I went to Taos and spent a couple of days out at Wanda and Kevin Macpherson's place. Now, Kevin has a separate studio building as Carolyn suggests.

The first morning we had breakfast and Kevin politely, but firmly told us that while he realized that we were on vacation....he wasn't. And that he would be working in his studio until 5pm and please, do not interrupt him unless it was an emergency.

Being in the gallery business, I completely understood (and I knew he was working on pieces for an upcoming show :-)). Kevin is the consummate professional and knows what he needs to do, so we wished him well and told him we see him at dinner.

My wife and I went for a bike ride through the mountains around his house. About 10:30am we arrived back at the house and realized we had locked ourselves out without a key. Wanda had gone into town. What should we do?

I tell you we must have stood outside Kevin's studio for almost 30 minutes debating on whether or not being locked out constituted an "emergency"......

Jo Allebach
aren't you funny Clint? Who would waste time on Fine Art Views. Seriously, I think I needed to get doing something other than painting all the time and FASO is a productive alternative. Thanks for being there.

I just want to remind everyone that Carolyn is traveling and I'm sure she'll read all your comments upon her return.

Carol Schmauder
This article was a great read, Carolyn. My children are grown and out of the house, so for two years after I quit work I had my own space all of the time, until my husband came home from work. Then the dreaded happened; my husband retired. I am now in the process of training him to leave me alone when I am creating. Frustrating, to say the least, however I am optimistic that he will get it some day, and not bother me when I am painting.

I'm sure the artists here have noticed that their household inhabitants--both human and the furry kind--develop an uncanny 6th sense for knowing precisely the moment when the artist in the house is poised, brush in hand, to execute a critical and tricky passage in a work. I think the cats actually conspire together on this.


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