If you have a full time job and are working towards switching to independent illustrator...

  • When do you actually work on your art/illustrations? I am curious to see how different people manage their time. Early morning before work? After kids are in bed? Weekends? How much time do you put in a week?

    I am a school teacher and this is a notoriously hard time of the school year, so I have not been as productive as I would like. Last month I entered the contest but that was because we had spring break.

  • I work in manufacturing, I draw on my breaks. Have a 3yr old and 3 month old. I rarely draw much at home lol. My wife is very understanding. She knows I need to draw so we set some time aside where no one really bothers me. Doesn't not always work though. I try to get 1 1/2 hrs a day at the very least. And that time is not all at once. Sketching, drawing, painting, whittling, anything. If there is any free moment it's the 1st thing I try to do.

  • I am a full time in-house Graphic Designer for 40+ hours a week and I have a regular freelance illustration job where I do an editorial illustration for a weekly podcast adtech newsletter which takes about another 4-6 hours of my week. (Soundsprofitable.com) So I’m illustrating pretty regularly though the majority of my cash inflow is not independent, I’m working on it.

    We’ve had a two year old out of daycare so that’s most of my evenings so my wife who had to leave her job due to the pandemic gets a break. I try to keep my weekends for the family.

    So! That leaves 8-12 as many nights I can manage a week for portfolio work. The last SVS contest really put a strain on me with that schedule. It’s still something I’m balancing as I’m definitely not respecting my sleep needs.

  • I work a full time 40 hour illustration job during the day, and then I work on freelance and personal projects nights and weekends and I have a 3 and 4 year old.

    My non day work hours are after the kids go to bed at 9pm - midnight. I take one or two nights to spend with my husband and then he and I switch off working on the weekends. So he will watch the kids for 4 hours or whatever I need on Saturday and then I watch the kids on Sunday during the day and we spend nights and breakfast together

  • Moderator

    @Shelley-James-0 I work as a teacher, too, albeit in higher education. And I know how it's more work than a simple 9-to-5 sometimes. My position as my theatre department's costume designer means that many evenings are eaten up attending rehearsals on top of classes taught during the day, and the days can be quite long... It's hard to find the motivation and the drive to get work done.

    I think the trick might be to find a "low time-investment" drawing activity that doesn't require large chunks of time set aside to accomplish. That way you will feel a sense of accomplishment without having to also feel too busy to do anything.

    For example, I watched a video of an oil painter today that has suggested painting small 6x8 still life objects (like a piece of fruit or a vase) in 30 strokes or less. It helps you imagine the plains and shapes of various tones in the object, work with thick paint, choose colors before they mix on the canvas, work with larger brushes, and make purposeful strokes. 30 of them. That's all ya got.

    I wonder if something like that might be useful for you? Or create partitions in your work by only working on parts of each drawing, or only accomplishing one step in the drawing for the chunk of time you've got. The challenge is to develop an approach that can be "compartmentalized" into steps and portions that you can recognize, articulate, separate on purpose, and then feel good about accomplishing each part instead of a complete work.

    I, too, have had problems completing monthly challenges, for example, and there are simply some months I haven't participated at all. I haven't done any of them since December, and my time to be present on these forums has decreased considerably. My attention has been purposely elsewhere. For good reasons.

    And you have to be okay with that. It is easy to get buried under the mountain of learning and practice you have to do to become competent in the illustration field, but that's no different than the slew of education courses you had to take to become qualified as a teacher (and have to continue to take each summer...) Remember you can't compare your progress to another's pace because there is no formal structure like attending an actual school and being in an actual class provides.

    Break up that 1.5 hours into 15- or 20-minute increments so you are purposely making smaller illustrations and feel a stronger level of accomplishment and progression. Put the pressure to participate in. its. place. and instead celebrate the smaller milestones in front of you. At a certain point, I had to realize my development as an illustrator was better spent investing my time in things other than challenges. I suspect you might be in the same boat.

  • I'm self employed renting out giant goat herds to eat weeds and brush. Owning a farm and animals is more than full time. There is always something that needs fixing, feeding, cleaning, training or veterinary care. There is always marketing and logistic planning. So I learned that whatever I don't finish today, it will be there for me tomorrow. Taking time to write and draw is my entertainment, my reward. I feel the weight of the farm lifting off me when I'm creating something. Unless I'm dealing with customers or something will die, I find I can just split up what I have to do and read, write, draw or dream in between chores. The nice thing about some chores is that my hands can do one thing and my mind can be elsewhere, working on stories.

  • I’m a full-time copywriter at a marketing agency but more importantly married with a 2yo and 4mo old. My wife’s a nurse that works 3 12hr shifts per week, so I also have to plan on weekends where it’s just me and the kids from 7a-7p.

    I get up every morning at 5:30 and get some art done before I have to start getting kids ready for the day. On non-work days, I take advantage of their nap times that I’ve lined up to happen for both at 1p. I often disappear after the kids go to bed and I’ve walked the dog to work until 10/11/whenever I start passing out at the computer.

    I do try to get sketchbook time in over lunch when possible.

    On a side note, I’ve only been drawing again for the past two years, though, so most of my efforts are about learning/development. I would roll them over to professional drawing if I was far enough along, though.

  • @Shelley-James-0 Hi Shelley, you ask an important question and I see that others have commented on what they do. I hope you have been able to draw some inspiration from their replies.
    But surely only you will know the answer to, ultimately, what is a very personal situation. It's not just about schedule but also about the quality of your life. For example, how much rest time do you currently have vs. how much you need right now? How robust is your mental health, to be taking on even more than you already have going on?
    If you can take your art work as a form of relaxation, then great! Although, be good to yourself in the process.

  • @Kim-Hunter That is fascinating. How many goats do you have? I love animals. I marred into a farm family but we do not live on the farm like some of my in-laws do.

  • @Coreyartus Thankfully I don't really feel a ton of pressure to compete in the contests. I figured it would be a good way to build some portfolio pieces.

    I like the idea of compartmentalizing things to get that sense of accomplishment

  • @Adam-Thornton-0 You mean self-care is important? Going to the grocery store alone is not self-care? lol.

    Yeah, I am trying to be gentle with myself. I tend to procrastinate on the actual sitting down and working on art (Fear of not being good enough, not turning out right) but once I actually am working I don't ever want to stop. Just gotta get over the fear and one foot in front of the other.

  • @Shelley-James-0 100 goats, 6 horses, 3 dogs. They are a big influence on my writing and you may have noticed a goat theme on my March contest entry. Love my goaties!

  • @Shelley-James-0 I work as a freelance software engineer. I quit my full-time job more than a year ago to go freelance precisely to be able to free up time for both personal software projects and for artistic endeavours aka hobbies (guitar and comics).

    I organise my working week days roughly as 3 days of "client billable projects" (paid work), one day personal software development and one day "hobbies", which this last year has mostly been drawing.

    One thing that has helped me now with drawing (and in the past with guitar) is to aim at allocating a little time every day, never letting slip more than one day in a row. For that I use a calendar, I cross out the days where I've done some drawing. The key to being regular is to allow yourself to occasionally miss one mark (this will invariably happen), but not to allow yourself to miss two consecutive days.

    Typically I draw in the evenings after dinner - when my wife and son of 10 are either reading or already in bed. Between 30m and 1h at most. On Thursdays, my special "art day", I take lessons and maybe spend about 4-5h drawing at most.

  • @Shelley-James-0 I'm a full-time graphic designer/art director, and though I do fold illustration into a lot of my day job, I'm hoping to switch to more self-generated illustration work in the future. I'm also a single dad with two kids (2nd and 1st grade), so finding drawing/painting time can be tricky.

    What I aim to do is during the workday, take a 10 minute break after 50 minutes of work where I leave the computer and put in some sketchbook time at the drawing table. Then I put in between 1.5 and 2 hours on freelance/illustration projects after I put the kids to bed. And if I can get a few hours extra here or there on the weekends, that's gravy 🙂

  • @Kim-Hunter You bring up an important point. Having time to contemplate while one's hands are busy helps the creative process.

  • I was thinking about this topic last night. Currently I'm in the final stages of my next book and trying to get my high school students to the end of the school year with as few F's as possible. In the past I've been able to bring my work with me to school and work alongside the students, but it's harder this year. That means that I have to do a lot of work after my day job, but due to some health issues that means I'm doing work extremely exhausted, sometimes even falling asleep while drawing. Times like this make me think about someday transitioning to part time teaching, particularly after my boyfriend begins his nursing career and we'll be decently financially stable...

  • I’m retired military, now a syndicated cartoonist among a host of other (way too many) things. I’m working toward expanding my artistic/illustrative abilities (thank you SVS Learn) to expand into my lifelong aspiration of creating maritime art (among others) worth looking at. Since I’m still working on my portfolio, I found that getting up 2 hours before the rest of the household to learn, practice, and draw/paint is the most effective way for me to consistently have undisturbed, focused time. It doesn’t always work - there are times I’m convinced my alarm clock is lying and ignore it just for spite, but overall, I’ve achieved more in this time block than in any other.

  • Just saw this thread! I was recently laid off from my painting job. Typical this time of year. Basically a seasonal thing. So it's made it easier to work on my projects or sink 8 hours into a piece. It's akin to having summers off as a teacher I imagine. Although I don't have any work coming in. It's hard to get stuff to come in when you work a full time job. Some of that is probably fear, like if I actually was getting illustration work would I have the time to hit deadlines? Idk. When I was 'full time' as an artist I technically had 5 jobs, two of which were not art jobs. It was oddly easier to still get my own work done on top of all that. Then again I had a following in my town but now that I've moved I know longer have that.

    So I'm trying to figure out what work fits with my day job, which is basically 6-145. And if I start taking on these side jobs how will I be able to balance day job, side job, cons and fairs, and the networking type stuff with other life? It's tough bc I currently have healthcare, pension, 401k, and good pay, but I also have to walk around in stilts to cut in ceilings, spray units and wear a respirator all day, that sort of thing.

    The short is I am trying to make headway while I can so that if I burn out juggling later on I won't be that much further behind. 2 steps forward and only 1 step back rather than vice versa

  • @ajillustrates "take a 10 minute break after 50 minutes of work to sketch" I love this idea, I will see if I can apply it myself! My job dynamics as a software engineer don't necessarily make this easy. Do you set yourself reminders/alerts to take breaks, or can you make it "just happen"?

  • @txels Oh I definitely can't just make it happen 🤣! I'm by nature not a routine guy at all, so I really need to schedule to make schedules with alerts built in. I use the BeFocusedPro app, and I have it set it so that I work in 50 minute chunks of time. So when I start doing my graphic design work, I hit start on the timer, and after 50 minutes, an alarm sounds, and the screen switches to a 10 minute timer for a break. Once the ten minutes is done (while I'm drawing), I start a new 50 minute block of work.

    What I also like about the app is that I can create multiple projects titles, so I can track my time on individual illustrations and tasks when I have more time to commit to illustration. This has really helped me in doing a better job planning and budgeting my time for projects, as well as figuring out better pricing for my work.

Log in to reply