Deadlines for Artists? Good or NOt?

"Supercatman Races Against Time", watercolor, Karen Gillis Taylor

“Supercatman Races Against Time”, watercolor, Karen Gillis Taylor

I decided I wanted to be a great painter after returning from a backpacking trip through Europe as a college student. I began with some freelance jobs in things like sign painting and creating murals and faux finishes for home decorating. When I got my first job as a graphic designer/illustrator I learned the importance of working with deadlines. It was good training. I started my own design studio shortly after and deadlines were even more important. I often worked until the midnight hour and came late to Thanksgiving dinner with the family a few times, things like that.

After working for nearly 15 years in the graphic design business world, I was able to return to painting. It was slow going, because I was also raising a family, but I maintained a studio and kept painting. Below is my studio I rented in Longmont, Colorado, over the Old Firehouse Art Gallery when my kids were young. Art time became precious, because I didn’t have much of it. (Who ever does have lots of time to do what you love?)

I entered art competitions and sent my paintings off to far away places to be judged and exhibited. Those events had deadlines for entry and for delivering the work on time. I planned home town events for exhibiting my work, and eventually got my own gallery. More deadlines to stage the shows and receptions.

Are you worn out yet by reading this? I am!

Old Firehouse Art Gallery, Longmont, Colorado where I kept a studio space

Old Firehouse Art Gallery, Longmont, Colorado where I kept a studio space

Recently, at my other job at McCall’s Quilting magazine, my creative quilting friends got into a discussion about deadlines, and it seemed like they mostly thought they were good. However, there are many artists out there who feel that they need to be uninhibited by time frames if they are to do their best work. I understand this too, when it comes to painting, especially.

Lately I have found the value in letting a painting “sit and breathe” for a few weeks without me trying to make any more changes or decisions. Then I can come back with fresher vision and see what I can do to improve it. This means I need to have a kind of built-in relaxation mode for creativity, at least for certain works.

Every artist has their own way of working, of using time, of keeping their personal pace. I’m still figuring out what my pace feels like, and it helps to have outside commitments to impose a bit of regulation to the process. So I will say, deadlines are pretty good. I just don’t like the word, ’cause there’s dead in there. We must call it something else from here on out. Anyone have a better word?

There is one thing I really need, though, in my creative life. I need chances and days to be able to draw and play with ideas, completely unbound by any agenda or time frame. That’s essential. I don’t even need that many minutes in a day or a week, as long as I have some time to draw or make a little watercolor idea come to life, or take photos for ideas. And you can’t put a time stamp on that. If I don’t get that time, my “crankiness factor” sets in, and it’s time to adjust and get back to art time. Who relates to this? Please comment if you do. It will make us all feel better. Right? 🙂

I am already breathing easier, just thinking about this, and planning my day tomorrow for artsy time and play. Now where is my sketchbook…

Blossoms at the canal, Niwot, Colorado, photo KGT

Blossoms at the canal, Niwot, Colorado, photo KGT


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5 Responses to “Deadlines for Artists? Good or NOt?”

  1. meta Says:

    I use my iPad program for daily drawing, it’s a lovely and quick medium, you don’t require any tools except your stylus. Even David Hockney uses it ands exhibits the work!


    • karen Says:

      What program do you use with your Ipad? I just got one and I’m excited to use it. I think my sister’s program is called Made with Paper.


      • meta Says:

        there are many but I have paper 53 and one called sketches. The basic things to use are free and you can
        buy more tools.


  2. Randy Keenan Says:

    Lets call it a finishing line!


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