I have been painting professionally for 20-plus years (even when I was a night and weekend warrior). I have now been working from home as a full-time artist for a little over 5 years. When I am not emailing, following up with potentials, developing ads, writing newsletters, brainstorming marketing ideas, making time-lapse videos, tracking expenses, talking with collectors, figuring out what the hell TikTok is and, oh yeah, painting in the studio, I am a stay-at-home dad, raising our 2-year-old, Doc “The Wolfman” Wolfgang, making sure he knows the difference between “car” and “cow.” Yes, working from home can be a challenge. But you can do it! I know this.
I am what might be called an “introvert-extrovert.” I love being alone in the studio or at home with the family, but I also love to be out and about from time to time, attending artist receptions, going out to eat, playing rock ‘n’ roll in a band. So, now that we are all told to stay at home, I do feel the pangs of, “Well, I don’t go out a lot, but I like the ability to!” Hey, I still have to get materials and supplies to make art from my favorite local art supply shop, right?
Well, the Louder Love artist (that’s me) has five (count ‘em!) super rad, totally amazing, off-the-wall, simple and practical tips to help you get through these strange times of social distancing, face-masking, and staying at home while trying to pay the bills and still feel good about yourself and the world.
Get Dressed: You are allotted one workday a week to stay in your underoos until lunch. But that’s it. Seriously, get out of your pajamas. You don’t have to put on a suit or something business casual, but, for the love of Zeus, you must put some clothes on. Hey, I admit that early on, when I took the head-first plunge of becoming a full-time artist, I wore the same clothes for days in a row. Not pretty. And, when I first became a stay-at-home father, I hardly got out of my pajamas before it was three in the afternoon. I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything. This definitely has an impact on your psyche. What I saved on laundry I more than lost in low self-esteem, depression and ominous self-doubt. And smell. Getting out of your sleeping attire tells your mind, soul and body that you have finished sleeping. Nighttime is over, and there is a new day ahead. You will feel better about yourself and the world. I would even recommend dedicating at least one day a week to sprucing yourself up. Take time to primp yourself, as if you were going into a fancy job or on a big date. So take that shower, pomp that hair up, put on the war paint, douse your face in aftershave—whatever it is that you normally do to feel good about your appearance. You will look yourself in the mirror and see your refreshed self ready to tackle the brand new amazing day.
Your Best Friend, H2O: Drink water first thing in the morning. Water is life. Water is the essence of all being. Nothing on this planet—and I mean nothing—can survive without water (not even the Australian water-holding frog that stores water in its bladder and can live for up to 5 years without taking a drink). Water increases energy and relieves fatigue. Water prevents cramps and strains while improving blood oxygen circulation. It aids cognitive function, and it helps with nutrient absorption.
Exercise: Walk, jog, bike, lift jugs of sand, do jumping jacks for 5 minutes, lift cans of soup above your head. It doesn’t matter—do something physical. I spend about half my working time in front of the computer. The other half is spent sitting down in front of an easel, and I have to rest my eyes, neck and back. And by rest, I don’t mean laying down; I’m referring to a break from being in a stagnant and unhealthy position. I take breaks from work every 30 minutes or so. I get up and walk around, stretch for a minute. Even a minute of just standing up and stretching makes a world of difference, mentally and physically. I also bike and hike with my son, along with lifting weights and doing HIIT workouts. I have my rest days, of course, so my body can properly repair itself, but when I skip a day I am supposed to work out, that lonely depression starts to rear back, ready to pounce. And vice versa: When I haven’t worked out and I crush a circuit, boy, do I feel great. It’s been scientifically proven, time and time again, that exercise improves your physical and mental health. And right now, mental health is what has the most potential to go sour during this time of social distancing and self-isolation.
Schedule: The dreaded “S” word. I know what you are saying: “But Will, it’s like, why schedule anything? The world is ending, so why bother?” The world is not ending, but it is changing. Now, more than ever, it is paramount to establish some grounding. A huge rug has been pulled out from many of us, and we are left with an abyss below. It is up to each and every one of us to sew a new rug back together, piece by piece, and to plant it firmly below our feet.
I like to set three small goals a day and three big goals a week. They can vary from personal goals to business ones—sometimes they are somewhere in between, given the type of work that I do. For instance, one of my daily small goals might be to ride my bike for 15 minutes. It’s not much, but I put it on the schedule. And when I finish that, I feel so accomplished. Also, my body and mind feel great because I put in some exercise. A bigger weekly goal might be to finish up a pet portrait commission. Notice I said, “finish up.” I don’t expect to finish a pet portrait commission in one week, but I have to make sure I am chipping away so that I do finish in a reasonable amount of time, and the only way to make sure I am on track is to schedule it.
When you have a schedule, you are grounding yourself. You know what your tasks are and when to do them, and you won’t get distracted by something else that comes in because you have allotted a certain task at a certain time and nothing else. This grounding will positively permeate as you need to schedule virtual meetings with others. Eventually, that new rug will be sewn and under our feet. So grab that whiteboard, Excel spreadsheet or the tried-and-true pencil and paper. Start small and grow from there.
Do Something Else: Facetime or Zoom a happy hour with friends or family. Get outside for a walk (with proper social distancing). Take an online workshop in a subject that is the complete opposite of what you do for work. Put together a jigsaw puzzle—might I suggest a certain owl themed one? Have a dance party inside your house. This may sound easy, but it is the absolute hardest thing for me. I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I definitely need to be reminded of this constantly. If all you do is work, your brain and body won’t get any down time.
When you work constantly, you are susceptible to unhealthy behaviors and feelings, such as eating junk food, feeling burnout and doing little or no exercise. Most importantly, you miss out on connections with close family and friends. Even in this time of social distancing, you can still schedule virtual time with family and friends afar. If you have a spouse and/or kid, schedule that cookie-making time, cook dinner together, binge some Zumbo’s Just Desserts on Netflix. My favorite activity is sitting on our swing in the front yard at dusk, watching our local bats forage as we sip on some wine. Stay gold.
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