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4 Ways to Balance Your Day Job with Being an Artist

Luuk Lijten

Regardless of preferred medium, many artists don’t make art full time. And finding a nice balance between having a job while also being an artist can be easier than one might think. Just ask artist and doctor, Jacob Aguiar.

1. Do 20- to 30-minute timed studies, without prep work

Most of the time, I try to be a good boy and do my notans and values studies prior to painting; however, in a time crunch, I realized these preparatory stages were enough of an obstacle to prevent me from painting at all. It seemed like it was “all or nothing.” I needed at least a four-hour chunk of time to paint.

Now, I still do notans for larger pieces. But if I only have an hour or hour and a half, I’ll try to squeeze in two or three timed studies working no larger than 6 x 9 inches. Often these little gems are 4 x 6 or 5 x 7. I tend to lean toward simple compositions that don’t require complex drawing when doing these timed studies.

2. Always have a palette and painting gear ready to go

I have a large Heilman pastel box, as well as a box with complete sets of Nupastels and Cretacolor hard pastels broken in thirds, that live in my car. I also keep in my car my travel easel and everything I need to complete a painting as well.

I’ve even gone so far as to store a Holbein watercolor kit with an Arches watercolor paper block in one of my drawers at work. I’ve found that the thought of spending even 10 to 15 minutes to collect my painting gear is enough to prevent me from painting.

3. Keep painting clothes in the car

When I’m finished at the office, I can change out of work clothes and into my painting gear. This allows me to bypass driving home right after work, and removing the temptation to stay inside watching Netflix or Hulu.

4. Learn to love what’s local

It’s easy to be enamored with spectacular scenes like the Grand Canyon or the cliffs and crashing waves of Big Sur, yet many of us live in more modest locales. Painting what’s right outside your back door (or just down the street) is a great way to maximize limited time.

I’m “that guy” who sets up his easel and paints the birches in a neighbor’s yard or a garage with beautiful morning light striking it.

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