Category Archives: New Year’s resolution

How this all began

clockOnce upon a time as a young, optimistic art school graduate, I assumed I would spend all my time making art and everything else would just fall into place. Sound familiar? Many days came and went. I worked. I got married. Moved. Bought a house. Some days I made art, some days–well there’s always tomorrow right? It wasn’t until after my son was born that I realized time is limited. Like really limited. Like 2 hours until mother’s morning out is over and no more time until Thursday. That’s when I started to get disciplined. I read First Things First. It helped.

A few years after that, I attended a presentation on marketing by local artist Carmella Jarvi. She made a suggestion that resonated with me: Keep track of how you spend your time for two weeks. I strongly recommend doing this. I guarantee you’ll find some time-wasting activities that you can reduce to make room for your creative work.

Needless to say this was right up my alley and I followed her advice, continuing beyond the two weeks. At that point I was working part time and handling a major volunteer commitment, in addition to raising a small child and managing a household. I became somewhat obsessed with the idea of constructing the “ideal” week to balance all of these demands with enough time left over to make art.

Although I have yet to construct such a week, the act of tracking my time became not only a helpful analysis tool but a major accountability tool. It’s hard to blame your lack of creative output on anything but yourself if you spent 15 hours binge watching The West Wing on Netflix last week . (I would never do that.)

And then I discovered a fabulous tool. It’s an app called aTimelogger. (Disclaimer: I have no connection to the producers of this app. There may be others that do the same thing. I just like this one.) ATimelogger allows you to set up any number of activities. When you start one, just press start. Then press stop when you’re done. The app produces stats like how many hours in a month you spent on an activity, and will even make a pie chart showing the percentage of your overall time you spend on it. Just the kind of feedback I love.

At some point during this whole “ideal week” period I started trying budget a certain number of hours a week for art. It may have been 10 hours, I can’t remember. Here’s the problem with that approach, at least for me. Once you have a week, or two, when you fail to meet that goal, IT’S ALL RUINED and the black and white thinkers among us will just give up. It’s the same dynamic that causes dieters to give up after one slip.

For me, that’s the magic of setting a yearly goal. You have a second chance, and a third, fourth, etc.  If you have a bad week you can make up for it slowly by adding a few hours to the next few. You can bank hours ahead of time so you can go on vacation.You can look back and see measurable progress. That progress will motivate you to continue.

So if you have a creative pursuit that you would like to nurture, here is my advice to begin. (I assume you know what you want to do-if you don’t, read First Things First-it helps!)

1. Track how you use your time for two weeks or more. Yes, it’s a pain, and yes it’s totally obsessive but you will end up with invaluable information about yourself and how you can find time to pursue your passion even if you have work, a family, etc. You can post your stats in the comments below!

2. Look at your analysis and decide on a realistic  weekly average. Is it 50 hours (approximately 1 hour/ week) this year? That’s better than nothing! Maybe you can do 100 or 500 or more. That’s up to you, but don’t set yourself up for failure. You can always increase your goal mid-year or next year. Post your goals below too.

Start thinking about your 2015 goals. If you found this post helpful, please share it with the buttons below!

Taking stock of 2014

A Belated Happy New Year to all!

How did you do on your New Year’s Resolutions last year? My goal was to spend at least 500 hours making art.  Despite a slightly rocky start and a fairly unproductive patch in the early summer, I did pretty well!

I made up a lot of time in the fall,  passed the 500 hour mark on November 29 and went on to complete a total of 532 hours for the year. It was really nice to be able to let go a little during the holidays, knowing I had achieved this goal. My marketing and business goal fell a little short at 238/250 hours.  I had an additional 137 hours of “supporting tasks” like research, prepping materials, framing etc., for a total of 907 hours of art related activity.

So what were the fruits of my labor? I actually had a pretty good year. Here are the highlights:

  • Seven 22X30″ drawings
  • Two 48X60″ drawings
  • Four videos

My favorite drawing from 2014

Outcry 2014
Outcry, 2014

In addition, I:

  • applied to eight shows and was accepted to four
  • won first place in one of them
  • made some sales, including one major piece
  • got a nice spotlight in the Wilmington Star-News
  • completed my grant project, learning a TON about video editing software and making time lapse videos
  • redesigned my website and made some headway using various social media platforms

What could I have done better? I had hoped to produce more drawings than I did. The video project took up a lot more time than I had anticipated. Still, I am really glad I did it and plan to continue with time lapse and maybe even branch into some animation. However, in 2015 I am upping the ante once again. I have decided that 500 hour goal will apply to tangible studio work only. Any video work will be in addition to that. Once again I will set my marketing goal at 250 hours. This goal includes tasks such as managing my website and social media and identifying and applying to galleries and shows.

So that is my overview for 2015. I am still cleaning up some teensy leftover details from last year and developing some specific work goals, but setting this hourly goal each year has helped me immensely! In the next few posts I will share some of the tools I use to stay on track. I am looking forward to seeing what the new year will bring.

Happy 2015!

PS: To see some of my drawings from this year,visit





New Drawing

Last Year, September, October, and November were probably my most productive months. I seem to be following that pattern again in 2014 and am finally starting to catch up on my goals. As of yesterday I have logged 459 hours in the studio, and 224 spent on marketing tasks. Here is my latest drawing, titled “Bitch, ” and measuring 48×60 inches.

Drawing of two dogs
Bitch, 2014

How about that New Year’s Resolution?

Well, I am having a good month. As I mentioned in my last post, some of my work was accepted in a show in MN. Earlier this week I entered some more drawings in a local juried show and one was accepted. So I actually have work in two shows that are opening this weekend, and this is the first time I have ever been able to say THAT.

“Outcry” 2014

Lest you think I am resting on my laurels, however, I did take the time to assess my progress on my 2014 goal of 750 hours. As the end of the first quarter, March 31 is a benchmark date for many businesses and so it seems like a good time to revisit those New Year’s Resolutions. I had a somewhat  rocky start to the year and as of mid-February I was definitely behind schedule. However, I put in extra time to make up for that, and have gotten myself caught up again.

So as of  March 31, 2014 (thirteen weeks into the new year), my progress stands as follows:
Studio time-     133 hours, which is three hours over the goal of 10 hours a week.
Marketing etc-   64 hours, or one hour short of the goal of 5 hours a week.

I’ve also added a new category of “supporting tasks,” for things like framing, purchasing art supplies, and research, which don’t really count as hands-on time in either category. I have racked up an additional 36 hours there, for a grand total of 233 hours in 2014.
Again, I know this kind of time keeping seems obsessive, but it works! It’s a lot like writing down all of your calories(don’t get me started) so you have a true picture of what’s going on-no room for excuses. And, for the moment at least, it seems to be paying off.

Goals for 2014

Happy New Year Everyone,

It is the beginning of the first full “back to work” week of the year. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been thinking about my studio goal for 2014. Although I am a little nervous about it, I have decided to commit to a total of 750 hours: 500 in the studio and 250 managing marketing and the business side of things. This equals an average of about 15 hours a week-I hope I do it!
I spent the first few days after New Year’s taking stock of 2013 and outlining some preliminary goals for this year. It’s pretty interesting to write out a list of your accomplishments over the year; I recommend you try it.
For me, dedicating 500 hours to art meant that I accomplished the following in 2013:

  • Three large scale (5-6 foot) drawings
  • Six 22×30″ drawings
  • One 30×40 mixed media painting
  • A small edition of lithographs based on an older drawing

My favorite drawing from 2013:
"Picked Clean, " Laura Sussman-Randall
“Picked Clean,” 2013. (48×60)

I also:

  • Submitted work to six shows (Accepted in two)
  • Finally had good photos taken of my work
  • Resurrected my website, which had been down for TWO years
  • Wrote a grant request to the Arts & Science Council of Mecklenburg County and was selected for funding-more on that later.
  • Gave a talk with my mother to a group of art history students at Queens University
  • And of course, started this blog

It’s difficult for me to trumpet my own accomplishments like that (an issue I will have to get past if I’m going to market my work seriously), but the important point is that I’m sure I would not have gotten this much done if I hadn’t held myself to this 500 hour goal.
I would have liked to have produced a few more completed pieces this year, so that will be a goal for 2014. On the other hand, some of the marketing tasks, like getting portfolio shots and fixing my website, were long overdue and I am glad they are done.

As for 2014, I have some good preliminary plans and am looking forward to seeing how many goals 750 hours will allow me to accomplish.

9 Hours to go…

With three days left in 2013, I have two goals:  to finish up the last 9 hours to make a total of  500, and to set my goal for 2014. Although it may seem risky to raise my goal when I am making this one just under the wire, there is an extenuating circumstance. I made a major adjustment to my schedule mid-year by opting out of a very time consuming volunteer position.
Thanks to my trusty-and obsessive-record-keeping, I can see that I completed only 152 hours by June 30, or an average of about 6 hours a week. The remaining 348 hours were completed in the second half of the year, after I cleared my schedule. At a rate of approximately 13.5 hours a week, I should be able to complete approximately 700 hours in 2014. I will think about it for a few days and post my goal by New Year’s.

Had enough math yet? Go get in the studio.

500 Hours in the Studio

So, at the beginning of this year (2013) I made a New Year’s Resolution to spend 500 hours in the studio. Actually, the original idea was 10 hours a week; but give or take a little for holidays, busy work weeks, and unexpected events, 500 hours seemed like a good round number. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at any given pursuit. I wish I had a record of the hours between graduation from art school and this year, but I don’t … oh well.

So, here it is, December 17 December 20, and I am staring down the barrel with just 13 hours to go. I’ll make it, despite the variables introduced by real life; family, house, work (the income producing kind), and the impending holidays. But let me say this- if I hadn’t set the goal in the first place, there is NO WAY I would be forcing myself at this time of year to finish one last drawing, work on my Facebook artist page or start this new blog. As a matter of fact, I am quite certain I wouldn’t have spent the 487 hours that I have racked up to date.

I used an app to track my studio time, and faithfully marked each week’s total on my calendar. Many weeks were less than 10 hours (like no hours), but some were more, particularly if I had a deadline to meet. This year I decided to include marketing work such as researching shows and setting up my website in the total. Next year I am thinking of setting a separate marketing goal and requiring the 500 hours to be hands-on studio time.

Yes, I may be abnormally data-driven for an artist, but by setting this goal and breaking it into small bites, I set up a system of accountability for myself that is measurable and adaptable. And I got a lot done.

It is my intention to use this blog to document the day to day experience of building a career as an artist. I plan to include progress pics of my work, my experiences with the materials I use, things that inspire me, and successes and failures along the way (hopefully more of the former).

I hope it will be of interest to my fellow artists, art lovers, students, and curious bystanders. I welcome your comments-What are you working on? How do you motivate yourself to get your work done?

For a little more about what I do, check out my website.

Oh, and by the way, writing this post just brought my total up to 487 ½ hours