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How to handle life’s obligations and start an art career?

 
 

Full Time Job + Art + Family/Kids…

The fundamentals of this topic are so varied that talking about it is hard. Everyone’s life is just so different. Is your job 40 hours, 20, or 80? Do you have a new born, 3 kids, and what are their ages? How much time does your spouse need, or are you a single parent? The only way I know how to do it, is to talk about my own story, and in doing so hope that some of you relate. As we go I will try to pull out a few kernels of wisdom I picked up a long the way.

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Art takes time, family and relationships take time, and so does your job.

There is only so much time. Be realistic with yourself. I recommend sitting down and getting very specific about how much time you actually have to make art. Don’t skip this step. Knowledge is power, and floundering in a dream state about how much art you will make when you have the time is self sabotaging.

I was 28 when I decided to pursue illustration. I had a 40+ hour a week job and a wife. We sat down and agreed to make 1 Tuesday night “Creative Club.” We invited some other friends and as a group we drew pictures and wrote together, sometimes on a group project, other times independently. In time I outgrew the club, but having a target goal each week and showing it to other people was very helpful in the beginning.

 
 
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Learn to have difficult conversations with the people you care about the most.

If you are married or in a long term committed relationship the other person has to be on board. Sit down with them and have conversations about your art, your career goals, and ask for help. Ask you partner what they think, and if they have any ideas to find time?

As things progressed my wife was pregnant. We sat down, looked at the numbers, and agreed that if I would be a stay at home dad, we would save money on daycare. Whatever time I could find during baby naps was my own. Babies sleep a lot, but only in small bursts, so I practiced drawing as much as a could. In the evening after dinner my wife took over kid duty and I had a couple hours to work. This was very hard, and my life mostly consisted of baby, work, pass off baby, work more.

Your art career takes a village

You and your family are not an island. Hopefully there are other people in your life. Ask them for help! It is not weakness to ask for help, it’s weakness to need help from your community and not ask!

As I developed my early art career my mother played a huge role. She was close to retirement, and said she wanted to help with her grandbaby as much as possible. She agreed to watch my daughter on Fridays so I could travel and do conventions. She also paid for my first trip to the Illustration Master Class. I will be forever grateful to my mother for so many things, my art among them.

Don’t Waste Your Art Time

You’ve worked out the time, now use it! When it’s time to make art, freakin’ make it! If this really is as important as you say, sit down and draw. Don’t waste your art time, make art! Even if all you do is draw and practice anatomy, good for you!


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Sam Flegal is one of the Co-Hosts of One Fantastic Week a weekly webshow about self employed fantasy artists. His personal project, Fateful Signs, focuses on Norse Mythology. Sam lives in Nashville with his wife and daughter; and he buys too much stuff on Amazon Prime.