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Time Management Tips For Artists With Families And Jobs

There's a misconception that you cannot get ahead in the art world with kids. There's another misconception that you're not a successful artist if you're not making your entire living off of strictly selling originals. The majority of artists today that I know, have multiple streams of income, whether it's art related or not. But not all of them have kids - that's an added layer to time management skills - and let me tell you, it's a skill!

So many of my students are retirees who say "I used to paint when I was younger and I put it on hold until after I raised my kids". I couldn't imagine not painting for 18-25 years! Most of these students are women, but there have been plenty of men who sacrificed their art for a "stable" job to pay for the bills too. But in our current economic life, it is very common for both parties to have to work to pay the bills. It is extremely difficult to sustain a family on a single income.

So how do we continue to be artists while raising a family and possibly having a full-time or part-time job? I was one of those artists who had a full time job and a family so let me break down some ways to manage time that worked for me.

The Early Years (baby to kindergarten)

Get Support

I was very fortunate to have a loving spouse that was a fan of my work before we were even married. He supported my need to create. Having a support network during the early years of child-rearing is incredibly important, so if you're a single parent, having some support is essential. And not every child is the same either. There are some kids with autism, ADHD, physical challenges, etc, and so your support network needs to understand your need for help and a break. It's not selfish to need a break. Art can be therapeutic, so don't feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Having a recharge and refresh is also good for the family as it's easier to lose your temper or patience over small things when you're exhausted.

Make a Schedule

With your support network, set a schedule that works for everyone. The schedule will change as kids grow and as life just happens. Don't get worked up when things change, adapt and change with them. Be resilient and flexible with the schedule, but attempt to stick with one so you can get atleast 4 hours of creating time in a week. That might not seem like a lot but it's realistic and will become more in time. Read on to see tips on using less time more efficiently.

The dishes can wait

For those of us who had maternity or paternity leave, we have heard the saying "nap when the baby naps", which is unrealistic. You can do chores while the baby is awake but it's more difficult to create while baby is awake. So spend time creating while the baby naps


There's no reason why a spouse should be able to take a break for the entire evening while you continue to cook, clean, and take care of the kids - take turns! Even when you go back to work - now there's no excuse for not taking turns doing the dishes or entertaining the kids.


-Use these years as development and experimental years. Once you gain representation and start selling, your clientele and galleries expect a particular style from you and it makes it hard to change on a whim. So spend those first 5 years playing and learning and developing a style that's unique to you that will love for a long time.

Mid-years (elementary school)

Include the kids.

It's not easy to include kids below the age of five into your creation practice without having to make sure they don't stick something harmful in their mouth, or make a mess where it's the most inconvenient, or interrupt you every minute. There is less committed time for you when painting with toddlers. But you can include elementary school kids with longer attention spans. I could get a solid hour of useful time with ages between 5 and 10 years old, and by then, they knew to respect my art stuff vs their art stuff.

This was also a time that I started working with galleries. My kids came to my shows when we couldn't get a babysitter. I would recommend you don't attend with kids so you can do some PR.

Prepare things to do

To keep kids occupied for longer periods of time, you need to prepare certain crafts they can do on their own, or give them books to read, or videos to watch (just not all the time), or lego to play with, or playdough, or have them practice their reading and writing etc. I'd use these tactics for 2 hour sessions one or two times a week. Any more than that and I'd feel as though I'm not paying enough attention to them. I mean, I worked full time and only had my kids part time technically. If I needed more time for art, I'd have my hubby play with them to ensure they had quality parental time.

Teen Years

At this point, kids are pretty self sufficient. Mine can cook and clean for themselves - they just need to be reminded to do so. It's at this point they also go out to hang with friends and is a time where they are learning independence and preparation for moving out. You can adjust your schedule how you see fit! Yay!

Using Time Wisely

So how can you get anything good accomplished with just 6 hours a week? I can only give advice for painting but perhaps some of these next tips can be applicable to you.

  • Use a fast drying medium that forces you to be quick (this was true for me when I learned acrylics)

  • set a timer and work loose and quick

  • work small

  • sketch and draw a lot. Maybe while a movie is on, you sit next to the kids and sketch or create small original art cards. (Learning to draw prior to painting helped me be quicker at applying brush marks)

  • Study - read books or do research on the styles, techniques, colours, and mediums you want to learn. Include business and marketing for when your schedule allows for longer dedicated art time. Setting up a website and e-commerce and social media will be much easier when you have your portfolio ready to go along with the knowledge of getting yourself out there.

  • dedicate 2 hours a month on mentorships with . This helps speed up your learning process but keeps you involved in a supportive art community.

  • Need to work large or do more detail realism? Work in stages or chunks of the painting.

This painting of my kids, was done in 2 hours. The reason it didn't take long is because I have developed drawing skills, kept the background simple, used minimal brush strokes, and it's only 12" x 12". Good things can come quickly if you have practice and knowledge.

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