February 26, 2014 | Alyson Stanfield

Your Primary Job Is In the Studio

I work every day to give you solid advice for a successful art business through my blog, online courses, workshops, social media posts, and artist masterminds.

This is not only my job, it’s also my purpose.

I don’t write about how you can improve your technique, try fresh materials on the market, or remove creative blocks.

Those jobs belong to others.

Don Sahli’s still life set-up in his studio. Photo courtesy the artist and used with permission.
Don Sahli’s still life set-up in his studio. Photo courtesy the artist and used with permission.

You, too, have a primary job, and it’s not spending wasting time on social media, trying out new software, or blogging. I bring you marketing ideas, but you shouldn’t devote too much time to them until you have done your job. Which is . . .

Working Consistently in the Studio

Your #1 job as a professional artist is to be working consistently in the studio.

Let’s look closer at that sentence.

You’re not “playing,” although there might be times where you experiment. You’re working toward a goal, whether it’s to build a body of work to promote or just to be a better artist.

You’re not working whenever you feel like it. You’re not working whenever you have time. You work in the studio because that’s just what you do. You’re an artist and artists make art.


“Studio” means something different to everyone, and lack of a “real” studio space has never stopped artists from making art. So take over the dining room table or claim the guest room if you must.

Without a dedicated space, you are tempted to make excuses for not doing the work: It takes too long to set up . . . I can’t work because we have company coming over . . . My kids get in the way.

You must work consistently in the studio in order to earn a living as an artist.

It’s a Reminder

I write an article similar to this every so often because it's important.

My goal isn’t to make you feel bad about not being in the studio enough. My goal is to remind you why you’re even reading this blog.

Presumably you landed here because you had the thought that you could make a business—perhaps even a living—from your art.

Yet too many artists put the marketing before the production. You must first know that you can show up regularly in the studio and make art.

After that habit is firmly ingrained, you can begin to think about turning it into a successful art business.

Without the Art, You Are Not an Artist

If you don’t make art, you have nothing to market.

There is no such thing as a successful art business without the art. Simply put, you cannot introduce yourself as an artist if you aren't making art.

If you don’t put hours in the studio, all you have is just a bunch of good ideas. Or, worse, you have zero ideas because you’re not focused on the work.

Your job is to be working in the studio consistently. Got it?

Swirly Yellow Line

Only after you have this practice can you begin to consider turning your art into a business and a career. That's when it's time to look at my signature program, the Art Career Success System. It will give you the business foundation and confidence you need to share your art with the world.

Start now! Why wait?

66 comments add a comment
  • Cheryl Kaldahl

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder. Sometimes during this time of the year it’s easy for me to become more relaxed about being in the studio but then by spring I’m trying to make up for lost time. It was such perfect timing for me to have this in my inbox today. Thanks again.

  • Holly

    Thank you for the push! I keep trying to tell myself this, but many days am easily distracted by keeping up with life. I create sporadically, and need to be more consistent.

  • Thank you Allyson for the reminder. I have a dedicated studio with a CPU, but being a graphic designer/digitalist with a laptop I can move around. I personally love using my deck when weather permits — I call it the East Studio and I call myself a plein air designer. LOL. All kidding aside you are absolutely ‘Your #1 job as a professional artist is to be working consistently in the studio.’ ~Marilee

  • SO incredibly true. Now that I am actually working to promote my art and myself as an artist, I find that I want to be in the studio MORE THAN EVER and really work to be there every day. It’s like my commitment to my {new} landscape work has been cemented through my commitment to finally learning how to market myself. It’s a marriage of both. Thank you ALysonfor helping me to to get to this point.. !!

  • Living in SW Florida, this is my busiest time of year away from my studio. I teach one day a week, which I consider semi-studio time, in that my class demos and instruction keep my painting skills fresh. Involvement in wet paint events can also be considered “studio time”, since I’m painting and creating at those events. Your reminders, suggestions, and advice help to keep me on track and not let daily interferences take over.

  • P.S> ANd I now have a newly-minted BLOG thanks to YOU, and another amazing art-biz coach person, Leigh Mederios at AllCreativelike. My blog is cleaningupthestudio *dot* com :-) THANK YOU ALYSON!

  • jennifer ressmann

    That’s why we got into this in the first place – right?! LOL It’s so easy to get caught up in the computer work – especially if you find that fun, too! Thanks for reminder! Off to paint! :)

  • I have a quote posted in my studio that speaks to this topic, too:
    “Vision without action is merely a dream.”

  • Debbi

    Thank you, Alyson, for the kick I so badly needed!

  • My best work is done outside…Warp your brain & think of the world as your studio…Those who don’t actually have an indoor studio are actually at an advantage, because they are forced to go outside…You are what you eat, you art where you are, & if where you are is confined by 4 walls, that is what you will art…

    • Sari: You always provide a fresh perspective. I think you should make it into a T-shirt: “That is what you will art.”

    • It would have to be a hat, it is so cold here t-shirts are just the first layer of 3 or 4…But as a Silver member of the Art Biz Incubator, I might prefer a warm high visibility hat with “ArtBizCoach Team Member”…Or “In-Training with ArtBizCoach”…Or “Member of ABI” in a Silver colour…Or “Shhh Artist Arting” with an ArtBizCoach brand…(high visibility is good, so as a pedestrian, you don’t get hit by a car…Fluorescent yellow or orange usually…)

    • Thanks Alyson – spot on… And Sari, I reakon you’ve got a winner there too…Maybe consider both: winter hat, summer T-shirt…. multiple slogans available…. Alyson could sell them via her website… (wadaya say Alyson?) “You art what you is & you is what you art” on the front
      signed …

  • Thanks Alison. I always enjoy your blogs. I find I need a clear schedule to fit everything in, and painting is not last!!!

  • I find the process (of painting) extremely frustrating (and yes boring too) but I live for the results. I have tried my very best to make the studio experience enjoyable — but it really never has been that way for me. However, once the painting is completed to my heart’s content, the end product makes me feel like I am on the top of the world (and perhaps that is why I literally incorporate our planet earth in so many of my paintings). What I do find to work for me is to set a goal to finish a certain number of paintings (usually in a series) for my annual exhibit. This way I am not focused on the process but on the completion of my task which I do find extremely pleasurable. This gives me the clarity of thought as well as the task (High Resolution Style).

    • Very interesting, Roopa. Thanks for sharing that. Focus on the results it will bring you.

    • Hi Roopa,
      It is so nice to know there are other artists like me out there! There is so much talk about how enjoyable the process is and that’s where it’s at for an artist. I too find the process to be hard work, frustrating and at times boring and slow, but when I have that finished piece with a solid vision from my imagination realized it is pure joy!
      Thanks for sharing!

    • Marque – Have you checked your personality type in Myers-Briggs? Usually it is the ENTJ/INTJ types that are result oriented and they put up with the grueling process because to them “it is always the end that justifies the means”. Had it not been the gratification with the results, I would have quit being an artist a long time ago. BTW your response triggered this quote in my head which you may find funny:
      “I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
      ― Frida Kahlo

  • Hi Alyson,
    I enjoy reading your site. I do need to mention though- you remarked stop spending time on social networks, blogging etc. Well, I have a blog and have constantly since over 2 yrs. a visitor quota of 3000-7000+ WEEKLY!
    The fluctuation derives from the times I did not write, due to illness or relocating my new studio fro Florida to Maryland.
    I need to push myself every morning before walking my dog to write.(luckily located in my studio)
    Thereafter I am free to work on my next art projects.
    So, I do believe social contact is necessary as an artist today. If we are comfortable with it or not. It takes practice and now I even enjoy photo shopping my images and sending them out into the world.
    Thanks for all your input.
    I appreciate it.
    creative energy
    Christina Jarmolinski

  • Thanks for the timely reminder to all artists to do their art. My book, 7 Habits of Deeply Fulfilled Artists: Your Aesthetic Needs & How to Meet Them, encourages artists who struggle with finding the time or motivation to their art to recognize that for artists, making art is a spiritual need not a frivolous want. Too many of us relegate art-making to categories that demean it’s importance to our emotional and spiritual well-being. As artists, our sense of meaning and purpose comes to us directly in the act of making art. As you suggest, art-making needs to take priority over art-marketing. If it’s the other way around, we can easily end up selling our souls instead of satisfying their deep aesthetic needs.

  • Thank You Ellie, for taking time to reply. I am a professional artist since over 30 yrs. and a very soulful one. I would much rather lavish in my paints applying them to the canvas, instead of having the discipline to keep things going. It has proven to be successful for me and I just keep on going……………….
    I love my life as an artist. I am thankful for the way my life has evolved. We all have our options and I use them.
    Thanks again and Namaste

  • Awesome post. Indeed, I have been spending more time creating work since I allowed myself to move a major project to a different room.

  • Alyson,
    Your article validates the daily push to follow through on what I know is necessary. I carry my studio with me where ever I go. I have my paints, several canvas boards, brushes, etc ready and avaliable to use so that I can make good use of my time during my days, nights, and travels. I set up a working studio space where ever and whenever I can or need to. I paint every day. Your words provide scafolding to follow through even when there may not be “understanding” of the drive to create. THANK YOU

  • I’m chronically ill. Keeping update to my blog is the easy part. I’m scheduled four posts in advance or two weeks. I’ve only started this year on the blog. I’ve officially been making art since 2010. I need less energy to write than create. Should get art done this week provided I don’t push myself with anything else.
    Also I am going through the process for treatment of sleep apnea which should give me more energy.

  • This is really good advice. I have spent the last few months developing a FB page, a new website and trying to keep a blog going because I am thinking of selling my are mainly through these venues. I have only a few pieces of art right now and have been working on the same painting, (embarrassingly) since last June. Like Roopa (above), I love to be an artist but more for the end result of the finished piece than for the process which means it is even easier for me to be distracted away from the studio.
    It took me awhile to come to the realization you talked about in this post and my art had suffered because of my premature focus on trying to create an art business. I am now in a conundrum because I have created the FB page and blog and feel guilty if I am not regularly posting on them, but also realize that I need to be in the studio right now and spend much less time on social media. I have thought about just forgetting about FB and the blog for a few months but hate to abandon those who have started following me.
    Any suggestions?

  • Thankyou for this blog. Having been a full time professional artist for nearly 25 years now, my practice has evolved to be multi-streamed. I am a painter, printmaker, teacher and publisher. It takes a lot of time and energy to run these four businesses (from home). So I paint and make etchings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday I go into the “office” and pay close attention to the office work. Separating the two elements of my work life, and giving them their own space means I can fully enjoy them without fretting about the deadlines that inevitably occur in both.

  • Oh my gosh! Have you been watching me??;)
    Seriously, though. This is REALLY a problem! As an artist, there are sooo many things that I WANT to paint and do, but as a business owner and entrepreneur, there are so many things I feel I HAVE to do (like marketing and social media) It’s a real challenge to manage my time and work flow and I too often sit down to answer a question on Etsy and find myself an hour or two later pinning my 100th pin of the session or reading a blog that I just discovered. As you so accurately described in Bootcamp, the “pretty lights” of the internet and Facebook have to be approached with caution and control. Thanks, Alyson!

  • Ordi Calder

    :) Hello everybody! Wow Alyson.. you are my master. Is like food your articles.. simple and direct great help. Thanks.
    Ordi Calder
    u n d e r l i e s

  • Alyson,
    Without going into massive detail, I’ll just say “yes” and EXACTLY! I have been spending too much time thinking about “business” and not enough on what I love to do. When I started painting full time 10 years ago it was not to make money – it was to enjoy creating. With my focus on business I started feeling like everyone was making money off of my art but me – the framer, the art associations, the workshop teachers, the art supplier, UPS, FEDEX, the website, and the restaurant I hang my work in – crazy! That miserable feeling born of expectations for profit is the price I paid for ignoring the joy and sense of satisfaction I get from creating.
    So I have set new goals for 2014 – the first one is to put a new focus on enjoyment – which means reading more novels and spending less time on FB. And getting back to enjoying painting – focusing on my development as an artist, and keeping the focus there. I think this next year will be all about building my resume and my body of work. Ultimately I’ll be smarter when it comes to “business” – I am learning a lot about the business from you, and when the time is right I’ll know it.

  • Sarah Levinson

    Dear Alyson,
    Thank you for this reminder. I wouldn’t mind if you remind me weekly! I have begun working on developing my own website, and though I enjoy the challenge of the learning curve and the creativity involved, I am very aware of the fact that I need to spend more time in the studio. Thankfully, I do have many ideas for artwork, but I panic when I think about if I’ll ever finish all of them in this lifetime. The constant need of income also keeps me out of the studio too often. My creative mind conjures yet more and more projects for income using my art. These projects are successful, but not enough to allow me to spend enough time in the studio. It’s a vicious cycle. If only the poor starving artist could be supported to be able to create.
    Anyway, I own your book and enjoy all of your blog posts and videos on your YouTube channel. And I appreciate all of your advice. Thank you again.

  • Dear Alyson, This particular Insider is so darn real (for me)! Very grounded and grounding, matter-of-fact, and a breath of fresh air–woohoo! Thank you so much, Light, Cherilyn

  • Barbara Muir

    Hi Alyson,
    Thanks for this. I frequently feel guilty when I don’t have time to read friends’ blogs, or follow through on motivational material I intended to read because I’m painting. You’ve essentially given us permission to paint. Thank you. I try to spend time in the studio every day, although it isn’t always possible. Then if I can’t I try to forgive myself for having a demanding entire life. But art is the core, and if I’m not in the studio, I’ll want to be. I agree with Cherilyn — Woo Hoo!
    XOXOXO Barbara

    Thank you for always driving this home to us: making art is the most important thing an artist does.
    My self-chant is that 15 minutes in my studio is progress and better than none. It’s amazing how much paint I do in those precious minutes! I refuse to feel guilty that I’m not on FB, etc. Thank God for smart phones: most of my social media is done from a smart phone while away from my studio. ;)
    Thank you, again.

  • Unfortunately this came a little late for me; nevertheless so true. For all of January and the first two weeks of February I struggled to get myself into the studio to work. I played around on my blog and Facebook etc… Making excuses that I needed to promote my work. But really it was fear; fear that I could not live up to this year’s challenge. ‘abstracting the landscape and finding spirit of place’. I had to force myself to get on with it, and thankfully I am now working and in full flow. Thanks again Alison for a really constructive article albeit a bit late for me. I am going to print it off and pin it above my computer; just in case – best ashar

  • Another great but graceful, kick in the butt! :-) thanks for all of the great coaching and writing you do on your blog, I appreciate it!

  • Your message came at the perfect time- while I am lucky enough to be producing a lot of work for one client, I am finding myself stuck for stamina to create NEW work. It’s tough to find the energy to stay in the studio after the production is done. I have new pots and patterns stored in my head, but I am having trouble with time.

  • Alyson, I just love how supportive you are of us Artists!
    It’s easy to forget amongst all the marketing etc that having studio time is just as – probably even more important!
    I feel truly grateful that there’s someone like you out there, for us, for me, championing Art-making as a legitimate and NEEDED thing in this world.
    Thank you!
    Chrissy x

  • Yes, you’re always in my head saying this Alyson! For me it is a symbiotic relationship – if I don’t make art, I don’t have anything to blog about. I get my best post ideas in the studio :)

  • Thank you for this post, Alyson. It’s a great reminder and comes at a great time for me as I recently find myself stressing about posting work that I don’t have on the social networks. It’s clear that I have gotten slightly off track of my main goal of creating a big body of work this year. Thank you for this reminder!

  • “Your Job is in the Studio” was a gift to my wandering eyes. After snooping around too many websites for way too long, in order to “find a job”…there you were telling me where my job was. Boy did I need to hear this.

  • Melissa

    Great post, such a simple important reminder. I recently secured a studio space for creating, I am beyond excited and cannot wait to focus on different series that I am dreaming of!

  • Beth R-P

    Vision without action in MY world is downright delusional. LOL
    Great post. This is my vision, my dream, my reason for being in the world. Gotta get that social media action going! Thanks a bunch!

  • Brent A

    …you know us too well & why we are here…please feel free to reminds us of everything (regardless of time) because you’ve witnessed successes & failures based on the principal of work ethic…would have responded sooner (but my family were “Okie Boomers”..)and this year, I have just started taking this “biz” seriously…two commissions, created Facebook art page, Etsy store, website, and my first show….all since April…would say more but…have to work…I mean CREATE..
    Thanks Alyson (and Art Biz community)

  • Sheelagh Mc Shane

    Thank you so treu….Sheelagh

  • J.T.

    When bankers get together they talk about art.
    When artists get together they talk about money.

  • I believe that’s an Oscar Wilde quote.

  • J.T.

    Yes. Oscar Wilde is correct. I forgot to put it in quotation marks.

  • Thank you this great reminder. I always struggling with the thought that I must work an office job in order to make a living and not paint to make a living, so I always paint and can’t wait to get into my studio as soon as I finish my work.
    Hopefully, someday I will be able to make painting my daily job.

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