Monday, June 20, 2011

a day in the life

I love reading Wayward Spark, a blog written by Camille of Red Onion Woodworks about her experiences being a craftswoman, mom, farmer and homesteader. Though we are both 20-something American women and artists, our lives are so totally different that I'm fascinated by everything that goes on in her small Oregon cabin and farm. Her recent "day in the life" post blew my mind and inspired me to catalogue my own day as an independent artist-- unfortunately, since I don't wake up at 5am, have any cute kids or goats, or run a homestead in the woods, mine is far less interesting. But here it is, in case you are curious about some of the things being a full-time artist entails :)

Except for days when he has to go to work early or nights I've stayed up until 5am painting, Mike and I usually wake up together for a cup of coffee and yummy breakfast. This is one of my favorite things about my new job as a full-time artist-- I really love "getting started" for the day in a slow-paced way with Mike before he goes to school.

Blueberry-raspberry-chocolate pancakes and some amazing coffee. We visited Mike's parents the weekend before and got to bring home a bunch of beautiful flowers from his mom's garden.

I have a weird thing for nice coffee mugs-- drinking strong coffee out of a nice mug is just awesome, who knows why. This mug was handmade by potter Karen Lorenc. The butter dish was made by Sumiko, and the plates are stoneware from IKEA.

Not everyone wants to get up early.

After breakfast Mike walks to the subway and I get right to packing and shipping the last day of orders. I used to only ship every 2-3 days, but now that I have more time and the post office is super close I try to ship every morning. My desk is outside my studio (read: computers are away from paint and brush water) and is actually a kitchen table from college (as is all of our furniture, excluding our couches and the TV that came with our apartment). This is where I do most of my business stuff and where I sit when Shit Needs to Get Done.

A couple prints packaged, tied up and tagged. I'm working on new packaging, due out at the end of summer.

I had a very large order to ship out to the Vessels & Jewels art gallery up in New London, NH along with my regular orders. Big print orders get shipped wrapped in about a dozen layers of bubble wrap, which is almost entirely free and recycled from Mike's office.

After everything is packed, I take a break for lunch, which is usually a protein smoothie. I've never been big on vegetables, but at one point a couple months ago I realized I literally hadn't eaten a single vegetable in over a week and that kind of creeped me out. I started replacing one meal a day with a green smoothie when I found out that you can completely hide the taste of vegetables (kale, cucumber, lettuce, spinach) by blending them with fruit and juice. I bought an Oster personal blender which is super easy to clean, and on days when I have a veggie smoothie I feel like a million bucks and have more energy than I know what to do with.

On my way to the post office with about 25 orders. I knew there was a post office nearby our apartment when we moved, but then found out it was only about 4 blocks up the street, meaning I could walk or bike there! So I got a basket for my bike and only drive when I'm shipping a very large piece. Boston really hasn't gotten the hint that it's summer now, as you can see from the raincoat and long pants. On nicer days I try to bike around our neighborhood for a little while before going home.

After shipping orders, I try to get as much business stuff done as possible before getting my hands covered in paint. I answer emails, blog comments, Facebook posts, any pending wholesale or custom orders and then do an inventory of supplies if it looks like I need them. On this day I ended up stocking up like crazy- 250 mailing tubes, several bales of bubble wrap, cardboard mailers and archival paper. Gracie is either sleeping or doing cat yoga?

After the business side of things is done (and there is a lot) I finally get to play in my studio and actually make art. I started this piece over a month ago and really wanted it done, but couldn't figure out exactly what to do for a while.

The inspiration is back :) I'll move things from the easel to the desk constantly so I can see what different colors or lettering will look like before making it permanent. This is the last piece I have to finish before taking it and 4 other paintings up North to the print shop that does all my high-res scanning prior to selling or making them into prints. Since it requires two 2-hour round trip drives I try to get a lot of finished pieces together and make it worth the trip.

 About half of my text is hand-lettered (ie, my handwriting or hand-drawn letters) and the other half uses stencils or stickers that I resize, cut out, paint over or otherwise alter to look how I want while still retaining some of their original shape/size. I paint on top of recycled cellophane print sleeves that are torn or wrinkled-- it protects my table, and the letters or other painted paper lifts right off.

More of this piece. I've been working on it forever, but I know if I don't force it, it will come out just right on its own.

After painting that day, I went to pick Mike up at work in Cambridge. He is currently pursuing his PhD at M.I.T. so I usually park and meet up with him in the biology lab where he works on his thesis project, which focuses on capturing sustainable solar energy from marine algae. I waited for him to finish doing some kind of intense-looking science thing and then we headed home. 

I got lazy and stopped taking photos at this point, but if I had to guess, I think our night probably ended watching hockey and eating sushi, and a little more painting... Not bad for a full day of self-employment :)


  1. Mae,

    I love your mismatched socks, mason jar glass and your comment about Gracie doing yoga. Cats and their flexibility are really something to see. :) Thank you for the inside look at your day! I really enjoyed it!! Take care!


  2. This is really cool! I'm glad I could give you a little inspiration.

  3. This is awesome! I aspire to someday work as a full time artist so you are quite an inspiration to me! I love your paintings and prints. Could you possibly give me any advice on having prints made? I live in a small town and most printing places kind of give me a confused look. :)

  4. Jeanie- Thanks! I think the mismatched socks are result of living with 6 different girl roommates/housemates over the last four years :)

    Molly- I'm so glad I could inspire you. The funny thing is, even though I now live right in Boston I still travel to a small town 45 minutes north of the city to get my prints scanned in high-res. As far as getting your work reproduced, I'd try an internet search for "high-res image/art reproduction + your town/closest large city". Feel free to email me if you have any other questions :)

  5. I followed a link here from The Sweet Light. This post is absolutely stunning. I love the "day in the life" perspective. Makes me think it would be fun to do one myself. Looking forward to exploring more around your blog now.