Art and the Work/Life Balance Art and the Work/Life Balance Jun. 6th, 2016 Saybra O'Brien
Get Off My Lawn, by Saybra Giles

Art and the Work/Life Balance

June 6th, 2016

Finding the time for art while having a full-time job has always been a challenge for me. My experience in the workforce has somewhat resembled a game — the need to make art and the need to make ends meet — a sort of internal tug-of-war.

Make art or go to work? Work in an “art job” or work in a “real job”?

And, once you find yourself in the right type of job, how do you ensure that you’re dedicating enough of your time to the important things in your life outside of work? You have your day job, your social life, your love life, your “you” time, your family time, and your studio time? How are you supposed to manage all of these things and still propel yourself forward in life?

Balance.

Large Poppies, by Saybra Giles

A shift in priorities

When I finished my bachelor’s degree, I began my career in the art world. I worked as a gallery director for over five years, coming to know many working artists while curating and installing over 70 exhibitions. After a while, I noticed that though I loved working in the gallery industry, the type of work itself was suffocating my desire to create my own art. In fact, out of the 70 shows I put together, only one was mine. Despite the fact that I had invested over five years in my curator career I made the decision to shift and recenter myself: I would start working “normal” jobs for a career and focus on creating for my art.

After moving, I worked in several operations positions and seem to have experimented with every combination of job/life options. There was the strict 9–5 with a local non-profit which gave me freedom on nights and weekends—freedom to feel guilty for not work longer and harder to further the cause. There was the administrative position with a local culinary school, where the hours varied slightly and weekend events were mandatory and plentiful. I even managed a restaurant for two years, which allowed me to have several weekdays off and not go into work until 3pm…but I sacrificed my weekends and evenings with friends and I never got to turn off my phone for fear that someone would call in sick and the whole place would burn to the ground.

But on the art side of things… Since commencing this grand Austin work/life experiment, I have found a great living space with a shared backyard art studio. I’ve participated in three group exhibitions and have been featured in two major studio tours. I finally feel like I have found an equation to making life, art, and a full-time job happen together. But it didn’t happen overnight, and the key for finally feeling settled in this rhythm came with my position at Four Kitchens.

Busy Being Busy, by Saybra Giles

Know what you value

When you start a new position with Four Kitchens, part of being onboarded is learning about the company’s History and Core Values. While this is not uncommon for a company, the thing that sticks out to me is seeing these core values being put to use day-to-day. There’s a very present level of trust and transparency amongst this team and I think that allows us to stay on track as we move toward being fully distributed.

Working from home provides its own set of unique challenges when attempting to create balance between work and home and art and, as the cool kids say, “all the things.” Communicating continuously, staying on track, and remembering to leave the house and see folks in person are a few things that I have found necessary.

Communicating

You have to remember to poke your head in and communicate with your teammates, which can be hard for someone with an “artist personality.” I can sometimes get stuck in my own little universe when working on a project, regardless of it being work-related or art-related. I tend to dig in and plug away at the thing, whatever it is, and I have to remind myself sometimes to look up and have a conversation with someone. Whether it’s about the progress of that project or just saying hello to a colleague and finding out about their favorite beer, fluid communication adds to the rhythm of your workday and helps keep things moving along.

Staying on track

Distractions happen everywhere. They seem to happen even more frequently when working from home. “I could write a blog post for work or I could make art things. Hmmm…” I have my share of distracted moments as an artist, but as an administrator, my need for structure and organization tends to win. I’ve found it very helpful to carve out time on my calendar not only for meetings with other colleagues, but for tasks as well. It really helps to look at my workday or week and have a visual picture of what I’ll be doing and when. I’ve started using this practice on my personal/art calendar as well , and while my commitment to personal time is a bit more flexible, I still find myself being more productive and appreciating that discipline from work bleeding over into the art.

Being social

When you work from home during the day, and then also make art from the same space during some evenings and weekends, you tend to neglect the things outside of your home. I had lunch with a colleague yesterday and it was really nice to be in the same physical space and share a meal with someone while we chatted about work and life. Making a point to get together every once in awhile really helps fill in the gaps of communication with your teammates and build morale. I have to remind myself of this as we move closer to the finish line of closing down our office and being fully remote. I also have to remind myself of this just in general—because it is equally as important to be in the same physical space as the friends in your personal life from time-to-time and the art making process sure can get in the way of that.

All the things

It is no unique thing for an artist to be working at Four Kitchens. I find comfort in knowing that in this company, I will never be known as “one of those “artsy-fartsy types” or “that artist girl.” I feel lucky to be able to communicate with creative people every single day in my job and I think that this is part of what makes Four Kitchens a great place to continue my experiments in balancing all of the things.

Emerge, by Saybra Giles


The images in this post are all creations of Saybra Giles; from top to bottom they are Get Off My Lawn, Large Poppies, Busy Being Busy, and Emerge. You can see more of Saybra’s artwork on her website saybragilesfineart.com or on her Instagram account at saybra.

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