I’ve been working in this field for twenty-three years - mainly for myself. During that time, I’ve set up three companies from scratch, moved country and had two children - and aside from the second half of my second pregnancy and the first few months with new babies, I’ve never taken a complete break. I always considered my art career to be a serious job and approached it like a dedicated employee - with an unforgiving boss.
Like many of you, I’ve spent my fair share of moments staring at a computer screen, feeling discouraged and overwhelmed by the uphill struggle of gaining and maintaining a foothold in this industry, but although I experienced common setbacks, they never stopped me from showing up - almost every single day. Year after year.
At the lowest points, I felt like an art machine, especially when my daughter was a baby - cranking it out regardless. More recently, I’ve rediscovered the joy of producing art for art’s sake, without always having an angle. But, as you know, running an art business means waking up to a very long list of stuff that needs doing...now. And the more you reach your business goals, the longer it becomes. It’s all-consuming. I can’t remember the last time my brain wasn't a tangle of ideas waiting to be unravelled and turned into tasks but, for the main part, it’s been a welcome challenge and I’ve been motivated to plot and scheme and aim high.
So it was a surprise to discover that just at the point where all my efforts yielded guaranteed rewards and the steep incline started to plateau, instead of feeling motivated to do more of that, the stuff that was getting results, I felt...completely exhausted and not very well.
I decided to take a break. For more than a month. I spent time with my children, with friends, went to the beach and the pool. What else? I went on holiday to Spain. I couldn’t really say how I spent my days. I just know I didn't draw. Or post on Instagram. And I felt very guilty. At times I wondered whether some horrible, irreversible process was taking hold of me because every time I thought about sitting in my studio, I was filled with anxiety.
Then one day in Spain, I felt a slight urge to draw. I’d brought equipment with me (just in case but also for my kids, to keep them off devices - they didn't touch it by the way).
The mythical muse (that I don’t believe in because I believe in just showing up) hit me and I spent an afternoon, evening and morning painting flowers in a very picturesque setting.
Over the next couple of weeks, I started gently considering aspects of my business again until finally, the day arrived where some real enthusiasm crept back in.
I’ve since read about it on the internet and apparently that was burn-out. And the solution is to do what I did. And it took a conscientious effort but I can testify that it worked.
When I contemplated taking a break, before doing it, I couldn’t imagine that I could reclaim lost ground. When you’re caught up in the frenzy of meeting every single demand of a busy, challenging life, it’s hard to imagine the consequences of stopping cold. They seem dire.
In reality, I lost a couple of hundred followers on Instagram. It was worth it.
My mind is whirring again and there are lots of exciting prospects on the horizon - including my design course, Create Collections, running again at the end of October.
I’m also going to make time to paint regularly, which I’m excited about. Look out for my Instagram Lives where I paint and answer your questions.
There’s a lot of catching up to do and a lot to look forward to.
Sometimes your brain deserves a short break. The sky won’t fall if you do the unthinkable and take one - but you might rediscover your enthusiasm, motivation and, above all, good health.
I recommend it.