Life can sometimes be challenging. It can be increasingly hard to devote attention to an art practice when the realities of our daily life seem to take up so much of our time. Jobs, bills, families along with a multitude of other pressures and obligations seemingly making endless demands on time and head space. I myself have three children, live rurally and do not have a job or career in the normal nine to five sense. I seem to spend a lot of my own time ploughing my way through the tasks I must do in order to grab some precious time for the tasks I wish to do, such as write, make or research. I find myself ‘stealing’ time, putting aside one thing in order to do another, then playing catch up. This is not only true for people who have families to care for, but true for younger generations who are faced with the gig economy, the endless demands of ‘life time learning’, perhaps holding down jobs while studying and living within the culture of our digital age, where one life is in the real and another in the digital, with very few opportunities to switch off and focus.
Being a practising artist can mean literally never turning off. You might be juggling your life and your family as well as work you are currently producing or researching. You might have a show coming up or an application to prepare. Most of your work is unpaid, and what little pay or funding you might receive never covers it. It takes a special kind of resilience to continue working in a field in which you are always working but mostly never paid. This is where caring for yourself comes in, and this is where we, as artists have to recognise our own worth and steal some time in order to replenish our physical and creative batteries. Burn out is not pleasant, it can hit suddenly, just when you were not expecting it. It can hit physically, by way of weakened immune system, digestive disorders and general run down illness, and can hit mentally, with depression, isolation and mental fatigue. You can delay it, for years perhaps like I have, but it will come if you dont focus on self care.
One way that people working in the creative field can take time out and focus not only on the self but on the practice, is by going on an artist residency. We might be reluctant to go on a conventional ‘holiday’, maybe due to having too much to do, financial constraints or just a desire to continually work. The artist residency means that we are removed from our day to day distractions and can focus on work AND self care. For some this may be going as far as Iceland, Canada or India, for others it means going to a little farm house in the middle of rural Ireland. Some residencies last a week, others a year. Depending on what you yourself need, and can fit in or steal, there is pretty much a residency out there that will cater. Some are funded, some you must pay, some are subsidised. There are as many residences out there as you can probably imagine and taking the time to find the right one for you will really help in what you might hope to achieve.
Visual Artist Ireland regularly publish details of artist residencies on their Jobs and Ops page. Join their mailing list to receive regular updates of opportunities both local and international.
Transartists.org is a website dedicated to combine and share knowledge and experience on artist-in-programmes and other international opportunities for creative professionals to temporarily stay and work elsewhere. They have some great search functions allowing you to search by discipline, region and type. They have an upcoming deadline section. I would recommend any artist to spend some time researching and reading through all the residencies just to get an impression of whats out there.
ResArtis.org is the worldwide professional body for artist residencies. It is an association of over 600 centers, organisations, and individuals in over 70 countries. The website is an essential resource for artists looking into getting away and taking valuable time out, either to just rest, creatively engage or produce while in a different setting.
It is surprising how many times you hear artists say they created a whole body of work stemming from a residency they undertook.
If you are feeling the need for a break or a change or there is a lull in your practice there are opportunities out there for you to get away and take time out, and some, though not so many, opportunities to get funding once you have secured a residency. Give yourself time, even if you have to steal it!
If you are an artist who has been or is going on a residency and would like to share your story please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org x
If you are an organisation who runs a residency please let me know about it. Email me at email@example.com it and I can include it in up and coming announcements on site x