Artists sometimes complain that they find it difficult to work in the summer, and that the sunny season can be even more of a ‘dry spot’ for them, creatively speaking, than it is for the garden physically. There are lucky individuals who thrive in the heat, love summer and are never happier than when the sun is beating down on them and their canvas and paints, but if you’re not one of them, don’t worry. You are not alone – and there are ways to deal with the summer blues!
There are a few problems that many artists have with working in summer, but the most obvious is the heat. Of course, an easy solution for some is to turn to air conditioning, but this doesn’t work for everyone – for one thing, not all studios have air conditioning, especially if they are separate from the main house. Artists who do have sometimes prefer to work without, either for environmental reasons or because it produces the wrong atmosphere. Finally, the many artists who find much of their inspiration out of doors cannot take the cool air with them; they have to manage somehow by themselves.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stay cool – or, at least, cool enough to work. Fans, both electric and hand fans, are valuable tools – though be careful not to aim them directly at your work, as it may have unintended consequences! Plenty of icy drinks (remember that it’s vital to stay properly hydrated) and cool, wet cloths on the back of the neck or wrists are both handy summer tricks. If you’re working outside, bear in mind that midday isn’t good for you or your work; the sun is hottest and the light is generally not what you’re looking for. Most importantly, stay determined. If you throw yourself into your work, you’ll quickly find that the heat isn’t as much of a problem as it seemed when you began.
Some artists complain that the summer presents unusual difficulties in terms of time. If you have children, summer means summer vacation, and of course you want your kids to have as great a time as they can with their school break. The trouble is that sometimes that can seem to mean months without having enough time to yourself to create.
The most important thing in overcoming this challenge has been mentioned many times on this blog before – the crucial nature of setting aside time for your work. It’s necessary for you as a professional artist, for your work, and quite probably for your own peace of mind. Take advantage of the times when the children are busy and away from the house – if that means moving your ‘art time’ around a bit, it’s worth it. In general, though, it’s easy to make your children understand that certain hours of the day or week are ‘your time’, when they must not disturb your work except for something important – especially if you point them to particular activities they can engage in while you’re busy that will keep them occupied and happy.
Don’t be afraid to take a break, though. Going on a trip with your family, spending time with friends who have come on vacation, visiting museums or local events won’t do you any harm, even if it does mean putting away your easel for a week or two. You’ll come back fresh and with new memories tucked away in your mind for when you need them.
One other issue artists worry about is that the warmer weather saps their energy and determination, either because they slow down in the heat or because they want to be outside all the time and can’t concentrate on work. This doesn’t really need to be a problem – if you’re just concerned because you’re a bit slower than usual, relax. Adapt your pace to the state of mind and body you’re in, don’t demand unreasonable efforts of yourself, and be satisfied with keeping going in a calm, methodical way.
One way to deal with feeling sluggish is to use the time to do all those jobs you’ve been putting off for ages, the small, irritating tasks such as cleaning your work materials thoroughly, cataloging your found materials or images, tidying the studio or stocking up on supplies. These are all things that do need to get done, and setting yourself clear, small goals is a great way to motivate yourself.
What are the challenges you face in the summer months? How do you overcome them? Let us know in the comments!