Friday, July 10, 2015


I am under a deadline to complete a commission. I have 7 weeks left. I committed to the client to have it completed and shipped in early September. So, what's the problem - seems like lots of time, right?

The problem is that this is a huge piece, it is a complex piece, it is 48" in diameter (it is a round piece!), it is on wood instead of canvas (which makes it different, not necessarily more difficult), and we have more company expected (only for a few days and I'm happy they are coming!). So, in order to not panic, to not be up till all hours of the night painting, and to do a great job for my clients, I have to do something which does not necessarily come easily for a creative person. I HAVE to schedule in order to meet the deadline. 

I thought you might be interested in HOW I schedule, because this works for most deadlines you might have to meet too. 

First, I start with the end goal. So, since the beginning of September is when this has to be done, I start there and work backwards. That tells me how many days I have to accomplish the task. I make sure that I don't count days where I have other appointments or commitments, and I leave a little bit of wiggle room with a couple of days as extra time in case I need it.

Then, I figure out what needs to be done. For example, in this commission, I needed to draw out the entire piece, working out size and proportions of each of the elements to one another, and to the size of the substrate.  This was going to be done on paper first, then transferred to the wood. So, how many days would that take? I estimated 4 days at 6 hours a day - and it was just about bang on.  

So, just like the drawing of the painting  I take each thing that has to be done, and estimate the number of hours or days need to do each part of the commission: things like prepping the surface of the wood (sanding and gessoing), drawing the piece on paper then transferring onto the wood, the order of how I will paint each object of the painting, drying time if necessary, second coats, detailing the objects, varnishing the piece, and allowing time for it to be framed.

Once I have each of those steps thought out, and an amount of time planned for each one, I put each of those steps onto little stickies. If it is going to take 3 days for one step, I put that step on 3 different stickies. Then those stickies get put into my daytime calendar starting with the last day I would be working on this painting in August, and working back to the 1st day I began this project. 

As I accomplish each of the stages that are on the stickies, I tape them down in my calendar. If I haven't finished that sticky, it gets moved to the next day as the first thing I should begin that day. This way, I can see how on track I am and whether I need to work longer in a given day to catch up, or whether I can relax a bit because I am ahead of the schedule. 

Although this seems like a lot of work, in the end it saves me a great deal of anxiety. I have begun to schedule other things this way as well - like art shows I want to enter (entry deadlines and paintings I have to complete to enter), when to fill my hummingbird feeder, and so on. (I know that sounds a little excessive, but if I don't change their food every week, it might go mouldy - so I schedule it so that I don't poison the little creatures!)

So why the picture of flowers with this post you ask? Well, when I buy flowers, I sometimes forget to make time during the right time of the day for photographing them! Then they wither, or I am trying to set up artificial lighting,  well - you get the picture! So, I am even trying to schedule photo sessions with my flowers so that I get them at their prime. There are 6 beautiful sunflowers waiting for me right now, so I guess I should go get my camera that so I can tape down that sticky - such a feeling of accomplishment! 

How do you manage a deadline? Hope this was somewhat helpful to you. :-)

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