Archives for category: Stress & wellbeing

2012 seems to be flying by so quickly, combined with the end of the financial year and the seriously busy arts calender in full swing in all parts of the world- things can get hectic. So lucky for you the theme of our July interviews at arts interview is Stress and Wellbeing. We start this month off with artist Anthony White. Enjoy!

Anthony White is an international artist- Australian born and bred, now based in Paris. After graduating from the National Art School in 2003, White has exhibited widely in Europe and Australia and is held in significant private and public collections in Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA. Anthony talks to arts interview about his practice and the sometimes stresses of working as a full time artist.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

Can you tell us a bit about your practice and what you have been working on recently?

My practice is built around the sensuous nature of paint with an awareness of  surface. The paint itself has really been the subject, exploring physicality in order to find form.  The process now is becoming one of reduction and erasure. I’m interested in the idea of psychic automatism that the Surrealists were into. The idea of bridging the gap between the unconscious mind and the conscious one and how that relates to the integrity of the mark.

Currently I’m working on a body of work for exhibition in Hong Kong early next year at The Cat St Gallery, Hong Kong as well as a group show called Signal 8 during August in Hong Kong.

What do you think are the broad stress factors for artists?

I think the biggest stress is probably about time management, money and organisation. I think artists in general can have a hard time being responsive towards a deadline and finishing things. Questioning how much of that day job do you work and how much time in the studio tends to make you very, very busy. If your lucky enough to be making art fulltime then its difficult to get the work out there globally, without stretching yourself financially.

Can you tell us about when you first moved from Australia to Paris, what were the stress factors of moving and finding yourself in a new ‘art scene’?

Meeting people in the art world can be difficult with a language barrier. I have also hired a translator for special projects in the past, which helps a lot.

Do you have any specific coping mechanisms when you are stressed?

I find myself in nature a lot, that’s really important. Also I find doing something else totally unrelated for a while until you come up with the answer you need. Sometimes you need to forget about things. I also tend to write copious amounts of lists.

Do you find it difficult to balance your work and lifestyle?

Yes it’s incredibly difficult to find a balance, but I love what I do so it doesn’t really feel like work. I never turn off- I’m always thinking about art.

I think it’s energetic and exciting when something new develops in your art practice. The constant renewal of ideas is the stuff that makes your art alive and can encourage/nurture yourself as an artist when things get tough

What do you do to relax? Is it easy for you to ‘switch off’ from your practice to do this?

No it’s not easy to switch off at all. I find it difficult but I think it is important for creative renewal .In the past I was a professional chef and since I’ve been making art fulltime, I’m finding time to spend in the kitchen at home, making things that I wouldn’t normally have the time for. This lets me wind down a bit.

www.anthonyjwhite.net

Photo: courtesy of Tomahawk Studios 

Having just recently returned from tour in Jakarta, Van She percussionist Tomek Archer is not only a musician but the award-winning creative director of Tomahawk Studios furniture design and practices as an architect for a commercial firm in Sydney. His signature furniture piece, The campfire table is now held in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Tomek talks to arts interview about working with others and stress.

 Interview by Lydia Bradshaw

What are the broad stress factors of being a musician on tour?

Well you put a lot of stress on your body, because you’re mostly sitting around waiting, really inactive. Then you have about an hour of really intense activity, and then that’s it. You probably drink too much, and are usually dehydrated, so it’s mainly a stress on your body. It’s more of a physical stress than a mental stress.

I suppose the only time things really would ever get stressful for musicians, or for anyone, is when you have difficulty focusing upon the present and what is straight in front of you. Stress is when you are worried about something that might happen or something you cannot help. So it’s pretty important when doing anything to be able to put all that aside.

How does working across different mediums affect your perception of stress and how would you describe its affect upon wellbeing?

I think of music and design more as being complimentary – as two halves of a whole. But it means that I am always working- one seems to always be the downtime from the other.  All of my breaks from design are on tour and all the down time from touring is filled with design. So it’s pretty rare to have a holiday that isn’t at all design or music related.

It’s common for people working in creative industries to have many projects all going on at once. How important is flexibility when you are working on a number of projects?

Flexibility is the ability to adapt, and sometimes it means that everyone around you who you work with is required to be a bit flexible as well. It can definitely put a strain on other people you’re working with. I have found that everyone I work with has been pretty flexible, other wise I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done.

What do you do to relax?

I’d like to say travelling, but every time I go travelling I’m working so it doesn’t really count. I haven’t been on a long holiday in a while. I’m not that good at sitting still for a very long time. I think it’s different for people who work primarily for money, but I guess I’ve designed a life for myself where I will probably never stop working. I’ll probably never retire. I like watching films. I like going to the snow. But, whatever I’m doing I always keep my eyes open as well. My brain doesn’t turn off. I should probably start meditating. I’m totally in control all the time- like Patrick Bateman.

http://www.tomahawkstudios.com/

http://www.vanshe.com/

The discussions of stress factors have emerged as a recurring theme throughout many of our interviews to date. It is a big issue that has the potential to spill over to affect our general wellbeing. So, for this week’s interview we decided to alter the format and simply ask a select, diverse group of arts professionals two questions about what they find stressful about working in the arts and what they do about it. We are immensely grateful for the shared insights and honesty. I have actually taken a few of these suggestions on board myself.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon 

Helen Garner

A writer of both fiction and non-fiction including: Monkey Grip, The Children’s Bach, The Last Days of Chez Nous and Joe Cinque’s Consolation.

What do you think are the most stressful aspects of working in the arts?

Just doing the work. The technical and moral battles of doing it. Fighting lethargy and postponement.

Tolerating the responses of other people to what I have done. Getting up every morning to start again. Necessity for enormous stretches of being alone.

What have you done to reduce the impact of such stress on your own life and work?

Physical exercise. Friendship. Routines. Self-discipline. Dancing. Playing the ukulele. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Divorce. Accepting and being grateful for solitude.

Louis Pratt

A sculptor, film-maker and painter. Louis is represented by Iain Dawson gallery Sydney.

What do you think are the most stressful aspects of working in the arts?

I normally think/feel everything that is needed to be done other than making art can be stressful, the art making is the UN-stressing aspect of the work. So when I am making work – it is great, but it is the distractions such as paying bills and doing admin among other things that can be stressful. Though, that is very general on the stressful side.

What have you done to reduce the impact of such stress on your own life and work?

My personal strategies would be to simplify life – not to engage in lots of things and keep social engagements low. I should say that I do mediate everyday but not for managing stress.

I heard on the radio just today that Mozart wrote this amazing work at the age of 33 or so, and it was a light fill work without stress. But it is known that the very next day after finishing it he wrote to a friend begging for money…

Amanda Robins

An artist, academic and author of Slow Art: meditative process in drawing and painting.

What do you think are the most stressful aspects of working in the arts?

I think the most stressful aspects of working in the arts are the lack of security in income and the competitiveness. I also find the necessity to constantly network stressful as well as the continual spectre of rejection – no matter how high up the food chain you are.

Of course, working in a responsible academic position in the visual arts also has its own stresses, perhaps not that different to those who are in similar positions outside the arts field.

What have you done to reduce the impact of such stress on your own life and work?

I do find that physical exercise works for me and I know others for whom it has been helpful. Getting away from the city now and then (somewhere without mobile phone coverage!) and having supportive friendships outside the arts can be helpful, as is a supportive relationship.

Angela D’Alton

A curator, stylist and director on projects including: Leeloo.com.au, {twin set}, the ship song project and peppermint magazine.

What do you think are the most stressful aspects of working in the arts?

In Australia, it is probably the availability of work, the regularity of work, the salary of the work available, and the general things that go with the risk of choosing a creative career when you also need things like a roof over your head and food on your table. The other stuff is handling criticism, the self-doubt, being scared of the “haters”, and pushing through the days when you are feeling super, super lazy and completely uninspired.

What have you done to reduce the impact of such stress on your own life and work?

Removing the things that do not ring true in my heart from my life. Having family and friends that love and support me no matter how crazy or ridiculous my ideas might be. Ensuring I have regular creativity just for creativity’s sake. I do pilates, ballet, go dancing, walk my dog. Moving a little away from the rush of the city has given me time to ponder and appreciate. I have got to know myself over the years through a lot of work, trying a lot of different things and not being put off by people who think I cannot “stick at something”, tried a lot of different creative based things which gives you an new perspective and insight into the different processes required, learnt from my mistakes and always found a way.

Caroline Brazier

An actor with film, television and theatre credits including: Rake, Packed to the Rafters and the Bell Shakespeare Company.

What do you think are the most stressful aspects of working in the arts?

Both the rejection and the financial uncertainty are stressful, not being able to make plans, having your earning potential so intrinsically linked to your appearance and the scarcity of work.

What have you done to reduce the impact of such stress on your own life and work?

Learning gratitude for the opportunities that I do have, and have had.

Discipline; control where there is none!

Moderation in all things helps, as does daily exercise, talking and transcendental meditation (a recent addition – marvellous!) We have a place in the country, which makes much of the neuroses that comes with my profession feel a bit silly. Love, perspective and a well honed philosophical bent.

Image courtesy of The Design Files

Lucy Feagins launched The Design Files, a daily blog in 2008, transforming her hobby into a business with 180,000 visitors every month. Lucy speaks about the challenges of managing a daily online presence and working from home full-time. She also provides great insight into the demands of running your own business and offers some great tips on how to manage your time more efficiently.

Interview by Nina Pether

What is the most stressful aspect of working in the blogosphere?

The single most stressful part of my job is e-mail! Having a daily online presence means people often expect you to be accessible at all times. I spend a lot of my week out and about sourcing and shooting stories, and inevitably, when I get back to my desk at the end of the day I have 200 or more emails waiting for me. It is impossible to keep on top of my inbox.

You run a daily blog and juggle a full-time job as a stylist and set dresser. How do you balance these varied creative projects?

In all honesty, it is so difficult balancing full-time work with any kind of demanding side project. You really have to be disciplined. My one rule when first embarking on this blog was to never miss a post. Once I committed to posting new content on a daily basis, I found my rhythm. It just becomes a part of your daily routine and then you cannot remember a time when you did not have to do it! I guess “The Design Files” is like a baby – it needs feeding and changing all the time!

When I was working full-time, I would come home every night and have about half an hour of getting my things in order, and then from about 7.30pm to after midnight spend time doing blog stuff; catch up on emails, photoshop images, create content, and upload the following day’s post. I would eat dinner whilst staring at the screen, stay up late to get it all done,and then get up in the morning and go to work! Luckily my boyfriend is a saint and I love takeaway food.

You produce a lot of online content on a daily basis. Do you find it challenging to meet this demand on your own? How do you structure your time and the various facets of your business to be efficient?

To be honest, these days, generating content is the least of my concerns… after all, that is the fun bit! There is no shortage of great stuff to write about, and I receive a lot of submissions and tip-offs which are really helpful. What I find more difficult is making time for the business side – bookkeeping, negotiating with advertisers, keeping on top of cash flow and all of that boring stuff.

I have decided to try and make 2011 the year for more delegation. I am such a control freak usually, but I am learning to get help more often, and especially in areas that are not my strengths – for instance, I got a bookkeeper this year. One other simple but super helpful thing that I have done this year is to try and lock in entire days to be at the computer screen, and entire days to be out and about. Monday is usually a computer day when I try not to schedule meetings or shoots. I find that once I leave my desk to go and photograph something or meet someone, the entire day is a write-off! It is much better to spend a whole day out photographing, and then a whole day at the computer screen.

Do you ever find your workload exhausting or overwhelming? If so, how do you keep yourself inspired when you are working on your own and to multiple deadlines?

YES! I am often overwhelmed by the workload, mainly because most of the work comes down to me and me alone. I try to organise things in advance but inevitably I still need to be connected to TDF every day.

Whilst the workload can be quite overwhelming at times, I generally do not have any trouble staying motivated or inspired. My number one motivation is all the wonderful readers.

Having said all that, it is my goal for 2012 to make the site slightly less dependent on just me alone. I would love more assistance for the administration, advertising and technical parts of the job.

Would you ultimately like to focus on “The Design Files” full-time?

This was my long term goal last year and I am there already! So my next goal is to retrospectively make a proper plan and some actual ‘systems’ for this business. In order to grow I really need an office, I need to get better at delegating and I need to hire some more regular in-house assistance. I am also excited to start taking TDF off the screen and into the real world a little more often – we have a super exciting pop-up event planned in Melbourne for early December – stay tuned!

Interested in more reading on stress and well-being?

Yolanda Finch is the Creative Producer behind the annual L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF). Each year the festival launches the Autumn/Winter collections of Australia’s top and emerging designers. The festival is considered one of the largest consumer events of its kind in the world and last year showed the collections of over fifty Australia’s leading design talents.

Finch has been working with LMFF for over ten years and, as Creative Producer, generates and oversees the fashion and creative content of all Festival productions. Finch discusses with arts interview stress in fashion and the arts, and finding the illusive balance between work and well-being.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

The world of fashion is typically portrayed as high speed, glamorous and stressful. Do you think that is a true representation and how do you personally handle stress in your job role?

Karl Lagerfeld said in Lagerfeld Confidential words to the effect that one should work hard, but not talk incessantly about working hard, for nothing could be more tedious. I love the Kaiser, and of course he is right, but in the interests of sharing…!

The high speed and stressful side of fashion industry is true almost all of the time and the glamour side is true some of the time. I think those of us who have made our careers in this environment have a kind of addiction to these aspects, because you actually cannot pay anyone enough to live through the harder parts; you have to live your job with true passion.

Now that I am a little older, I have realised that I cannot dedicate my entire existence to the job like I have in the past. This is because it often feels very social and you can easily confuse the lines that technically should be in place to achieve balance. I do now try to pull back on the hours when I can and try to leave work issues in the office so they are not part of my home life. Of course, when an event is running it just needs you to be there no matter what, and that remains the key to delivering it successfully. I have no ability to compromise on that and furthermore, I really enjoy it!

The very best release from the job is a holiday, so that I am physically and mentally separated from my desk and the industry by many miles.

In the arts sector, and especially for emerging arts practitioners, it seems everyone has their fingers in so many pies, often a lot of very under-funded and time consuming pies. Do you find the arts sector a stressful area to work in?

Under-funded projects are almost guaranteed to induce a significant amount more stress than comfortable resources would bring. Although, it does not have to be a given, and I think the way through those projects is creativity and using the right people with the experience to pull everyone through efficiently.

The arts sector has that unique characteristic not only of being universally under-funded but also of demanding very particular outcomes and standards for which there are no obvious substitutes. So we end up working harder and longer to try to get to that end point without the resources to make it easy.

It is hard not to over-commit because often saying ‘No’ to something can result in a lost opportunity for both networking and building relationships which are crucial in the arts sector. I think the key is to know when many projects become too much, and the rule is to never let anyone down, least of all your stakeholders or audiences. In the arts, expectations are high, critics are everywhere, and you are only as good as your last project, so being selective about what can be delivered well is the first rule of committing to a project.

In your opinion, is fashion one of the more stressful faces of the arts with such strict production deadlines for designers to adhere to? Does this pressure compromise the artistic integrity of designers?

I think fashion designers face similar kinds of stresses as many other arts practitioners, but in unique combinations and situations. Certainly, deadlines from production through to retail delivery are uncompromising and not meeting a deadline on a single season can send businesses under. It can happen to very talented designers and often for reasons outside of their control.

Artistic integrity is an interesting commodity in fashion. It is perceived as the highest jewel that must be protected at all costs in order for a designer’s vision to be realised. At the same time, an understanding of how to adhere to the demands of commercialism is vital to operating the business of a fashion house. There are many examples of how these mutual objectives can be cleverly realised.  Designers who understand the total picture will generally have a better chance of flourishing, both artistically and commercially.

Finally: you are super stressed and nothing else will do but to: open the liquor cabinet or host a personal pastry smack down or exercise?

I wish I was more original and I certainly wish I had more restraint, but it is probably the liquor cabinet!

Interested in more information on well-being in the arts?

Nicky in front of Eva Breuer Art Dealer - Painting Roland Wakelin, The bridge from North Sydney, 1939

Portfolio Careers, a fancy term for ‘multiple jobs’, are a growing trend, as for whatever reasons, more and more people take on various roles in their professional lives and also combine them with personal commitments. Nicky McWilliam currently has the ultimate Portfolio Career. She is a director of Eva Breuer Art Dealer in Sydney, her late mother’s gallery in Woollahra, runs a small mediation practice with another lawyer, is at the tail end of a PhD in law set for completion in the next two months, and has three teenage children, a husband and two dogs.

Here arts interview discusses with Nicky the ways in which such disparate, yet equally significant positions are juggled, and most importantly, how she maintains her own personal well-being in such demanding roles.

Interview by Vi Girgis

Given your multiple priorities, how do you manage your time between your various roles to ensure all goals are met?

I think everyone has multiple commitments and priorities and everyone leads busy lives with whatever they are doing. I sort of fell into these multiple roles – it was not really by design, however I enjoy every bit of what I do and am excited by all the opportunities. So even though it is hard work, it is fulfilling and interesting. These multiple roles are also very new for me so I am learning every day and taking it all week by week. Normally on Sunday nights I sit down and work out what I have to do for the whole week with work, family and study. The gallery is not open on Mondays so I have a day to get organised with mediation and other stuff. I try to start work at the gallery during the week at about 7:45am or as early as I can in the morning and work there until about midday. I do mediation practice work in the afternoon. I try to share out the load, if possible, at the gallery, but only when I know that I can follow up. At the moment my Uni work is at the wire, as it is due in September, so I am feeling a lot of pressure with that. Due to this, I am reducing my work load with my mediation and delegating as much as I can at the gallery. At the gallery I have a fantastic team of people, and we try to have weekly meetings so that we can all share the load.

How do you balance professional commitments with family commitments, ensuring that you meet the needs of those around you?

I do get engrossed and energised by all my projects, so weekends and evenings are just for my children and husband, if possible. And it also helps me to share what I am doing with my family, so that I am not closing off what I am doing from them. My kids are a little older now – they are fourteen, seventeen and nineteen – and they enjoy hearing about my work, as I do about their things, so we often sit down and have discussions.

What are some steps that you take to ensuring your own personal well-being?

I need my sleep! There are times when I work late at night, or go out late at night, but I do try and get to bed early as much as I can because my day always starts at 6 o’clock. Although it sounds very clichéd and boring, I also try to eliminate anything negative. I really enjoy what I am doing and I try to be positive about work and life. If I feel that there are people who I come into contact with, who are only criticising or being closed and negative, I try to give them space and time – as much as possible; sometimes it is a tough call. If I am feeling stressed (and I often do) – I say to myself, “Take it one step at a time…you will get there!” It is easy to say, I know, but I do try. Of course, my husband is also a great support to me and he is so helpful and always very supportive!

What advice would you give to any future arts practitioners with regard to balancing multiple roles?

I am very new to the art world and I am on a very steep learning curve, but with the gallery, it is multi-faceted. Even though it is such a little gallery and business, there is a lot to be done because we like to ground everything we do in academic scholarship. My mother, Eva Breuer, was very thorough with research and the accuracy of information. She was amazing and she upgraded systems which the gallery still follows. With every painting that comes in, every artist that we are reviewing, we always look at the academic side of things. We look at how it fits into the history of art, how it fits into the Australian spectrum (because we only deal in museum-quality Australian art). Then there is researching and checking provenance and condition reports followed by looking after exhibitions, and meeting and discussing things with artists. Also, there is the practical side of making sure that the exhibitions are hung beautifully, and that paintings being stored are wrapped and looked after really carefully. And of course, we are a normal shopfront, so there is just the normal retail part to it. It is so multi-faceted; you have to treat each of those things as separate. You have to take it slowly, plan very well and be very thorough. In addition, it is important that everyone is working together as a team, and happy, and also that everyone feels recognised for what they are doing.

Interested in further reading on juggling multiple careers?

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