Friday, July 10, 2009

Return of the Friday Tip

Why hello there! Sorry to leave you all hanging. I didn't realize it was going to take me quite so long to recuperate from my NAN vendor preparations and blogging was really the last thing on my mind. But now I am back and ready to go again! Speaking of working hard, this week's Friday Tip deals with being as efficient around your work area as possible and juggling projects during crunch-time. You will discover what works best for you, but here are my strategies you can try!

If I have a lot to do and one set deadline I work in batches. (Batching is very effective all of the time actually, but it is practically essential when working within time constraints.) I use a calendar to help with my workflow and to keep me on track. It's time consuming constantly thinking of what has to be done next! Why waste that time over and over again when it can just be written down? I usually schedule a bit of extra work for myself, but not so much that I get discouraged when I can't get it all done. That way, in case I get everything finished early I have an extra project all ready to grab. I also typically arrange my schedule so that I have two extra buffer days or so for whatever arises. That time always gets used finishing stuff up even if I think I've given myself plenty of time.

If there is customizing to do, that of course gets done first. I will work on as many horses as I possibly can in one day. If I have more horses than I can work on in a day, then I work on the ones that need the most and switch between the horses that need less work. That way they still all get done around the same time.

Next up is prepping. This part is great because once I'm done primering all the front halves, the first horse is usually ready to have its back half sprayed! Do make sure not to rush this part, since grabbing a drying horse or worse yet - sanding one that is still tacky - will only result in delays. Be patient here, and work on something that only needs markings in the meantime if possible.

In the case of having many different colors to paint, I will mix up all of my batches at once and label each one. That minimizes all the time spent shuffling paints around, and once it's done the paints can go away for good! Once the paints are mixed up and the horses are prepped, it's time to think about the order in which they are painted. I like to paint the lightest colors first and work darker. This is good for two reasons: a) lighter colors tend to take longer to dry, and b) I can re-use some of the brushes from one color to the next, extending the number of colors I can paint in one day with a limited brush supply. Just make sure that when continuing to use a brush that the tint of the first color isn't significantly different from the next. For example, this technique works best when transitioning a brush used on a chestnut to using it on the darker areas of a bay. It is also helpful to scrub the brush in a bit of the new color and then wipe it off before painting.

When I get close to the end of painting body colors and it is time to start putting in the really fine details, I don't schedule more than 2 or 3 horses a day. That is not only time consuming work, but very intensive and exhausting. Overdoing it will result in sloppy details and burnout. I suffered from quite enough burnout in the weeks leading up to NAN and I was trying to be careful!

When all of the horses' oil coats are done, I move on to markings and other acrylic details. It is so fabulous to have horses ready for markings while paint dries on others - no wasted time just sitting and waiting! It is also a wonderful way to not waste paint - it's drying on the palette when it's drying on the horse after all. I also batch specific detail projects (eyes, hooves, etc.) so that I can work from one set of colors and think about one job at a time.

Efficiency also means being careful around your horses so you don't wind up knocking anyone over in the clutter and causing more work for yourself. Keep your space organized to prevent accidents. As you can see in the top photo (click to enlarge) even though there is a lot going on, everything has a home. Horses are arranged from small to large going away from me so that I don't have to reach over any Trads to get to a SM. The paints and rinse cup (as well as the *ahem* ever present Starbucks) are all kept to the right. The colors I am using at the time are kept more in front of me and get put to the right again when I am done to prevent confusion. Any brushes that are not being used for the day get put back in their out of the way spots at the back of my desk.

When I am done working on a horse for the day, I set it somewhere that won't be disturbed. The back of the workspace will do in a pinch, but it's much better to just have the horse completely out of the way. The final clear spray, glossing of the eyes, etc. and photographing are also done in batches. And that's that!

The last bit of advice I can give for working under tight deadlines is the most important: plan for extra projects but don't finish what you need to rush through to complete. Rushed work is doing you and your customers a disservice. If it can't get done right and on time, elect to put it aside and get it done right later. Deadlines are great for encouraging work to get done, but should never be the cause of sub-par work.

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