Freelance lifestyle: the routine of no routine

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Recently I was interviewed by a magazine on my typical day. This was a challenging interview for a few reasons: I don’t have a routine, no day is ever the same, and I’m allergic to the word routine. I prefer to eat the 3 Cs for breakfast – coffee, chaos and creativity – it keeps me focused and challenged.

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By the end of the interview, I probably sounded like a sleep deprived maverick. Not entirely true. I need to be responsive and plugged in 24/7 when I Skype international clients. It’s impossible to fit this into regular work hours.

After being online at odd hours, I have to be online at home. Lucky the Middle East has decent cross over hours. It also helps if you believe jet lag is a fable.

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Yesterday was particularly crazy, as I was setting up for a solo show and had to collect easels from downtown. They were far bigger than expected, so I booked a taxi van. I love the ME but it was no surprise when the taxi didn’t arrive. In true UAE style, I was stranded with 5 giant easels and security were starting to get suspicious. I had to activate problem solving mode and seek assistance. I figured, as it was a major tower with many delivery trucks passing through, surely 1 could help? And that’s exactly what happened.

After inviting myself into the loading dock, I ended up hitching a ride with a food van (very amusing on reflection). If only there were a couple of camels and falcons tied to the roof, I thought, that would be a winning story. And by the way, I have seen camels tied to the back of vans here, often driving at ridiculous speed on the freeway. You know you’re not a local when you get overtaken by a camel transporter.

The guys in the food van found my story hilarious and loved my art. Needless to say, I now have friends, with a van, who can transport my art for future events. People are friendly and helpful in Abu Dhabi, which is what I like most about living here.

The rest of the day was spent curating the show and making sure everything was on track with catering and marketing. It was a non-stop day completing last minute details. Thankfully the opening was a success and everything ran smoothly (post easel debacle).

After the opening, I had dinner with my art agent to exchange notes and discuss strategy. She reminds me that my paintings aren’t going to sell themselves (as much as I wish they would). My agent keeps my perspective grounded.

Then it was time to prepare for the next day, presenting my art at a networking brunch and preparing my studio for a photoshoot. I’ve never loved public speaking but there’s nothing like ‘having to do it’ to improve your skills. Networking is essential in my profession. If I’m not appearing, I disappear.

On reflection, I had a couple of days where I didn’t paint, which always feels a little empty for me. That said, I did a lot of networking, had adventures with imaginary camels and was commissioned to make a new artwork (thanks to my exhibition and art agent). Nothing to complain about. Except for a small problem, the commissioned piece needs to be A0 size (a paper size unavailable in the UAE). Interesting new challenge…

Now, try and find some sort of routine in that!

Natasha Kowalski

Originally from Sydney, Natasha has worked as a magazine art director and corporate studio manager, but now paints from her own studio in Abu Dhabi.


Natasha Kowalski

Author: Natasha Kowalski

Originally from Sydney, Natasha has worked as a magazine art director and corporate studio manager, but now paints from her own studio in Abu Dhabi.