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Artists’ daily routines

Artists' daily routines

I recently read the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, which details the daily routines of artists and other creative types, and it made me think about my own daily routine. For the past couple of years I have struggled a bit with figuring out a routine that works for me (or even whether having a routine is helpful at all). To set an alarm or not? To go for a walk in the morning or afternoon? Can I make time for meditation in the morning? Is it ok to check my email first thing or should I get right to studio work? Etc. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty good about how I map out my days, and I’ve come to realize that it’s ok to allow myself to relax a little when it comes to following a strict schedule. From reading Daily Rituals, it seems that there are just as many successful creative types who do not waver from a very strict schedule as there are those who do not have much of a schedule at all. Similarly, there are many who get all their work done in the morning and then spend the rest of the day doing whatever they want, and just as many who work incessantly, more than eight hours in a day. There are some artists that work every single day, not even taking holidays off, and others who don’t work for weeks at a time before they get a burst of inspiration (or guilt) and get back in gear.

So basically, from this book I learned that any schedule is ok, as long as it works for me, and I should stop being so hard on myself for procrastinating or getting a late start in the morning! The important thing is that I do the work that needs to be done, and it doesn’t matter when I do it or how long it takes.

Lately my daily routine has looked like this:

I wake up at around 7 AM, shower, and eat breakfast (muesli with yogurt and a fruit). I’m a slow mover in the mornings. I take long showers and I don’t like to be rushed with eating breakfast. While I’m eating I read something light, such as Daily Rituals! By 8:30 or 9 I head into the studio, where I meditate for 15 minutes (I would like a separate place to meditate but we don’t have the space in our apartment right now). Then I make a cup of tea and read the news, check email, and other computer things. I spend the rest of the morning until noon working on computer things, such as grants, exhibition proposals, and website maintenance.

At noon I eat lunch, a salad or a sandwich or a smoothie in the summer. After lunch I go for a walk to the lake and back, which takes 45 minutes to an hour. By 2 PM I’m back in the studio and I try to spend the rest of the day working on studio things. Often it’s like pulling teeth, and I procrastinate and take lots of breaks to read an article online or have a snack or just sit and stare out the window. Getting started is always the hardest. If I have something I’m in the middle of and I know exactly where it’s going, it’s much easier for me to get to work and stay working for the rest of the day. When I don’t know where something is going, or it feels pointless, I really struggle to keep working.

I think of myself as a late afternoon person as opposed to a morning or night person because I feel like I have the most energy between around 4 and 6 PM. That is usually the time of day that I get the most work done. By 6:30 I stop working and eat dinner. After dinner I take another walk to the lake and back (it’s so beautiful, I just can’t stay away). If I have an extra hour I’ll do some more studio work at the end of the day. I try to get to bed by 10 PM but it’s often more like 11.

I’ve generally kept to this schedule for a while now and I think it’s working for me. Although, it starts to be a drag the longer I keep to the same schedule. I try to switch it up sometimes, maybe by doing studio work in the morning and computer work in the late afternoon(!) but I really have to remember to do that BEFORE it starts to be a drag. I think routines work for me as long as I don’t stick to the same exact routine forever. I need some variation to keep myself motivated.

What about you? What’s your daily routine? Is it working for you or is it still a work-in-progress?

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Influence of the outdoors

Influence of the Outdoors - Lake of the Isles sunset

Nature definitely has its influence on my work. Whenever I spend any amount of time outside I love to take it all in — the color and depth of the sky, the movement of clouds, the way tree branches hang down or protrude up, the colors in the clouds as the sun sets, the way green foliage looks against a deep blue sky. I frequently walk to the lakes near our apartment and study everything about the landscape there — the shapes of the lakes themselves from different vantage points, the ripples in the water (or the smooth, glassy surface on a windless day), the bunching of lily pads on the surface, the way the tall grasses and wildflowers move in the breeze along the shore.

Here are a few shots from recent walks around the neighborhood:

Influence of the Outdoors - clouds

Influence of the Outdoors - ginkgo tree

Influence of the Outdoors - Minneapolis summer sunset

Influence of the Outdoors - muddy creek

Influence of the Outdoors - trees and sky

Influence of the Outdoors - Lake of the Isles

Influence of the Outdoors - Lake of the Isles

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Mount Auburn Cemetery

One of my favorite places in the Boston area is Mount Auburn Cemetery. It’s a beautiful place (the first landscaped cemetery in the country!) that is full of unusual and exotic trees, wildlife (hawks, turkeys, turtles, toads), and of course graves – some famous such as Isabella Stewart Gardner and Mary Baker Eddy. Every time I go there I discover something new. When I walked through on this particular day, the sky was clear and crisp and the fall colors were vibrant.

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Mount Auburn Cemetery