Getting to the easel – part three

 Picture 187

So – this is the third post about getting to the easel. How do I get there?

1. Get up, get dressed, have breakfast.

2. Leave the computer behind and preferably my phone (or phone goes on silent). I am notoriously hard to get hold of. This is why.

3. Climb the stairs to the studio (a simple step but a crucial one)

4. Write. I write 2 pages every studio in my writing journal. Most of it is rubbish – it doesn’t matter – it is like warming up before the exercise.

5. Tidy my workspace and set up what I am going to do for the day. I don’t do this the night before as I only decide on the day what I am doing to do. I love this part of the day as it is full of possibility. I don’t tidy the whole studio (that would take hours – only the place where I am working). I never really tidy it at the end of the day as I like the rhythm of setting my space for whatever I am about to do.

6. Draw, drink tea, paint, drink tea, paint some more. This is where the freedom comes. It doesn’t matter so much what I do during this time – the amount of time differs from day-to-day but the routine means I have a whole block of time to play with and do as I wish. This time is sacred. Nothing else interferes and once I begin it is easy to forget the distractions of house and home and climb into another place. If I get to step 5, step 6 always follows. If I tried to go straight to step 6 in all likelihood I wouldn’t do very much.

7. Wash brushes, down tools, feel good about the work I have done. (or sometimes I feel bad about the work I have done, but that is ok, tomorrow is another day)

There are a few things about this routine. Steps 1 – 5 always take about the same amount of time to do. Step 6 is the one that can change – sometimes I will only have 2 hours, sometimes 4 or more or 8. But each step leads me up to that time so that I can be ready to get down to work and use the time wisely.  Steps 1 to 5 are the title and intro, 6 is the main feature and the ad breaks, step 7 is the end credits.

My worktable

The other thing I do within this time is either a daily pencil sketch or a painted journal page. This is purely for me – like a gift or a reward. My paintings might get sold (if I am lucky) but my sketchbooks and journal will never be apart from me – they are my treat to myself. I think even if you are making art for a living or as part of your living, you need to think about making art just for yourself with no pressure – think of it as a present to yourself!

There are parts of this routine that are comforting – the writing for example. There are parts of it that are like meditation – I love setting my palette out, or choosing the brushes I am going to use. It is all part of whispering to myself the intention for the day – today I am going to paint. That is the secret of a routine I think – the intention behind it – it is a signal to get your head space right for working.

Treat your studio or work time seriously – treat it as you would any other job – treat it with reverence and respect.

I find ways of marking the time help me – not in hours and minutes but in terms of having a series of small tasks that you do each day. Writing, a daily sketch using the same media, a sketch of the same thing every day as a warm up, preparing your workspace – anything that will mark the start of the day.

If some days it just doesn’t happen for whatever reason (don’t give yourself a hard time) then there are always other things I can do – write out ideas, clean my palette, gesso some boards, flick through research imagery with cup after cup of tea. Gaze out of the window and let my thoughts wander. Play with colour swatches in my sketchbook. Nothing is wasted.

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Of course, I know that I may have more time than most to dedicate to my art. In an ordinary week I often have 3 and a half studio days but of course life can get in the way and other things can occur. But even when I don’t have full days I put the same routine in place and use the time I do have and even if I only make it the studio and do a little writing and sketching it is still worth it. The main thing is to do something every day. Even if you only have 10 minutes, you could do a pencil sketch every day in a sketchbook – in a month you would have 30 sketches and in a year? Just imagine how that would look! If you draw a small drawing on a piece of paper every day – 365 drawings! Enough for 10 exhibitions.

All I know is that my routine feeds my desire to do more art. The more I work at it, the more I want to do it. Simple.

But the other key to this is finding what works for you. Everybody is unique. Everybody needs different things in order to be focussed. Find what works and stick to it.

I will probably write more about this in the future but I hope you have enjoyed this little series and I would love to know your own tricks and thoughts about getting to the easel. Also if you have any questions, ask away!

Here are a few more related articles for you to look at.

An artists studio routine

The daily routines of artists

Great quotes on artists routines

Comments 3

  1. Ulla Milbrath

    great notes on routine here. ive tried and failed many a time, you encourage me to try again – with a dog walk as one of preliminary steps as well as after its all done steps.
    On another totally unrelated note, I heard you say something like ‘teaching my grandmother who to suck eggs” – didn’t know one could even do that, let alone on your side of the pond… do explain some day…
    Ulla

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