Zo Evamy wrote to ask, “How should I structure my time in order to build momentum and keep it going?” Her complete letter is in today’s clickback. She has in mind concentrating for the summer. The fact that she mentioned structure and momentum indicates she understands the main problems. Here’s what I suggested:
Make plans to cut back on socializing, restaurants, Ultimate Frisbee and visiting relatives. Think of your project as an internal adventure but make sure your library card is up to date. Get lots of art materials in advance, particularly supports. You may plan on a format or a set, but be prepared to change your mind and to go out and get something different. Look at a calendar and note carefully the beginning and end dates. (Two weeks is not enough — two or more months is better) You can live with anything if you know the time-frame. The idea is to achieve a self-managed productivity zone that gets your creative beehive buzzing. As in quitting smoking, the first few days are the most difficult. Don’t talk a lot or tell your friends what you’re going to do — let your produce do the talking. Eat lightly. Sleep well. Awake rested, without guilt, and start working before Cheerios. See the clock tick and hum and realize that time is gold and wisdom has always respected it. Measure time by signature accomplishments. Have no venue in mind but gradually fill your own space. Alternate days — inside, outside, or other stimuli — in order to cross-pollinate and speed up the metabolism of ideas and motifs. Walk the tightrope of originality and influence and kite your own spirits. Act as if your greatness always was there, and it will be. Sweat a lot. Make a lot of stuff. Quickly get rid of stuff that is sub-standard. Always ask, “What could be?” Believe in miracles.
Esoterica: The muse moves in strange ways. Last summer a young woman wrote to say that her stellar success was due to the fact that she went four months without putting on makeup.
The following are selected responses to the above letter. Thanks for writing.
Give up sleeping
by Lynn Edgell, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I’m in art school and I think I could do it all if I gave up sleeping. As it is I get a high banging on into the night, powered by adrenaline and coffee, making skirmishes around assignments and in the meantime scoring all of the little private victories and disappointments. I’ve also found, as you have reported Robert, that the “altered state” of extreme tiredness has its own creative value.
(RG note) Responses to a letter about sleep deprivation are at http://painterskeys.com/sleep/
The future is now
by Nic East, Home Hill Forge, Jim Thorpe, PA, USA
Where is your consciousness now? Is it mulling over the frozen tundra of the solidified past? Or is it looking with trepidation and yearning at the liquid of the future’s fabric? It should be here, in this nexus of time and space, profiting from experience and eagerly designing future events. Do not wander out of the present lest you give up your power to act upon it. “Now” is where you belong.
Tips for time management
by Barbara Mason
Time management is truly a problem. What works for me is to get a large planning sheet calendar and tack it on the wall. I schedule my days there and write down blocks of time for the studio and do it like it was a job. Take your lunch and go. This is the very best advice I can give to any artist. Sometimes it feels like there is no time, but if you block it out on the calendar, you will see the hours laid out and see you have lots of time, you just gave yourself permission to use those hours every day in your studio! It is easy to do housework, yardwork, any other work rather than studio work. But if you go daily, you will eventually produce work, after you have cleaned it all up and wandered around for awhile in the studio. Believe me, I know this is true! Tenacity is 90% of making work.
by Donna Gordon
I would add that pairing work with physical exercise every so often really helps. I’ve started following the advice of The Spark, a book by Dr. Glenn Gaesser and Karla Dougherty. It has helped me with the problem of energy. Now I have the energy to work diligently on my painting. Also, I try to keep more than one painting going at a time.
by David Lloyd Glover, Beverly Hills, California, USA
One of the most frequently asked questions by other artists is how do I manage my time. My colleagues know that I am prolific and regularly complete nearly 100 good size canvases a year. This after distractions and the time it takes to get motivated. Working artists sometimes appear to have loads of time on their hands and this can be a good reason for friends to try and monopolize you. I tell them I don’t have time because I’m on a “tight schedule.”
I plan my next body of work ahead of time. I map out my rough sketches and ideas in advance. By the time studio painting rolls around, I have my work already cut out for me. No time to waste between paintings because upon completion, the next painting is already demanding attention. I also don’t waste my pre-production time with laborious under drawing. I’ve seen artists create finished pencil sketches they should frame and not paint over. I just take a fat old brush and block in the light and shadow and get down to work. In a few hours I have a piece that is pretty much complete — short a little detailing here and there. That’s how I create a body of work.
by L. Timbs, Coquitlam, B.C., Canada
I rarely use a calendar, save for that which indicates the state of my biorhythms. If time is right and I’m at my peak level, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, I awaken early (0330, or thereabouts). I jog for one hour to get my endorphins up, shower, and immediately sit down at the computer, cloistered away behind a closed door, to do whatever writing is pending. I do not have a clock in the composition room, as it serves as an irritating reminder of ‘other stuff to attend to’. Instead, my clock(s) are the works of various composers, particularly Bach, who help me establish a free-flowing time meter, based on what is, rather than what has to be. I give friends and family warning, that I am N/A so as not to create wounded feelings. I often find I’m so involved in a creative process that I’m not aware of hunger until the work is completed. These sessions have lasted for days, and I’ve emerged, none the worse for wear, except for a sore derriere, due to a chair that I must replace some day… (when I have the time!)
Time for love
by Hildegarde Ronne, Berlin
Coco Chanel had the right idea. An intimate being nearby is all you really need beside the work itself. So much of what we tend to do is unnecessary running around, socializing and busyness in the unimportant. Eating, for example, can be a time-wasting ritual, and can be neutralized into expediency by eliminating the guilt and habit surrounding it. I notice that a lot of these ideas are in The Dreamway.
by Theresa Lee, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada
I ate a heavy dinner at a late time and could not sleep well. I was grumpy this morning and not in a mood to paint. I put painting behind business stuff and house chores. I had sketched some seascapes on the boat last Tuesday, but still didn’t find a time to paint it. There is always something to be done before I start painting. I think I really need to organize a time-frame to achieve a self-managed productivity zone.
Leap of faith
by Radha Saccoccio, NYC, USA
I recently passed a qualifying teaching test for yoga teacher certification. For me to get up there and teach a class I had to face a lot of old demons I had carried for years. One big one being the doubt that I could ever see this through and actually be in control of these students and see them respond to my instructions. It was such an eye opening experience that I can’t really process the transformation and responsibility that it has set in motion. All I know is that it will carry through everything I do, even in my confidence and creativity as an artist, which actually was one of my reasons for doing this training in the first place. I just didn’t realize that there would be such a lot of pain as I faced all the ghosts in me. Instead they were painful experiences that I identified with and that inhibited me. I am relaying this because part of what allowed me to stand up there and do something like teach these students (being observed very specifically by a monitor) was that leap of faith that all that I really had to do was to do it. “Act as if…”
by Bert W. Evans, Cardiff, Wales
In the Painter’s Keys book you talk about the engagement of the The Joy Mode as a desirable state. It’s been my experience that during the joy mode the effective use of time pretty well takes care of itself. Time-organizational methods are artificial and may, because of the contrariness of human nature, actually interfere with the natural flow. However, I find artificial methods are sometimes useful in overriding weak habits.
You may be interested to know that artists from 85 countries, as well as every state in the USA and all provinces in Canada have visited these sites since January 1, 2001.
That includes Susan Martens of Champaign, IL, who says, “Live in the moment.”
And Carolyne Debnam who is “in the process of moving from the rat-race to an art school.”
And Jules Genet of Toulouse, France, who has now left art school and is now in the “real world.”
And Jove Wang, who is going plein-air painting, with friends, in Northeastern China and Inner Mongolia.