A Day In The Studio My typical daily working schedule
A subscriber asks: “I always like hearing how artists work – what time of day/night they paint, where they paint (do they have a studio or a designated place at home?) How many days and hours a week do they paint?”
I am one of nature’s true night creatures – my schedule is shifted from that of most people by about 6 hours.
As odd as this sounds, it’s actually relatively normal – in any group of people there will generally be a few outliers who naturally get up very early, balanced by a few outliers like me who rise very, very late (a physician friend speculates that this may be an evolutionary adaptation, where a small tribe of our ancient ancestors would be well served by always having somebody awake and alert to possible threats).
I’m typically up by noon, and immediately begin with 30 minutes of exercise – I don’t enjoy this at all, so the only way I ever have enough discipline to do it is by making it the first thing I do, no questions asked.
This is followed by breakfast (usually a rich and hearty bowl of oatmeal), and then some time replying to emails and social media comments.
Being an artist really means running a small business. In fact, I think of myself as having two jobs – painting on the one hand, and everything else that lets me keep painting on the other hand.
As a result, I expect 60 hour work weeks of myself.
I keep my weekends free for family and friends, so that means a minimum of 12 hours of work every weekday.
My mind has a hard time switching between painting and non-painting tasks, so I usually try to avoid mixing those activities, and instead have painting days and business days.
I am fortunate indeed that my studio is right in my home, so my commute to work is just a few steps.
If it’s a business day, I plunge right in, and will spend the entire day chipping away at marketing, correspondence, website maintenance, newsletter writing (!), bookkeeping, etc, etc, etc.
If it’s a painting day, I get to the easel and begin.
I tend not to paint in long stretches, but rather in shorter bursts of activity – usually between 15 and 30 minutes at a time. In between, I take very short breaks of just a few minutes, giving me a chance to refresh my coffee, take a few steps around the studio, maybe peruse a few images in one of the art books I keep open in my studio.
This pattern of working seems to keep my eyes and mind fresher (and more productive!) than just pressing on and working for hours on end without a break.
By late afternoon, I’m ready for a small lunch, which I usually eat at the easel (carefully avoiding mixing paint and food, of course).
A few more hours of work is usually followed by a longer break for dinner around 8. Opinions vary, but I fancy myself to be a decent cook, so this will be a true, proper meal, after which I take care of small household chores while my dinner settles.
By about 10PM , I’m back at the easel for the final stretch.
This is almost always the most productive part of my day – for some reason, my mind is calmest and most able to concentrate at this time of day – in the following 4 hours of so, I will do most of whatever I’m able to accomplish that day.
By about 2AM, I have usually had enough. I always stand while working, so that means I’ve been on my feet for at least 12 hours, and it’s time to call it quits for the day.
After quickly cleaning up my studio, it’s a few hours of quiet time – reading, thinking, music… and then finally sleep, usually by 4AM.
So that is a typical day for me.
It’s an eccentric schedule, and I don’t recommend it to anybody.
But it works well for me, and allows me to happily continue creating the paintings I’m able to share with you here.
PS – If you’d like to read a genuinely amusing account of an artist’s habits, take a look at the French composer Eric Satie’s satirical and charming description of his own daily schedule