With Graven Images out, and possessing great expectations for the coming year, now just a few weeks away, Holly and I have been taking some time to review the way we live and spend out time. Over the past several months, in the face of rising costs and stagnant revenues, we instituted an austere budget, have held to it with, in my humble opinion, admirable rigor, and with a substantial net benefit to our bottom line. Like money, time is a commodity, and how we spend it or waste it can be budgeted with a good schedule. When work from our Big Client is thick in the studio, everything is very straightforward; otherwise, a daily regiment is a good idea.
Some may think it a tad strange: artists subjecting themselves to all this discipline. In fact, artists need it more than most workers, who have schedules and work hours thrust upon them in office, store or factory, for good or ill.
I began this year with a schedule very similar to this new one before me, and did not much hold to it. In a life full of false starts, I have learned not to let this discourage me. Try again.
I guess some schedules, like in academia, education, factories etc are fixed, while management or sales schedules must be flexible and contently reworked, even daily, as new challenges and upheavals of fortune present themselves for remedy. A working artist is both manager and labourer, so the schedule has to serve both realms. It must be rigid enough to provide structure, and flexible enough to bend without breaking.
My schedule begins at 6:30 in the morning and ends at 10:00 in the evening. Don’t think for a second that all the vast hours between are scheduled for work. Indeed, only 5 hours of the day are earmarked for artistic production, whatever that may entail. There are generous slots given over to meals: half hour for breakfast, an hour for lunch and 1.5 hours for dinner. My schedule is tailor-made and reflects my personal goals: printing, exercise, writing time, social media, marketing and promotion, blogging, reading and drawing.
So, it includes a half hour after breakfast for doing the dishes from the previous day, a half hour after lunch spent drawing, followed by another half hour spent “Filling the Well” — interpret that as you may: meditation, reading, a nap — whatever inspires. After the afternoon’s labour, yoga and light weight work on alternating days, and after dinner an hour’s walk, outside or on the treadmill. I prefer to exercise in the evening; unlike all these those hyper tuned athletes out there who bounce into work like balls of energy after their morning workouts, contrary as ever, I find it drains me of energy, and my workouts seem to be best a half hour or more after eating a decent meal, i.e. more than an energy bar. Evenings are for TV or reading, but always reading prior to bed.
As for the actual work, more creative endeavors take pride of place in the morning, while more commercial or production work is done in the afternoon. I think most working people can relate to this phenomenon.
Along with the schedule, I’m looking at my studio with a mind to reorganizing (no, I won’t be moving the press!). The furniture is staying where it is, but I may reorganize the way drawers and cupboards are used, and add some more storage in the studio, and purge stuff I haven’t touched for years. On the whole, the wee space I have works pretty well, but it could be better.
And why all of this discipline and rigor, when the very notion of an artist’s life is supposedly founded on artistic freedom (clearly an assumption created by someone who never worked as an artist). Part of being an artist is about control — of one’s self, of one’s work and of one’s environment. Over the years, I have found greater peace of mind creating inside some kind of framework; it almost seems to be an antidote to lethargy and depression, in my experience. It is manage with a notion of control, and getting important things done, even if they are not the “money” work. That work always takes priority, and will always get done, often at the expense of exercise and daily creative development. That’s life. But seeing all the other stuff there in black and white, saying “Here, between this time and this time, you sit down and write something, or draw something, or stretch seized-up hamstrings” gives it a little more clarity.
This morning I’ve already overrun my time semi-weekly blog time, so I’d better get into the studio and get to work.