Last Sunday, I introduced my new blog series "How Do You...?" in which I attempt to answer readers' questions about my life as an artist. I began with the following:
"How do you get so much art done with all the obstacles you deal with?"
I'm answering this inquiry in three parts. Last week, I discussed my general strategies for having an art-filled life while also coping with with health challenges. Today, I'm going to take a slightly different approach; the following is a play-by-play of a typical day for me (Monday June 29 to be exact.)
4am - Wake Up: I wake up every morning no later than this; I don't need an alarm (haven't used one in years.) Sometimes, I get up earlier than 4 but if I do, I only stay up for an hour or so, waiting to be sleepy again. Then I go back to bed and start my day once I've slept a little more. I love being up before the sun; the world is stocking-feet quiet and distractions are few.
I switch on the little circle of white lights over my studio, fix a cup of coffee, and spend about an hour and a half checking my email, reading the news online, and cuddling my girl kitty Tuscany. Since I have an extreme sensitivity to light, I introduce my eyes to light very slowly and gently in the morning.
5:30am - Breakfast, Reading & Sinemet: I turn on a light at my studio table, fix something to eat, and read for about 30 minutes while breakfasting. Marley Bear joins me while I read until I open the blinds to watch the day brighten over the neighboring cow field. At this point, I also take the first of the day's five doses of levadopa, the synthetic dopamine that keeps the Parkinson's tremors at bay.
6 - 8am - Time for Whatever Needs to Be: For the next two hours, I do whatever I feel my body needs. Sometimes, I sit on the couch and doze lightly. If I have a full-blown migraine, I take meds and go back to sleep for real. However, if I'm feeling good, I begin working in the studio, usually starting with my journals or other small projects. This day, I spent the time finishing up my index cards for the week and listening to music. That leads to some fantastic 80's dance moves across my living room.
7:30am - Venturing Outside: The music has me up and moving and since I feel pretty good this morning so I decide to go for a short walk. It rained lightly overnight and the world is adorned in row upon row of dripping diamonds that sparkle in the morning sun. I've seen fit to bring my camera and I spend my walk taking pictures of glowing weeds and glistening spider's webs.
8:15am - Shower
8:30am - Laundry & Other Chores: Typically, I schedule this chore for Wednesdays only but the pile of dirty clothes looks like it is becoming self-aware so I pack up a basket and go to the nearby laundry room. A single load of laundry takes an hour and a half so while I'm waiting I also put away my blankets (I sleep on the couch,) feed Milo the bird, put out fresh kibble and water for the cats, put away clean dishes, and scoop the cat box. I check my email again, fiddle with my index cards some more, prepare my Snippets spread for the coming week, and sort a little paper pile that has formed on my table. By the time, I drag the clean, dry laundry back to the apartment, I realize I've done too much. My head is starting to hurt and my legs are scolding me.
10:30 - 11:30am - Taking a Breather: Since I'm hurting, I decide to slow life down a bit. I fix my second cup of coffee, watch some stupid reality court TV, do the dishes, and rewrite a recipe for a cookbook I'm assembling for my son. Once the light gets just right, I take pictures of the finished index cards and a few completed canvases. I'll edit and upload those pictures on another day. Marley hops up on the table to snuggle and so I spend some time rubbing his belly and deciding my next move. While Marley is licking my cheek in a bid for attention, Tuscany is taking full advantage of the warm laundry. Laundry day is Tussy's very favorite day of the week and she will spend the next several hours happily contaminating our clean clothes with her calico hair.
11:30am - 2pm - Lunch & More Miscellaneous Tasks: After a quick walk across the street to the market for spinach, I fix baked chicken flautas, guacamole, and salsa for lunch (from this recipe) and while eating, my son and I watch something I TIVOed the night before. Afterwards, I do the dishes again, take out the garbage, and check my mail. (I do this way too much each day and I am actively working to reduce time spent online...blogging excepted of course!)
2 - 6pm - Getting Down to Business: I finally settle into my studio and work on eight small canvases, preparing them for the next step of the painting process. Leftover paint goes onto a new set of index cards while I'm working. I get up here and there to feed my fish, and fold and put away clothes. My son and I find our own way for dinner. Yep, there's my third cup of coffee for the day...
6 - 6:30pm - Trying to Find My Second Wind: I take a break to feed the cats their evening meal, fold some more clothes, and find something on Netflix to keep me awake for another couple of hours. I'm definitely winding down but I don't want to go to bed too early so...
6:30 - 8pm - Back to the Paint: I get some more painting done and set the canvases on the stove to dry overnight.
8 - 8:30pm - Bedtime: I clean my studio completely so it is ready to go in the morning. At this point, I basically reverse my "waking up" routine: get my bed set up, gradually lower my lights, and generally wind down.
In summary, this was a pretty typical day for me and it played out as my predetermined schedule suggested. I started out feeling decent but then overdid it (quite common) so I had to take a step back and readjust my plans. Every day is an exercise in decision-making: deciding what I want to spend energy on and what, as a consequence, I must let go of in order to do what I have chosen. I self-assess multiple times throughout the day and make those adjustments that will keep me moving forward but that will also acknowledge my body's needs. I have a different schedule for each day of the week and I try to stick as close to that as I can. And speaking of that...next Sunday, I'll discuss my thoughts on creating a workable art/life schedule. Using a daily schedule isn't for everyone but I have found that having a basic guideline for each day has really helped me stay focused and get more done.