31According to Zen monks, enlightenment comes only within routine. Most artists wouldn’t agree—or so you’d think. But countless living, breathing artists beg to differ.
Unlike Highly Successful People of the business world, most artists I know don’t wake up at 2am, write 5,000 emails, then box for five hours, followed by a balanced breakfast of vegan protein powder blended with the tears of the competition.
As it turns out, there’s some truth to the night owl stereotype. One study confirmed that art students don’t get the same quality of sleep as their non-arty classmates, but they do sleep in later. The ultimate morning routine for artists looks a little different, but unlike unicorns and guys who text you after sex, it does exist.
But there’s a catch: there’s no single ultimate morning routine for artists. Like IKEA beds, we all have to build our own. Also like IKEA beds, it’s a painful process of trial and error that eventually pays off. Once you’ve nailed the perfect sequence of rituals to set the tone for the day, you’re basically immune to all of life’s spiteful surprises. Well, almost.
Whether you’re an artist, an art dealer, an art critic, an art bro, an art teacher or an art hoe, we all have to wake up and do something with our morning (or afternoon, or evening; no judgment). But with endless articles on the morning routines of creative people to sift through, designing your own ultimate morning routine for artists feels a bit overwhelming.
While we can’t craft your morning routine for you, we can help. Read on to discover a buffet of morning activities, then pick and choose the ones that work for you. Whether you’re new to mornings altogether or just want to spice up a routine that’s getting a little stale, there’s something in here for you. Tomorrow morning, try something new—I dare you. Worst case, it doesn’t work for you. There’s always tomorrow.
1) Call time
The thing about waking up is you have to do it at a certain time. Unless you have a killer body clock (or the luxury of sleeping in as long as you want), that means setting an alarm. Read pretty much any “Habits of successful people” article and you’ll see a massive bias towards morning people. But before you start tweeting about the war against night owls, consider a few arguments for an early call time.
From ancient Ayurvedic medicine to modern studies, there’s a lot of evidence that sleeping and waking up early is better for you. Jerry Saltz might tell you to be a vampire, but while staying up all night with fellow artists is great fun, it’s hard to make your best work when you’re exhausted all the time.
Even if you’re not naturally a morning person, you can still train yourself to shift your habits. We’re talking baby steps—no one’s dragging you out of bed before sunrise. And if you’re worried that you’ll turn into a soulless corporate drone if you roll out of bed before noon, consider all the people who rose at ungodly hours and went on to become very successful artists. Georgia O’Keeffe got up with the sun; Joan Miró was out of bed at 6am; N.C. Wyeth, one hour earlier.
On the other hand, you might be more of a Willem de Kooning, who rolled out of bed around 11am and immediately downed a bucket of coffee. If it’s working for your life and your practice, you keep doing you.
2) So, you’re up. What next?
Your first act of the day is crucial. Think of it as the bread and butter of the ultimate morning routine for artists. Like your “number” or the contents of your purse, it’s highly personal. It says both nothing and everything.
I’ve personally experimented with many versions: thanking the universe; checking which nostril is more open, then literally starting the day on that foot; pondering death; scraping my tongue; writing down my dreams. Honestly, telling someone what when she reenters the waking world is presumptuous and kind of insulting, like giving unsolicited advice on how to raise your kid. The important thing is that you have a ritual. Make it intentional—how do you want to feel for the rest of the day?
Still, a few ideas:
- Write down some things you’re grateful for
- Dance around your room naked to a feel good song, including but not limited to “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae, “Feel Good Song” by Solange, “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners, “Good Day Sunshine” by the Beatles or “New Morning” by Bob Dylan.
- Drink an espresso that your butler brings to your bed
- Scrutinize the sunlight and decide if you’re going to paint that day
- Call Pat Hackett and dictate yesterday’s events
- Brush your teeth with a funky electric toothbrush
- Experience the supreme pleasure of being Salvador Dalí, and ask yourself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing he will do that day, this Salvador Dalí
Just please, for the love of Rembrandt, don’t check your emails first.
3) To exercise to not to exercise?
The benefits of morning exercise can and have filled books. I’m not going to rewrite them here. You might think the typical artists’ exercise routine starts and ends with one handed bicep curls—lifting cigarettes to their lips—but many, from Twyla Tharp to Nathalie Provosty, swear by regular cardio.
If physical benefits aren’t enough to get you on your Peloton, consider the evidence that exercise makes you more creative. According to a Stanford study, regular exercise boosts different types of creative thinking. Not to mention, exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel good, and you have to feel good to get into a creative flow state. It’s not rocket science, guys. Just go for a jog. If nothing else, do it for the ‘Gram.
4) The most important meal of the day
And now, the part we’ve all been waiting for. The ultimate morning routine for artists wouldn’t be complete without some breakfast to top it off. By my completely unscientific estimates, around 90% of people reading this are certified coffee fiends, so that goes without saying.
But wait! It’s 2019, time to live in the future. Why not swap out your morning French press for a matcha latte or a celery juice? How about an adaptogenic mushroom blend? Not feeling it? Try a collagen-boosted smoothie! With all the space-age beverages available these days, I’m shocked coffee still has the following it does. (Except not really. Coffee is the nectar of the art gods).
Once caffeine is taken care of, make sure you have something delicious and nutritious to fuel your art-making adventures. Of course, you could go for a few spoons of plain jelly à la Louise Bourgeois, but something tells me that won’t keep you going very long.
Nutritionists have told me that you should load up on protein in the morning (something to do with stabilizing blood sugar). But nutritionists are always talking about protein, and frankly, I’m not convinced. Do your own research and, at the end of the day (and at the beginning, ha), live your life.
5) Now go make some art!
What’s your morning routine?
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Text by Katya Lopatko.
Images via Brain Pickings, Art Nerd, @sayhellowellness, WikiArt, @yogainspiration, Famous Americans.