The day-to-day routines of famous artists have fascinated the public for centuries—-from Gustave Flaubert’s morning cup of cold chocolate to Jasper John’s midnight reading sessions. But perhaps the most interesting things about artists’ rituals is that they’re all different. While many share similar traits–including a sense of discipline and openness to inspiration–you’d be hard-pressed to find two artists with identical routines. And yet, artists say, their individual rituals feel absolutely essential to the creative process. “Having a routine gives me a sense of freedom and keeps me from going crazy,” American painter Chuck Close has said.
We asked eleven artists from around the world to tell us about one of the most important parts of their daily routine: bedtime. Read on to learn the unusual ways they cap off a hard day’s work, get ready for sleep, and prepare for the day ahead.
Danny Galieote, Painter:
“Before hitting the hay, I like to write down my goals for the next day’s work or make a journal notation of my progress on the painting(s) I’m working on. I also use post-it notes in my studio that I will put up for the next day, so I won’t forget little ideas I have for color notes or changes to a piece.
“I get a lot of my ideas early in the morning or late at night when I’m half asleep or between sleeping and waking, so I also keep post-it notes and journals next to my bed for the inevitable 2:00 AM inspiration.
“In addition, I like having my favorite snack, Fuji apples with some almond butter, before bed. It makes for a nice nighttime ritual. Meditation and prayer are important as well. I find time to do that every day.”
Kip Omolade, Mixed Media Artist:
The weirdest thing I do before going to bed involves the power of smell. Usually when something special happens, like completing a painting, I spray my favorite cologne in the air. Before I go to sleep, I spray that same cologne on my bed. It’s my way of connecting bliss with a scent. While I’m sleeping, it allows my brain to subconsciously work on something creative. Often, I wake up with up feeling good with ideas on how to complete the next painting.
Leon Keer, 3D Street Artist:
“I always have a pencil and paper next to me to draw or write down what’s on my mind. I tend to get new ideas just before I settle down to rest, and it would be a pity to lose these ideas before waking up in the morning. You can train yourself to be more creative by listening and looking at your surroundings more carefully.”
Anne Siems, Painter:
“My only ritual is to stretch and do some neck strength exercises–all of them lying down so that my body can get into a calm state. I also read a book before my eyes, usually too quickly, fall shut. I keep a dream journal as well, since my life and work are inspired by dreams. This dream work is something I studied for a year with a shamanic dream group.”
Edwin Ushiro, Artist:
“As artists, we work long hours in odd postures that develop themselves into pain, so stretching is a new practice I have recently adapted into my routine. The book Prescriptive Stretching by Kristian Berg has helped me to understand my body and how to maintain it. I have recommended it to many of my friends and family members.
“Before falling asleep, I read about Japanese ghosts. And if my wife is out of town, I go to bed either listening to audio recordings of rain or true life paranormal stories on Youtube. I realize now that my listening choices probably seem pretty extreme.”
Dorian Vallejo, Painter:
“As much as I like structure, there is a part of me that resists routine. Sometimes, I draw at night. I keep a sketchbook and materials right by my pillow for that purpose. Other times, when I’m done for the day, I prepare my work area for the next session. When things are particularly busy, I keep a running list during the day. Then before I go to sleep, I organize how I’d like to approach the next day.”
Hanna Lee Joshi, Illustrator:
“I just recently started a night time ritual of planning the next day’s tasks. I’m glad I have picked it up. I find this routine helpful, as I can hit the ground running the next morning. It adds a little more structure to my day. And as a freelancer, I find this really vital.”
Charlie Elms, Collage Artist:
“If I’m struggling to create or ‘hitting the wall,’ I clean up and organize my studio, sorting piles of images I have collected. That usually sparks new ideas. I also find old stuff I have forgotten about, getting inspired down new paths. I believe a certain amount of order and organization really helps with my productivity.”
Oriol Angrill, Illustrator, Printmaker, and Painter:
“Before bed, I like to do some mental exercises. For example, I close my eyes and imagine a landscape. I visualize the sky and the color blue. Once I have it in mind, I play with the scene, changing its colors and shapes to create new images. I let random thoughts take part on this visual game.
“The world of imagination has no limits. That’s why I spend too much time there. The next thing I do is go through those mental images I’ve created and choose the ones that inspire me the most, but I usually save that for the next morning.”
Alexandra Mascia, Photographer:
“Before I go to sleep, I make a cup of green tea and take a look at all the pictures on my mood board. The mood board is set up across a big table, with different pictures of the models, outfits, etc. I take a few steps around the table and concentrate on my goals. At the same time, I think about how I am going to manage the team and make sure everyone has a great time and delivers the best work they can.
“I put some jazz music on, which helps put me in a positive and focused state of mind. It also helps me hold off a little bit on the excitement of the upcoming shoot because I’d rather go to bed early and get a very good night’s sleep. After one last check to make sure I have everything in my equipment bag, I take my last sip of my green tea and go to sleep.”
Diana Weymar, Textile Artist and Activist:
“I go into the rooms of my two teenagers still at home and kiss them goodnight. Even if they are already asleep. I have four children, and they are my touchstones. I open the bedroom window if it’s not already open. The fresh air is like getting fresh oxygen to my brain.
“Then I lay in bed and look for the moon beyond the trees. Most nights, I can see it clearly. That perspective, from the people very close to me to the most distant thing I can see, is one that I try to capture in my work. As an artist engaged in public projects with participants from around the world, I am often experiencing intimate exchanges with strangers in distant places.
“Finally, if I haven’t fallen asleep yet, I will imagine a work scenario that I would like to find myself in at some future point. Sometimes I don’t get beyond the front door of gallery that I would like to have an exhibit in, and sometimes I get all the way to imagining how long the artist talk would be. I think my rituals are a closing of the day so that the next can be new and fresh.”
Build Your Own Creative Ritual
Whether it’s creating before bed, dreaming what the next day may bring, or solving your own creative puzzles, there are any number of ways to get started with your own creative ritual. Try these five creative prompts, perfect for sparking some drawing inspiration before you catch those z’s.
Cover image by Skillshare student Jenny Y. for DKNG Studio’s Mastering Illustrator: 10 Tips & Tricks to Speed Up Your Workflow. For more information on Feature Shoot, click here.