The Sleep Habits of the Art World
By NOAH BECKER, JAN. 2017
Out of the many artists I've known in my life, most have erratic schedules. I talked to a number of people in the art world to see how their days are structured. Here are some of their stories to compare with your own:
"I'm a night person. Wake up around 1pm, make coffee and start working, don't eat my first meal until about 6pm. Have dinner about 9pm, then another meal around 2am. Usually work until about 5am and then head to bed. No days off, working on something seven days a week."
- Raymond Salvatore Harmon, artist, London UK.
"Some days I awake early from strange dream activity which sends me out into the world. At times I am plagued by insomnia and am sent backwards, sleep deprived & wasting precious time, occasionally this sleep deprivation itself brings about a state of mind useful for artistic production. Starting a painting upon awakening can be the right move & the lighting is often ideal at that time---other days one walks around in circles all day, bumping into people and things until finally at night one is ready to begin. The painting has been gestating all day unbeknownst to the artist!"
- Erik Volet, artist, Victoria, BC, Canada.
"I wake up as early as possible each day and then review the news before continuing with either writing, research or both. A daily routine is hard to pin down since it depends on the weather. I’ve mostly eliminated press previews from my schedule so my workload should be lighter, right?"
- Jill Conner, writer, curator, Brooklyn NY.
"My day begins around 8:45am. I wake to my IPhone alarm. I stay in bed recounting my dream, deciding if I should text the people that were in it. I check my news apps to see what I’ve missed. Next my email, text messages, instagram and other social media apps. I do some stretching. Around 11:30 and I cook a late breakfast. After eating I work in my studio, while painting I rotate between a few podcasts, an Audiobook and some music I can sing to. I’ll paint to about Midnight, cleanup, take a few detail shots of what I worked on. Crawl into bed, post one of the images on instagram, read my list of goals then fall asleep."
- Arcomanoro S. Niles, artist, New York City.
"It's really bad, I'll go to sleep at 3 or 4am after making my art (I usually crash in my studio) then get the kids off to school at 8:15am. Come back to the studio, work till noon, then sleep again. It's totally unhealthy."
- Trevor Guthrie, artist, Zurich Switzerland.
"My Daily Routine includes rising at 7:30am to reflect on the construct of time and space, vibrations, thought packets, and the universe. Have a pee. My next meal. Question if my highlights need redoing. Social media. Painting gets done in the middle. Read. Sleep finds me at 12 midnight."
- Carollyne Yardley, artist, Victoria, BC, Canada.
"My routine blends from late night to early morning. Good Morning begins by doing dishes, recycling and the compost. In the afternoon, I pick my youngest son up at school. Evenings I work on mail art and late at night I have many phone conversations, east coast to west coast."
- Jason McLean, artist, Brooklyn, NY.
"In bed by 11pm, up around 6am. I usually lie awake for a couple of hours before falling asleep, sometimes contemplating a work-in-progress. Early to mid-morning is my peak time for painting. I liken my artistic output in the context of daily sleep rhythms to the pressing of olive oil - the earlier in the day and fresher my mind is, the purer the results will be . As the day progresses, more thoughts/issues cloud up my mental desktop. There’s a much higher chance that I’ll destroy something instead of create, the later it gets."
- Nat Murray, artist, Taiwan.
"Sleep is a luxury I don't often have. Between the gallery program, the art fair schedule, working with clients and colleagues on all time zones and two preschool aged kids I have to be super efficient with my time. This doesn't include the social calendar outside of what is strictly considered work. Balancing all this with some healthy habits like working out and eating reasonably is important for endurance. At the end of the day it's all for the love of it."
- Raj Sen, Art Consultant, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore.
"My sleep schedule isn't even a schedule. I sleep whenever I'm not working - I think it's similar for many artists. Your passion overtakes you, and you, the physical you, become an instrument for the metaphysical call to create. Next thing you know, 50 hours pass, you've missed breakfast, lunch, dinner, three weddings, and your friends birthday. Oh, and you miss sleeping too. Lol"
- Vieno James, artist, New York City
"I get up at random times of sleeping and waking in four hour intervals unless I'm like really rushed for a project. I putter around making some work or playing some video games. I'll get yelled at by my brother to make some artwork at almost any time of the day or night. Then if I'm doing a big project I could be up for days at a time making stuff at the very last minute on Red Bull and coffee."
- Alfredo Martinez, artist, New York City.
"I get less sleep than I would like each night, and often try to compensate with a nap. I have four or five good long stretches of creative work each week, divided among painting, drawing, and writing, with the rest of the time taken up by living."
- Daniel Maidman, artist, New York City.
"I am very much a creature of the night; I usually retire to bed anywhere between 3-5am and rise anywhere from 10am til noon. There is something beautifully lonely and self focusing about slicing through the night, working on one's craft. Perhaps the night focuses you as much the day is full of distraction"
- Christos Olympios Katsiaouni, photographer, New York City.
"I wake up at 5am, make a cup of tea, and do some work for a couple hours. No one is awake, so it's quiet and there is little distraction. It's a great time to make calls to New York too. I go for a run at 7am, before the tropical sun beats down on me. Then it's at least 6 more hours of work, followed by a nap. Then cocktail hour begins & social obligations kick in."
- Amelia Abdullahsani, art advisor, Singapore.
"Usually up at 7am, get kids fed, dressed, and to school, recover, at studio by 11am, home for dinner by 7pm, kids in bed by 9pm, recover, hang with wife, go to sleep around 1am. At the studio 6 or 7 days a week. Varies, last night I conked out around 11, woke up at 6."
- Jonathan Viner, artist, New York City. WM
Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023.
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