Being a professional artist, or a serious hobbyist, is a lot of work. Art tutorial sites and art schools often leave out two crucial aspects in the life of a working artist: eat and sleep. In this post I’ll take a look at some important habits to keep you happily drawing for years to come, and how to learn from my mistakes.
I can’t stress the importance of sleep strongly enough. It seems that the ‘all-nighter’ has been burned into popular culture as a badge of honor. Movies often portray creative types working late into the night surrounded by caffeinated beverages. As romantic as this visual may seem, it’s a terrible habit to get into. I spent my final year of highschool pursuing this image - creating digital art deep into the night and attending school during the day. The most noteworthy result of this lifestyle was how awful I felt. Artistic progress was certainly made, but it came at a huge cost. At the time I saw this as a necessary trade: I could sleep later. The truth, though, was that all of my waking hours were less effective due to my general exhaustion. If you want to learn more about this concept, read about “sleep debt”.
Being well-rested improves every minute you spend working. My new strategy is to sleep as much as I can. If I get 7 or 8 hours, each night I’m significantly less likely to have a ‘bad drawing day’. It seems that shorter work days are in fact more effective than long ones if they’re followed by a good night’s sleep. It’s possible that this schedule is at odds with your school or work life, but I can’t overstate the difference it’s made in my art effectiveness.
Like a good night’s sleep, eating healthy food makes a huge difference in your long-term artistic output. Working in a game studio, I’m no stranger to pizza and potato chips - but this is a dangerous lifestyle to sink into. Crashing a few hours after eating a candy bar or heavy, processed, lunch will ruin your creativity. For much of my life food hasn’t been a huge priority. It wasn’t until late in college that I began eating intentionally: cooked meals, lots of vegetables, and fresh fruit when it’s available. Since that time I’ve felt a huge improvement in my general energy level and mood.
Invest time in your health
It’s easy to slowly slide into low energy levels and a grumpy disposition without understanding the causes. Art is much harder to make under these conditions. It’s hard to know where the impact of sleep ends and diet begins, but the two combine to have a huge impact on your daily life. If you want to pursue an artistic career, technique and theory aren’t the only skills you’ll need. Learning to stay healthy, rested, and well fed will keep you happily painting for years to come.
Do you have any tips for the Ctrl+Paint community? We’d love to hear them in the comments!