Covid and Being an Artist or, a Treatise for Fighting Sleep.

In search of how other artists are doing during this hard time. Please, please comment below.

I have always been a night owl. I liked staying up late as a child and in college did regular “all-nighters” with nary a yawn. To this day I still do my best studio work in what most people would call the wee hours of the morning or what I call the “shank” of the day. It’s quiet in the house, the phone isn’t ringing, no one’s questions to answer and you can’t vacuum – in short, no distractions. I feel like my creative juices start flowing around 1 am and hit their peak around 3 am. Between 3 and 4 am is when I get that devil-may-care attitude of, “what the Hell,” and try doing wild and adventurous things that my 3 pm self would never have the nerve to try. I also lose my sense of, “if I do that, I might ruin it” and have a more, “lets just try this, it could be cool.”

But late night work is different from what this pandemic has done to me. I used to stay up til 2 am regularly and rise at nine, eight or the ungodly hour of 7:30 when little ones were around and catch up on sleep the next night or the next. Now it’s more like go to bed at 3 am and rise at 5:30 am, feed the cat, make some tea and go back to bed not to rise til mid-day. Then the night falls and I am somehow too wide awake to go to bed at 1 or 2 but too emotionally or mentally exhausted to start a project. So, many nights in a row after tossing and turning in bed I get up, go down to the studio and sit in front of the computer wasting time until I can finally fall asleep and then start the cycle again. This produces a cranky woman who is deprived of sleep and not producing any art. This makes her feel sad and useless.

I am searching for the magic pill to reverse this. I make lists of projects I want to do. I have created a folder of photos that are good references for future art. My art studio is the kind of clean and organized place that gives me the desire to go work in it (trust me, not too clean, not too much of a mess). I have eliminated all the road blocks that I can thing of, and yet each day I find time to watch art videos on YouTube mesmerized by yet another style or technique and don’t pursue my own creative visions. I feel like the stress of the Pandemic has somehow wiped my brain of those surges that drive you to create. Almost like something from a sci-fi movie. I am wondering how many other artists are struggling with this. How many other artists are laying awake each night with barely any energy or motivation to create. I wonder how many of us are struggling with insomnia and just kind of float through the day like a ghost. I would love to hear from other artists and their tips on how they overcame the lack of inspiration, or the lack of sleep. How they continue to function in this world that seems the same but is so profoundly different in every single way.

3 thoughts on “Covid and Being an Artist or, a Treatise for Fighting Sleep.”

  1. Always interesting to read about your experiences! I empathize with the pandemic-induced twilight zone you seem to be in. My creativity has also been hi-jacked during the lockdown but for different reasons. I had been living in my studio preparing for an exhibition and suddenly it was cancelled. I had to close the studio and go home during lockdown, 80 miles away and a tiny backyard workshop where I could barely finish the two large paintings I was working on without tripping over myself. Then the priorities of the lockdown began to bite…queues for food at the local grocery in our tiny Scottish town, going For daily walks like a ritual, tending home and garden, attending to long neglected practical matters. My creative energy was diverted briefly to recording an online cabaret performance for an arts organisation I’m involved with. Ultimately, the lockdown forced me to come to terms with everything that wasn’t working in my life. Our tiny cottage, though incredibly charming and cosy, is too small for us and there’s nowhere to work. So I’m in the nail-biting process of doing what I thought I’d never do…selling the beloved cottage and buying a much larger, rundown old house in need of total renovation, in the same village. The best part is that it has a brick-built garage in the garden that will become my studio. But the irony? Getting to grips with priorities has left me without the time or mental energy to make any work. Like the lockdown, this too shall pass. But life on the other side will look very different.

  2. For me it’s the opposite but the result is similar.
    BC19 (before Covid-19) I was up by 6am and in the studio by 9. Client work first then switch to my personal art projects and play. When my husband announced that dinner was ready (thank God that hasn’t changed!) it was break time. Bedtime was around 11.
    Now, I drag myself out of bed and putter around until nap time (what am I 3 years old?). More puttering until dinner, then I can go right back to sleep if I don’t force myself to stay awake for a little while at least. I’ve come up with some great ideas but little or no action.
    I’ve decided that June is a new beginning, a time to relax and let go and play be my work as if I were 3. Wish me luck!

  3. I find that the hardest part of making art when I’m in a funk is just starting. Once I get over that hump I get into it and just keep going. But first I have to find the doorway in. To do that I decide on a project, even if I have pick one randomly. Then I get my paper and paints and water ready, and start working whether I feel like it or not. Doesn’t matter if the painting comes out like crap, at least I’m working. And if I’m working I’m learning something. So it’s a win win.


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