Artist Success: Sleep on It!

(Lessons of a Pillow.)

I had an illustration professor (we'll call him Austin) who once imposed one of cardinal rules on the class. Except this was no lesson in technique or study of art history. No, his lesson was a social discipline.

The decree, hours of straight sleep. Naps and dozing didn't count. Seven uninterrupted hours. Surprisingly, Austin was not the only one to issue behavior pattern advice on slumber. Another seasoned professor, a vet of Disney projects lampooning during his off time as a teacher, gave the recommendation to set a set hour to always sleep by. His: midnight...the statute: no art after midnight or before six. Seems that getting rest was fashionable, and it was the law.

For most, this was not only an easy task, it was a reward. Sleeping is the easiest assignment in the world, right? Well, those who attend certain colleges or trade schools, especially artists and designers, know the right "finish" point on a project sometimes knows no deadline. Unlike a math equation, where a final answer equals the end of effort, a student artist can nightmarishly keep redefining a piece until it goes before the professor.

At our school, which promised five hours of homework per class session, the sleep imposition soon became just that. An unwelcome handcuff to getting projects properly finished. Ether you tossed in bed about unfinished work, or you stayed the course and stayed up. Austin always knew, too; he did a check every morning…"Let's see your ten sketches, your ¾ profile project, and did you get seven hours every night?" He could sniff liars out, but this was college... we all confessed to staying up extra if we put the hours in... dark circles don't lie, anyway.

The not-so-big secret to the assignment, we soon learned, was not sleep, but time delegation. Know your workload, your deadlines, your process, and plan accordingly. Getting the rest will help, but managing a schedule to allow your body to recoup energy is just as important. Austin bore splints on his wrists to help with his reoccurring carpel tunnel. Too much sketching, doctor said.

But if you do stay up, stay tuned to my next offering, where I offer advantages to restlessness and creative insomnia...


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