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from the “Broken Open” series by Karina Nishi Marcus

“Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work.” — Clive Barker

“I go to the studio everyday because one day I may go and the Angel will be there. What if I don’t go and the Angel comes.” –Philip Guston

In our rebellious and misspent youth we conceive of a life unfettered by parental obligations, of meanly and menial chores, of dampered night hours of tedious homework.  We would be at liberty to burn all night hours unhampered by dull curfews, eat ice cream for breakfast. All societal norms would be jettisoned in our celebration of the freedom to do what we want.  Unfortunately, when we obtain our adolescent liberty, we sadly and shockingly discover that this is not the case. In fact, we are faced with the absolute necessity of developing discipline: habit and routine. And this task will set before us in ever evolving lessons.

We artists find the framework of routine to be the solid foundation upon which to construct our art practice, and thus our lives. (For to artists the two are inseparable and indivisible.) It is with the seeming limitations of timely individual schedule and routine that we uncover the space of time to find that moment of infinity in our work.

With many creative beings a triggering ritual – such as when a baseball pitcher will touch his cap before each throw – begins their routine and signals to the brain and heart to prepare for creative action.  Some artists start their studio routine with lighting a candle or saying a prayer.  Some visual artists begin each day with sketching and drawing, others by doing crossword puzzles.  With others, the signal is playing certain piece of music as anthem.

I know a writer who composes a haiku poem as her first act of the morning.  She reports that once these little gems are crystalized, that she has opened the channels to her writing practice, even though the intervening hours of her support job lay before her.  She wakes and awakens as an artist.

Artist Lauri Luck works from the ritual mantra of “Just get to the car.” Her ritual of preparation is complete for once she enters her vehicle, she is on her way to the studio and creative work. (You can read her complete comment here.)

As an aspect of my Caerus Artist Residency, I am working to add a walk before my painting sessions.  In this I take my cue from Beethoven who took a ritual walk each morning. This was his transition period.  He would saunter and make notations of the music he heard in his head (which I am sure was as close as possible to the music of the spheres.) Then he would return to his room to start his work. I hope by the installation of the habit of a walk that such physical action will calm and center the creative force.

Routine and habit crystallize into ritual.

By establishing and maintaining a regular routine, we remove many barriers to the influx of inspiration, we refine our muse and hone our dreams. Cezanne noted – we start as artists, we become workers. It is by the accumulation of consistent time and concreted effort in the studio that we produce progress – that fabled next step in development that we seek. By the increase of intensity and quaintly of energy, our quality will bloom as the beauty of a rare, radiant flower. Repetition has sublime magnitude.

People are said to be creatures of habit so let us become a creative creature of habit in support of our art practice.  Let us wake up as an artist. Supposedly mundane routine is the antidote to the flood of daily demands, which always threatens to swamp the transparency of time.

There are times when we seek to make changes.  There are others when the universe prods gently or stridently demands change.  We are fortunate with the opportunity of our gift of time during the Caerus artist residency to experiment with new structures, to fashion new routines, develop new habits and honor new rituals.

What are your routines and rituals around your creative practice?  What new habits are developing during this process?

Karina Nishi Marcus