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“I don’t buy into the idea of inspiration.”

Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Painter ⎜Malerin

What does a normal or ideal working day look like for you, what kind of rhythm do you have? Do you have fixed working hours or do they vary from day to day?
I like to arrive to work at 8am having showered, eaten and taken a walk. I spend a maximum of one hour at my desk taking care of life and business so that I can work from 9-12pm before taking a lunch break. After lunch, and a walk, I work another 4 hours or so.


How many hours per day do you work on average (writing, painting, practising)?
It is physically taxing to stand at a wall painting for more than 5 hours. I try to break it up with walks, meals and work at my watercolor table. That is not always possible, because I like to paint oils wet into wet so there is a window of time where I can work before the drying process begins.
I could find work to do in my studio from morning until night – but it is a bad idea to ignore life outside the studio.


How many hours do you add on average for ‘background work’ and everything else (research, office stuff, acquisition, website, social media)? How do you find the balance between all the tasks you have to keep track of as a free artist?
At the end of each day I plan what work will happen in studio the next day. After painting full time for 23 years, I have a clear sense of what I will be capable of doing in the next 24 hours — what is wise or unwise to tackle.
At the end of each week I try to plan what will happen the following week. This is done to make sure to stay in painting shape, as the type of painting I do requires that I put aside a lot of time in regular intervals. It is very hard (and pretty foolish) to put down a brush once I have started.
When I don’t have a predictable block of time to paint in oil, my next choice is to work on watercolors which can be interrupted more easily and with fewer consequences.
I try to listen carefully to my mind and body. When I can’t paint (or don’t want to) I work as my own studio manager. I am extremely organized and enjoy office work which includes maintaining my archive and website plus tending the relationships with my galleries.


Are there weekends for you? What does free time mean?
As a kid I did all my homework on Friday and did nothing Saturday and Sunday. As a grown up I am the same, I really try to take the weekends off. I spend time with my family and I love to walk. I am not great at relaxing, but I am working on it.


What is the biggest threat to your artistic work, what do you get distracted by?
Being a parent. But it has brought me so much, so I focus on that aspect of it.


Do you have strategies to protect yourself from distractions?
I schedule meetings first or last thing of the day and try to gang together the longest stretch of uninterrupted hours for painting.
I keep myself on task using hand written reminder notes. I write a single task on each small sheet of paper and leave them on my desk until I have completed the task. They say things like; finish watercolor of evergreen tree, drink water and tea, paint sky on 68 inch oil, think about Monet, etc.


What is your working environment like, what is essential for you? For example, do you need absolute silence – and if so, where and how do you find it?
I am extremely neat. My space is organized roughly in zones – oil, watercolor, computer. All of my tables are on wheels.
I paint the large oils with their studies hung on the wall nearby for reference. I work with the TV on (I listen, mostly) so that I am somewhat distracted for long repetitive work days. I love British crime dramas.


When and where does the most important part of your work happen, where do you find the greatest inspiration? At work at your desk or by chance – reading, relaxing, travelling, interacting with other people?
Pretty much all of my work is done in my studio.  I don’t buy into the idea of inspiration. I prefer consistent work and to develop strategies that set me up for success. I love process and rely on it heavily.


How often or easily do you get into a creative ‘flow’, and what helps you most to reach this state?
Routine helps with flow. Decreasing the number of decisions that need to be made before work can start is helpful. Also, Caffeine.


What do you do when nothing works out – when ideas or success fail to materialise, or when you don’t succeed in what you set out to do?
When nothing is working, I clean my studio, take a walk, try again. I give myself options. Perhaps today wasn’t the day to succeed with that image, try another, come back to it.
I have a 24 hour rule for destroying work, I do not let myself tear things up or wipe them out until the next day. Often, with fresh eyes and a little time, the piece is good to workable. It is a conscious choice not to let emotion run those decisions.


What helps you when your self-confidence is down (e.g. because of bad reviews, financial downturn, bad mood, personal worries)?
I find it helps to do something thoughtful for someone else.


Do you reward yourself when you have achieved something, reached a certain goal?


Do you rely on the advice of others or on advice literature? Are there any books that have helped you to find courage on your artistic path?
My closest confidant is my husband, Sebastian Blanck, also a painter. We talk about work constantly and are quite nerdy about painting. I love to read books about artists, they provide perspective. Artists think differently from other people. Broadly, we have different values. I don’t always get along with every artist I meet, but I love speaking with them.


How much does the recognition of your art by others mean to you? What is the best form of recognition?
If I respect a person, it feels great when they like my work. Mostly I like it when my family admires my paintings.


What are you afraid of?
Climate change, extremism, and cruelty… and, arthritis / losing my eye sight.