Part of being a commercial artist is running a business. While there are aspects of this that I’m horrible at and procrastinate on (accounting, marketing) and parts that I very much enjoy (comic book conventions, book fairs, meeting fans and showcasing my latest books, and art), I still have to do all of them. This series of my process blog will talk about different aspects of the business.
Artists might be known to starve, but I think the reality is a lot of us eat, but not very healthily. We also sit for long periods of time, and tend to neglect exercise. I had this mindset that I had to work as much as possible to get to that next level of success. Get in the infamous 10,000 hours of work.
But if you think about it, all of those things are very counter productive to having a long life as an artist. Eating properly and exercise gives you energy, and focus, which will help improve your drawing. Science has proven that sitting for long periods of time takes years off of your life. So getting up quite often and getting away from your desk is key to living a longer, healthier life. That might take away from how long it takes you to get to 10000 hours, but I’m not sure that I believe in that line anyway. I think its about the quality of your creating, not the quantity. That’s why I decided to focus on eating healthier and exercising more regularly and making sure I stretched my legs more often.
The subject of health has been front and center for me for the last year or so. I’m a fairly health conscious guy, but over the last few years I’d gained a bit of weight. Add to that, I have a back injury that has greatly affected my life over the last 5 years or so. And being an artist, I’m sitting for long periods of time. About a year ago, I decided that enough was enough, and so I made a change. I was going to get into shape.
The first change I made was to my diet. I started to cut out sugar, alcohol, and reduce portion sizes. I immediately went down a pants size. I also started to do very basic exercising; stretching, push ups, sit-ups. My addiction to sugar was hard to curb, so I gave in every once in a while. But the feeling of energy and lightness I had from reducing the sugar and portion sizes made me feel better than I had in years. I’ve heard that if you are going to try to get rid of an addiction, supplant it with another, healthier one. That seemed to be working.
After months of gradually increasing my exercise routine, and being more and more health conscious, I finally started to feel like I was healthy and in shape again. None of these things happen over night, and the changes were often little, but enough that it kept me going. It seemed to help my drawing greatly as well. I was able to focus more and spend more quality time drawing. There wasn’t as much guilt getting away from the drawing board because what I was drawing was better.
At conventions, I made sure to eat healthier as well. I also started standing, and this in turn helped me engage the fans more. I was feeling better after a long day of talking, selling and drawing. So I had better sleep and more energy the next day.
A year later, I’m almost the healthiest I have ever been in my life. I continue to exercise and eat well, and make smarter decisions while creating. I’m planning on getting a standing desk, so I can stand while I work, and hopefully add a few years of healthy living to my life. And my drawing experience has greatly improved. I feel much more clear-headed and enthusiastic while I’m illustrating.
If you are planning on making a career out of being an artist, the first thing you should think about is your health. It lays in a strong foundation so that everything else you do will be the better for it. Ask yourself, do you want to be able to do this 20, 30, 40 years or more from now. And now imagine how you feel when you haven’t exercised for long periods of time, when all you’ve eaten is fast food for the week and sat at your desk day in day out. Really, getting healthy is the only option you have then. So now that we’re done reading this article, let’s all get up, stretch a bit and grab a healthy snack. Your body will thank you for it.