Lately I've been starting my day with a quick twenty-minute painting. I do this mainly because it can take me a couple of hours or more, settling in to work for the day. That's a pitfall of my freelance life and of my personality I suppose. The computer/interwebs are also a large part of the distraction. (Damn you Instagram!) What's great is that I'm finding this little exercise is really kicking my day in to action immediately.
I took a writing workshop once with Lynda Barry (the great) and loved that she began the session with abstract line doodles, nothing recognizable made, kind of hypnotic to create... Very relaxing, put you in a receptive place with no particular intention. It was something I always MEANT to do to start my day, but didn't. More recently I saw Isabelle Arsenault post a 20 minute timed drawing, and so I thought I'd give it a go with paint.
I set up my palette, grab paper, choose a person ('cause I love people), look up an online countdown timer for twenty minutes and hit the start button. It's great - a bit of adrenaline to get it right, good practice all round. Makes you not linger on decisions too long, which I love - I have long term portraits I've been working on, and doing these quick little studies are immensely satisfying. That's not to say that it always works out - I create things you'll never see - because they're just terrible. Gotta make a lot of garbage to get to the good stuff. Love the long and the short timed portraits in different ways - the short are immediate and responsive - the long are conversations with time to try things out.
Another bonus in doing this is the fact that I don't have an intention other than response to what I see. I am not someone who rabidly keeps a sketchbook for anything other than notes and ideas for work, so this my answer to that. The distraction aspect of this is that I have found myself ignoring the timer or resetting it to work longer (See John Cuneo images here and at the top of this post).
If you want to check out more, I've been trying to post photos on Instagram and I have started scheduling in friends to sit for me over the next few weeks as I'm finding painting from photos more often than not a bit of a bore. You can see the very first one I did in this previous post. It's me, done from a mirror at my desk.