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Fran White

Fran White

Becoming Fran: in Isolation with Gerhard Richter

He sticks to a strict routine, waking at 6:15 every morning. He makes breakfast for his family, takes Ella to school at 7:20 and is in the studio by 8. At one o’clock, he crosses the garden from the studio back to the house. The grass in the garden is uncut. Richter proudly points this out, to show that even it is a matter of his choosing, not by chance. At one o’clock, he eats lunch in the dining room, alone. A housekeeper lays out the same meal for him each day: yoghurt, tomatoes, bread, olive oil and chamomile tea. After lunch, Richter returns to his studio to work into the evening. ”I have always been structured,” he explains. ”What has changed is the proportions, now it is eight hours of paperwork and one of painting.” He claims to waste time – on the house, the garden – although this is hard to believe. ”I go to the studio every day, but I don’t paint every day. I love playing with my architectural models. I love making plans. I could spend my life arranging things. Weeks go by, and I don’t paint until finally, I can’t stand it any longer. I get fed up. I almost don’t want to talk about it, because I don’t want to become self-conscious about it, but perhaps I create these little crises as a kind of a secret strategy to push myself. It is a danger to wait around for an idea to occur to you. You have to find the idea.” As he talks, I notice a single drop of paint on the floor beneath one of his abstract pictures, the only thing out of place in the studio.

The New York Times Magazine January 27, 2002

Having had some time now in isolation to reflect on my daily routine, I realise that although things have changed hugely in the bigger picture, not much has changed in the actual daily rhythm of things in my world. What I really have benefitted from, however, is the time and opportunity to really dwell and consider my choices.

My daily routine

In the mornings I like to meditate, which I think is an essential element supporting my overall sense of balance and wellbeing, especially now.

A cup of tea and breakfast at kitchen table follow – strictly no iPhone or iPad though.

From there I traverse the day as the mood takes me or inspiration strikes. When not in isolation, as well as the fundamental tasks associated with being creative; painting, researching, business management, archiving and personal development, I may also visit family or friends, visit an exhibition or take a painting course.

During this enforced period of quarantine I have made a conscious intention to establish a daily routine to give myself some structure and motivation, which is working well I’m pleased to say, and I am really getting good periods of artwork flow, which is very satisfying.

What I have found especially helpful is to connect to the memory of Seawhites Studio in some way. This then triggers all the subconscious memories of painting and creating there and motivates me to go into the studio and create.

Screen time can be a real problem as it triggers negative health issues, so I am trying very much to manage this and I leave my phone and ipad out of the studio as much as possible to minimise distractions.

I am also trying to be disciplined with my interaction with social media. I am working to max 30-minute intervals, once or twice a day and I am setting a timer to enforce this new habit, as social media can be a massive distraction I find. Whole periods of time can disappear without me realising.

Creating everyday is now my goal. Even if it’s just a watercolour sketch – often referenced from a photograph.  I paint more than I do absolutely anything else – even before isolation. Winter is more looking at work, reflecting and resting whereas the summer sees more prolific output, as I can get outside, I can stand back and I can make a lot more mess!

My summer painting studio is full of light. It is an uplifting space and one in which I play uplifting music to stimulate my senses and motivate my painting. It is in an orangery, so I feel a bit cut off from the house, which is a good thing because it minimises distractions, which is very useful.

I tend to create during the daytime and do social media in the evening.

The impact of the seasons on my routine

On reflection, I seem to work to an academic timetable. Is it deeply ingrained remembered behaviour from school and bringing up children I wonder?  I used to love a half-term holiday and the long summer holidays when I would get my children back as they were away at boarding school

The seasons do not impact on my travelling, which I do when the mood takes and an invitation beckons. One particular course I took in India – a textile mud resist course comes to mind now as I write these memories and feelings down. I enjoyed it immensely and it has informed much of my journey since, maybe time to consider another visit when it’s safe to do so.

Reflecting on routine and my personal experience, here are my top tips:

  • Avoid rigidity in the routine
  • Be flexible and adaptable – it’s part of the whole process
  • Be agile in your thoughts and behaviour – forgive yourself easily
  • Prioritise self-care
  • Ask for help sometimes and with some tasks – but don’t be rigid
  • Be aware of your own tendencies – are you a perfectionist or a procrastinator – and how they might limit you
  • The best is good enough for me (sic) – saying from Admiral Jackie Fisher, my Great Grandfather

@franwhiteartist on Instagram

Images: Caitlin Lock

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