Artist Self Care Strategies

Yesterday I attended an event with the title of this post organised and facilitated by Ria Hartley and Alice Tatton-Brown. It was at The Island in Bristol and was a wonderful chance for me to meet some artist from a variety of disciplines living in Bristol. It was a great relief to know that other artists regularly burn out, struggling physically and mentally under the strain of their own relentless work schedules and damaging self motivation.

The main thing I took away from this was that we as artists need to take responsibility for ourselves, and and know what we need in order to continue make work in a sustainable way.

As I left the workshop and walked towards the station I thought: what do I need to make my work? Before the workshop I had never questioned this but inspired by the conversations yesterday I have made this list. I was specifically thinking about a period in which I am making work, booked studio time etc rather than general life. I hope this list will continue the dialogue, started yesterday about what artists need in order to make work.


  • I need sleep.
  • I need enough physical activity to make me tired so I can sleep.
  • I need somewhere to sleep.
  • I need somewhere I am able to sleep, somewhere that I feel comfortable.
  • I need to eat vegetables.
  • I need to limit the amount of bread, potatoes, biscuit and cakes that I eat so I don’t feel full of stodge.
  • I need to stop punishing myself e.g strict diet.
  • I need to love and care for myself in the way I would care for another. I need to regularly imagine I am a friend of mine and use this as a way to make caring loving decisions for myself.
  • I need low levels of anxiety so that racing anxious thoughts don’t preventing me from sleeping.
  • I need to lower my anxiety levels and limit some of my anxious thoughts which can be all encompassing, and prevent me from being able to normally function, sleep eat etc. These thoughts   can lead to panic attacks and depression both of which inhibit my creative process.
  • I need adequate funds and budget so that my anxieties about money can be lessened.
  • I need enough monthly income from self-employment and employment so that my anxieties about money don’t sap up my creative energies.


I need the means to afford basic items and purchase things that make me feel good, without the crippling guilt of spending. These purchases please me and make me happy, and have therefore a higher value than their monitory value. These things include but are not limited to:

  • Paying rent.
  • Paying Bills.
  • Buying healthy lunch or dinner, which is always more expensive than cheap unhealthy stuff.
  • To be able to eat a meal in a restaurant if I want to.
  • To be able to go for a coffee or go for a drink in a bar
  • To be able to buy myself little treats for doing well in rehearsal. A nail polish, a new jumper a cinema ticket.

I need a budget which covers the cost of the materials I need to work with in rehearsals without worrying about the cost of purchasing them.

I need the following materials to make my work, some of which I already own:

  1. A laptop and cable
  2. Paper and pens.
  3. A table/ desk and a chair.
  4. A light to turn on when It gets dark.
  5. Blu tac.
  6. Highlighters.
  7. Printer and paper.
  8. iPad and iPad cabe.
  9. An umbrella and waterproof shoes so I don’t arrive in studio drenched and unhappy.
  10. Enough jumpers and layers keep warm while I am working.
  11. Shoes and clothes with no or few holes in them (holes depress me)
  12. A bottle of water.
  13. My phone and charger so I am able to call people when I need help.
  14. A projector to work with in rehearsal.
  15. Speakers to play music.
  16. My iPod for the music to come from.
  17. An Internet connection for research.


  • I need to establish a positive relationship with a space- This shouldn’t be the space I sleep in. This will be a space where I can work without disruption and without the anxiety of being ‘walked in on’ and without being watched.
  • I need warmth, so I can think straight.
  • I need cold, to force me to get up, stop writing and move around.
  • I need a mirror, preferably full length so I can see myself performing.


  • I need time to work in which my sole and only aim is to make work. Where I can focus on it entirely without other distractions getting in the way. This might be a train journey or 5 days in studio.
  • I need to feel that there isn’t something else I should be doing.
  • I need to work on something weeks before, stop working on it.. let the ideas settle, and then finish making it and release it nearer to the performance deadline.
  • I need to recognise that I will never be able to make something a long way in advance I will always be making right up the the mark and so this is even more reason to have someone to assist me with this period.
  • I need a deadline to give me reason to produce material to show.
  • I need to be making because I want to, and I use the deadline as a kick in this process not be making because I feel I have been forced into it by an organisation/ body/ collaborator, even if I willingly entered into this relationship.

PEOPLE (in person or on the phone):

  • I need people who I trust to look at and feedback on my work.
  • I need an artistic community of these people.
  • I need people to talk to about what am making .
  • I need people who make work like me to talk to.
  • i need people who don’t make work like me to talk to.
  • I need people who are on the same wave length as me to talk to.
  • I need people who share curiosities and interests to talk to.
  • I need people with whom I can have brain sex: exciting conversations with about art and topics and interests to talk to.
  • I need people to talk to when I doubt myself most and feel totally useless and incapable.
  • I need to see or speak to my friends and family and those I love.
  • I need to have a good laugh or sometimes a cry with these people.
  • I need to show my work regularly to others and use this as an editing process.
  • I need to know I have an audience coming.
  • I need to be able to focus on making during time scheduled for this purpose. This means I need someone else to deal with elements of production that fall outside of this e.g talking to venues, tech specs etc. Producing tours/ elements of the production. Maybe making my tech/ maybe sourcing/ getting/ making some of the props/ costume. Managing relationships with venues and outreach exercises. This will allow making to be my primary aim and having someone helping with these activities will help me sleep at night.

There we are… thats the list, for now. Congratulations for getting to the bottom. I am sure I have left plenty off and it will evolve over time. Do you agree with any of these, what do you need in order to make work?

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