Johanna Basford's sabbatical diary, week 4: Going cuckoo

Johanna Basford is on a four-month sabbatical from paid work to concentrate on making herself a better artist, illustrator and all-round creative person.

Every week Johanna aims to publish a diary entry, which we'll be running on Digital Arts so you can follow the ups and downs – hopefully mainly ups – as she pushes her creativity and vision into new areas.

Week 4

It’s a sabbatical, but not as we know it.

Now that I’ve established the thing formally known as a ‘sabbatical’ is in fact not a sabbatical, I’ve decided just to embrace the madness, accept it’s going to be a flipping busy few months and power on.

Faced with the familiar ‘not enough hours in the day’ quandary, I embarked on a week of 5am starts. I’ve always done my best work in the morning – at art school I’d go in at 6am with the cleaners – so I thought why not make the most of those precious pre-dawn hours?

It may be antisocial and it confused the hell out of the dog, but my 5am starts meant I got four solid hours of work under my belt before the rest of the UK even got to their desks. To-do lists were almost blitzed by lunchtime and I felt justified in eating two breakfasts. I was energised, focused and smug.

The downside? Post dinner crash and burn. Late-night working, intelligent conversation and any desire to leave the house pretty much dissolve around 9pm.

I guess this is excusable, providing you’ve done a good day’s work prior to morphing into The Grinch.

Work, breathe, work again

I’ve heard and read a lot about work/life balance recently. Yes, you do need to look after yourself. No, you probably won’t do your best work in the 18th hour at your desk.

But for all those people who claim they can work an eight-hour day, whip up a homemade dinner, train for a marathon and have a social life whilst doing their best ever work – I simply don’t believe you.

Building something amazing takes time. You have to put the hours in – not to mention the blood, sweat and tears. I cannot see any way around this. Have you ever read a biography of someone you truly admire, that’s achieved tremendous success in their field that said: ‘yea, we worked 9-5 and it all just seemed to come together nicely”?

Nope, me neither.

My art teacher at school, Mr Smith (a legend in his own right) would say to me “Basford, if you don’t put the hours in, someone else will”.

The studio this week became an inky cuckoo clock workshop. As I sketched a plethora of Black Forest-inspired time pieces, I yearned for cherry-laden gateaux and puzzled over how to overcome the technical challenges of adding mechanisms and little birds on springs.

“If only I was an inventor of robots” I sighed, not for the first time in my 29 years.

Also, a dismembered body arrived in a box. The milky white limbs of several mannequins have been slowly massing in the studio. Sharpies at the ready, this is tattooing for dummies.

More on this soon…

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

Read Next...