Maintaining a successful practice means plenty of time in the studio. I found this out a few years ago when I was working full-time in the design center and using nights to paint. The more time I had to mentally relax and be present with the canvases, the more fulfilled I felt by the work I produced. It was my job to create time—sometimes out of thin air—but not put pressure on other areas of life (like sleeping or my desk job.) I spent the period between working full-time and supporting myself learning the best techniques to maintain productivity and reduce wasted time. Now, with a full-time job in the studio and as a founder of Studio Table, a new small-start business, I frequently get asked how I have enough time to wear different hats and still have the mental peace to paint and travel.

I thought that walking through a typical day would be a good way to explain how I keep productivity high and my time centered around painting in the studio.

7am | Begin day by consulting the master to-do list

I live in a work-live loft, which means I have to work a little harder to compartmentalize my life. The space on the first floor is devoted to working—where canvases line the walls, pastels and pencils litter my workbench, and where the “master list” lives—there’s painting storage on the second floor and my bedroom is nestled up top on the third floor. Normally, I get up around 7am and walk downstairs to consult a giant sheet of brown craft paper taped to the wall. This is where my bigger ideas and projects are outlined. I look over the list, maybe add a few notes with chalk, and then take a look at the work from the night before. Having my check list in full display keeps it from occupying my mind and allows me to continue thinking ahead. I spend the morning working on emails, sketching, or wrapping paintings that need to be shipped.

Since the studio also doubles as my living room, sometimes I’ll flip paintings over for a visual break. In the mornings I’ll revisit pieces with fresh eyes. I also use this time of day to document paintings if the light is decent and take inventory for galleries.

11am | Mid-morning change of environment

Changing my surroundings keeps me moving forward and energized, and late morning is the perfect time to get out of the loft. Depending on the day, I’ll walk down to a café to edit painting images from a photo shoot, catch up on email, or take an Uber to pick up art supplies. Recently, I’ve been stocking up on pastels, spray fixative, sheets of Reeves BFK paper, extra pencils and golden paint. I’m careful to keep a full stock in the studio, which means frequent shopping. If it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday, I’m usually at the gym for an hour, running errands and shipping work.

I will take an Uber if I’m carrying lots of things for a meeting or if I don’t feel like finding (or paying for) parking. Using Uber allows me to stay flexible, and it’s nice to talk to someone along the way. The people that drive with Uber are oftentimes artists like me, and I enjoy talking with them about how driving allows them the freedom to support themselves and their studio practices. You can read more about the stories behind Uber partners here.


1pm | Maximize time by seeing faces

I prioritize face-to-face meetings over email, texting, and phone calls. Either seeing people in person or over Skype allows for quality conversations with friends, galleries, and collaborators, which energizes projects and builds relationships. Oftentimes, I’ll meet my Studio Table partners, Ben and Michelle, for lunch or coffee in the afternoon. These face-to-face meetings keep us focused and moving towards the same goal. Since I know I’ll be downtown until late, I’ll take an Uber to lunch and another to a gallery opening to optimize my time. I’m mindful about safety at night, so I often choose Uber over driving myself and having to walk through parking garages alone.

5pm | Staying in tune with the community

Many nights lately have been spent at gallery openings or exhibits. I take time to show up for friends and make new connections in the San Francisco art community. A few years ago, when I was a new artist here, there was nothing more helpful than the support I found from galleries and artists. Now, I like to go and support them. This keeps me tuned into upcoming projects and events while allowing me to appreciate the work of others. Getting to know artists, their work, and their stories helps me in the studio by holding me accountable to expanding my practice and challenging myself as an artist.

8pm | Downtime for creating

Over the years, I’ve found I work best early in the mornings and late at night. I try to maximize my time during the day to feel relaxed or inspired to work when it feels natural to me—which is usually after 8pm. Normally by then I’m home and sketching loose ideas or prepping canvas for a studio session. I don’t have a television in my home because I find it to be a time waster, and instead choose to use mental energy listening to music or planning a trip, if I’m not painting. I like to gather moments throughout the day and then bring them home to digest and work through on canvas.

Whether I’m meeting people face-to-face or jumping in an Uber to save time, I’ve found that each of these ideas not only keep me focused on productivity, they also save time in the long-term. Even though not every day looks like this, by keeping on top of my calendar and focusing more on relationships, I maximize my time in the studio.

Thanks to Uber for sponsoring this post, for being there for me, and for making each drive an opportunity for a new connection.


A word on partnerships: With the objective of remaining true to my art and lifestyle, I only agree to partnerships with companies I respect. Therefore, I’m thankful for companies like Uber, who are involved in bettering communities, and support my practice as an artist. I want to be as transparent as possible out of respect for my readers and in accordance with the FTC law of 2013. All content and opinions are my own. For more information on my views please read my open letter regarding partnerships.

Written by Heather Day. Edited and Polished by Kate Holthouser.  Photos by Lauren Midori.