Monday 23 March 2015

Book Review: Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Currey


How is a novel written? A masterpiece painted? A symphony composed?

Benjamin Franklin took daily naked air baths and Toulouse-Lautrec painted in brothels. Edith Sitwell worked in bed, and George Gershwin composed at the piano in pyjamas. Freud worked sixteen hours a day, but Gertrude Stein could never write for more than thirty minutes, and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in gin-fuelled bursts - he believed alcohol was essential to his creative process.

Here are the working routines of more than a hundred and sixty of the greatest philosophers, writers, composers and artists ever to have lived, who, whether by amphetamines or alcohol, headstands or boxing, made time and got to work.
A chance to see what great lives look like when the triumphs, dramas, disruptions and divorces have been all but boiled away. It will fascinate anyone who wonders how a day might best be spent, especially those who have wondered of their artistic heroes, as a baffled Colette once did of George Sand: how the devil did they manage? (Guardian)

An utterly fascinating compendium . . . This book is the ultimate retort to the flaneurs who dream about the novel/screenplay/painting they would create if only they had the time. Its message is that serious artists make the time, and most of them make it at the same time every day (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)

My Musings

A fascinating  little jewel of a book. These 'amuse-bouche' is a riveting insight into the lives of many of our greatest writers, artists and musicians and their daily rituals. What comes across in these tiny tales is that if you have a passion to create you will make the time and not let life get in the way. As an artist you have to be selfish, determined and have a one track mind.

There is someone for everyone in this from Picasso to Steven King, Georgia O Keefe to Beethoven giving it a broad appeal. I absolutely loved reading about the lives of the great and the good of our cultural giants. It is like spying through a keyhole into their lives for a few seconds. Each artist is given no longer than a page or two depending I suppose on the amount of facts Currey was able to gleen but that is enough.

What you take from the book, (or I did as an artist) is that there is no magic formula to create. Everybody has their own idiosyncrasies. The majority did have very disciplined (and quirky) rituals that they kept to rigorously. However there were some real eccentrics and undisciplined artists and writers who still produced masterpieces. What you take away from this treasure trove is listen to what works for you. We are all individuals and we all work in different ways BUT if you can find the daily rituals that work for you then the world is your oyster.

A great gift for culture vultures and artists alike. Perfect to dip in and out of or read at a stretch. 

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