It’s About Time for Iain Clark

Welcome to the latest in my series of interviews about creative time. This month it’s the turn of artist Iain Clark. Iain divides his time between producing art for the Dublin 2019 WorldCon (slowly seeing the light of day in the form of adverts, flyers, posters, badges, bookmarks and t-shirts) and fan art for Doctor Who and other genre TV.  He has reviewed TV and film for Strange Horizons, and was a panel member at LonCon 2014 discussing the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).  He currently fits drawing and blogging around the capricious whims of his young daughters.

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
IC We’ve got our two daughters (aged 6 and 9) to a point where they no longer yell for us at 6.30 sharp, so we actually get some semblance of a lie-in until, ooh, maybe even 6.45 am (Okay, 7.30 on a good day). Then it’s simply of case of breaking the mesmeric spell of children’s television at 5 minute intervals until the kids are actually ready to go to school.

I work full-time and my wife works part-time so weekdays are pretty hectic.  After work it’s feed the kids, wash the kids, read to the kids, say night to the kids, and then try to fit creativity into whatever is left of the evening. (Not that raising kids isn’t creative, but it’s a very different kind of creative and like any manuscript they seem to need constant revisions and spend most of their time covered in biro.)

Generally I paint while sitting in the living room, which probably sounds a bit odd.  I’ve found that I’m far more likely to work if I can stay in the heart of the house with the TV as comfort noise in the background, rather than some isolated corner.  I have an easel set to the right height for the sofa, and I can happily paint until bedtime while my wife does one of her vast array of crafts.  Fortunately I mainly work in acrylics so the paints don’t stink out the room.  I’ve been trying some low-odour water-miscible oils recently too (such a different technique.)

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
IC Mentally I need a bit of a run-up to creating art.  I can’t just do ten minutes, I need to know I have at least an hour.  The later the kids go to bed, the more squeezed it becomes.  Depending on how the evening has gone up to that point, I generally end up with 1-2 hours to paint – that’s assuming we don’t watch TV or anything crazy like that. I always sit at work itching to paint, get home too knackered to even think about it, and then bounce back.

Current time management strategies are to try to eat when the kids eat, something we’d fallen out of the habit of doing, and we limit TV viewing to just the few shows we’re following.  Just one TV show a night really eats into my painting time.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
IC I need them more than the kids! Twitter is my Achilles heel. My rate of reading books has suffered the most, because social media eats time and then I prioritise art over reading.  It’s so easy just to sit glued to the internet consuming and consuming and never make that step change into creating.  I don’t use any limiting tools. Maybe I should start!  I do really value the social interactions I have on social media so it’s a balance.

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
I’m learning all the time as a parent and I’m learning all the time as an artist, but the two don’t crossover all that much.  My daughters love art and are very supportive of their daddy doing pictures (lots of gratifying oohs and aahs!).

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
IC Tip: don’t have kids, a day job or social media!  Since I’ve foolishly pursued all of those things, when knackered-ness takes over I trick myself into doing art by getting out a work in progress and just looking at it; very simple but it gets me over the mental hurdle of starting because I immediately become obsessed with what’s wrong and sucked into fixing it.  Editing is easier than writing.  I also remind myself how I’ll feel later if I don’t knuckle down, looking back on all those lost opportunities.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
Despite having painted numerous fan art likenesses I still struggle to ‘find’ the face. They generally end up too long in the vertical axis.  I never trace, and I haven’t used grids when copying a likeness but recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more structured to sharpen up my proportions. I know many proper artists don’t bat an eyelid about grids but it always feels a bit like cheating to me.  I’m not judging, this is my hang up! Everyone’s process is different.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
Er…no!  Having an understanding spouse who allows you painting time is something I would highly recommend.  If you don’t have one, take yours back and get a refund.

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
I’ve used my eldest daughter as a model in one picture (below).  ICpainting

And I’ve done a couple of pencil sketches of the girls as gifts for my wife. Other than that I do occasionally sit down and draw with them, particularly with my eldest.  She doesn’t want me to actually tell her anything or show her how to do anything (because obviously she knows best), she just wants the shared experience.  She’s inspired by cartoons she sees (she’s been perfecting manga-style eyes!) more than me.  I think there’s a fine line between being an encouraging role model and setting them an impossible standard. My art at age 9 was nothing special – they’re already much better than I was!

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
IC Coffee.  By the gallon.

I don’t need to do art every day but I really crave the satisfaction of completing a piece, and I enjoy showing it to people and getting positive reactions.  That keeps me coming back.  I actually paint and draw now far more than I used to, despite the crazy hours.

GB Final words of wisdom?
IC I’m a fraud! I don’t know anything about art!  I’m just winging it. But it’s great when it works.

I think you’ll agree with me that Iain is anything but a fraud, and I can’t wait to see more of his Dr Who art and the Dublin 2019 WorldCon artwork as it’s revealed over the coming months. Iain’s gorgeous artwork can be viewed and bought on his website:
You will also find him on twitter: @iainjclark
and Tumblr:

If you have missed any of my previous interviews with other wonderful writers and artists, the links are below:

Aliette de Bodard
Andy Bigwood
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Kim Lakin-Smith




Top Ten Favourite Art Supplies

Welcome to My Top Ten Favourite Art Supplies!

Apart from obvious things like paint, brushes and canvas (though you don’t actually need any of those things to create art), the art supplies I couldn’t do without might surprise you. Takeaways, bedsheets, and masking tape feature heavily in making the magic happen!

So here, in no particular order, are ten things that are among my very favourite art supplies.

10 Palette knife

I know a lot of artists do this, but I’m going to give it to you straight – mixing paint with your brushes wrecks them. Seriously – it will eventually gum up the bristles and ferrule, take you longer to mix a colour and you’ll never quite wash out all the paint from deep in the brush. Over time, this will accumulate and ruin the brush. Do yourself a favour and get a couple of palette knives to mix your paint. Metal ones are the most fun, but even cheap plastic ones are better than mixing with a brush.

9 Tiny takeaway containers


As a takeaway addict, I never need an excuse to order a curry. Luckily for me, our local takeaway uses little plastic containers with air-tight lids for condiments. Once washed out they make excellent storage for spare paint when you’ve dished out too much and for that carefully mixed colour you want to keep for a while.

8 Watercolour pencil

Not for doing watercolour paintings as I’m useless at them, but for sketching on the canvas, drawing grids and guides for the underpainting, and drawing on top of the acrylic paint . Unlike a graphite pencil, which will muddy your paint and never fully erase, watercolour pencils will wipe off cleanly with a damp tissue or even your finger.

7 Tear-Off disposable palette

These pads of disposable palettes are fantastic – the glossy surface is a joy to mix paint on, there is a pre-cut thumb hole and no clean up needed. For very detailed work I sometimes tear a bit off and tape it to my painting next to the area I’m working on.

6 Masking tape

From sticking reference photos on my wall and easel, to taping things to the actual paintings while I’m working on them, this low tack tape is super useful and doesn’t damage anything. Use it to help you painting straight lines or even to paint your entire painting as demonstrated on You Tube here by Jamie Dougherty.

5 My phone!

Researching reference images, taking in progress shots and tweeting when I’m painting to hold myself accountable. I work hard to turn what could be a major distraction into a valuable tool.

4 Stay wet palette


As an acrylic artist, I am blessed and cursed with the rapid drying properties of acrylic paint. An indispensable tool in every acrylic artists studio has to be a stay-wet palette. There are loads of different types available, but they are simply a shallow container with a lid that keeps your paint from drying out. They work by using a membrane at the bottom that you soak with water. My favourite thing to use is old bedsheets that I’ve torn up into duster-sized pieces, but you could also use a j-cloth or blotting paper. Top with a piece of greaseproof paper that you can then put your paint on. It will wrinkle when it gets damp from the cloth underneath – there is no way to avoid this. Make sure your greaseproof paper is white not brown so that it doesn’t affect your colour mixing. I get mine cheaply and pre-cut to roughly the size of my palette from here.

3 Daylight bulb and stand


Due to parental commitments, most of my painting takes place at night after the children are in bed. My daylight bulb enables me to paint at night but keep my colours true – a normal tungsten bulb can cast a yellowish shade over your work and will make your colour mixes slightly off when viewed again in daylight.

2 Spray mister bottle


The quick drying properties of acrylic can be slowed by the occasional light spritz of water. This is especially useful when painting plain air as I did here

1 You


Look in the mirror!

None of us exist in a vacuum, and I am so grateful for the friends and family around me, and an audience for my art. Thank you for sticking with me, reading the blog, liking and buying my art. I really appreciate each and every one of you.

So what are your favourite art supplies? Anything you absolutely couldn’t do without? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

It’s About Time for Kim Lakin-Smith

This month, it’s the turn of Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy and Young Adult author Kim Lakin-Smith.

Kim is the author of the immersive steampunk novel Cyber Circus (shortlisted for the 2011 BSFA Best Novel award),  young adult novel Queen Rat, and has been featured in numerous anthologies and publications including Black Static and Interzone.

Let’s find out how Kim makes time to be creative and balances family life and full time authoring!

GB Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
I wake up to a chorus of dogs, cats and guinea pigs demanding feeding. Once everyone is satiated, I see my daughter, Scarlet, to her desk where she logs onto her laptop, ready for the online school she attends. Then I get out my mat and do my best attempt at yoga or Pilates, ‘assisted’ by two excitable dogs!

The writing starts around 10am, when, coffee in hand, I collapse onto the sofa and open my notebook. I write nonfiction on a pc and fiction using pen and paper. I am a Paperblanks addict; opening the little metal clasps of an antiqued notebook is very inspiring. I also love the fact that I can write anywhere, a coffee shop, library, train, etc.

I aim to write 6 pages every day. I’m not sure of the word count but I write in a tiny, indecipherable scrawl so it’s usually enough to make my brain feel emptied out. In-between, I perform the duties of your average domestic goddess and try to post on social media – something I struggle with as I’m a pretty private person. Usually I try to think of the inanest thing I can and go with that 🙂

I finish up work around 4pm, in time for the next round of feeding at the zoo. Evenings are reserved for family time, Scarlet’s homework, US TV shows, and the occasional night out. I’d love to say I collapse in bed with a good book around 11pm, but more often than not, my husband, Del, and I are also accompanied by two cats, a fat Labrador and a mad spaniel.

GB What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
Everyday life is my biggest time suck. I think it is a conscious choice whether a person allows themselves to be interrupted or not. Some writers are totally self-absorbed; family, friends, reality, everything comes second to the writing. My persona choice is to embrace these interruptions to my writing day. I do dream of a perch in the garden in summertime a few years from now when Scarlet is happy at college and everything is peaceful.

GB Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
I live in a family of social media addicts and do my best to personally steer clear of mobile phones and being online too much 🙂 That said, I use the internet daily for research. On the occasions, I have had no internet connection, my productivity has increased tremendously. It is a modern dilemma for us all!

GB How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the compromise that comes from trying to juggle work and parenthood. But there are also great splashes of technicolour which come from the wonder, pain, joy, and awe of having a child. In recent years, I have switched gears from adult SF to Fantasy for children and young adults. I’d love to say I write for Scarlet, but she doesn’t read books so I settle for remembering the child I was once and the kinds of stories I loved to read – J M Barrie, Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, Michael Ende, and their ilk.

GB What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
You really do have to create time, by which I mean dedicate a realistic portion of the day to working on your craft. In terms of writing, I think it is all too easy to underestimate how valuable it is to read. See your reading time as adding to your practice. In addition, I find that I can achieve a lot in a very small amount of time so long as I dedicate myself wholly to the writing. Tuck yourself away, set an alarm and focus entirely on letting the words flow.

GB Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
I am often to be found making strange hand gestures! By this I mean I will act out a scenario or an action with my hands to try to spark ideas and come up with the ideal description. I also have to find exactly the right mood of music to fit each individual story.

GB Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
Only paper and pen, and a lock on the office door!

GB Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
I have asked Scarlet her advice on occasion, but she is a very fierce critic! She has introduced me to some wonderfully inspiring resources which I would never have known about otherwise – South Korean music videos, Japanese Anime and Manga, Youtube stars, and Cosplay.

GB What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
Coffee and music 🙂

GB Final words of wisdom?
How hard do you want to work as a creative? I would say that is the only difference between success and mediocrity. That, and wholly embrace the ethos of artistic self-reliance, as expressed so eloquently by the inimitable David Bowie:

I am immensely grateful to Kim for taking the time to answer my questions and let us sneak a look at her daily process and finding time to be creative. As ever, please comment below to ask more questions or share your own tips. If you’ve missed the previous interviews then just follow the links below:

Aliette de Bodard
Gareth L Powell
Joanne Hall
Andy Bigwood

It’s About Time for Aliette de Bodard

If you’ve been struggling to find time to be creative, and have also been following my website, you’ll know that I’ve written a series of blog posts full of advice from my creative friends. This week I’m thrilled to share with you a few insights from the incredibly prolific award winning author Aliette de Bodard.

Aliette de Bodard writes science fiction and fantasy: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a British Science Fiction Association Award. She is the author of The House of Shattered Wings, a novel set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which won the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award.

In addition to her impressive bibliography, Aliette also works full time as a System Engineer, is a wife and mother of two children under five and is a fantastic cook!

1.     Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?
Currently it’s a bit of an atypical day, as I’m on maternity leave and writing/childcaring full time. I get up, run the eldest to school, and then get about 2-3 hours for my own appointments, cooking lunch, and writing in whatever cracks are left? Then, shortly before lunch I pick up eldest from school, get him to eat lunch and settle in for his nap. In the meantime I deal with the youngest who’s still a baby, which means feedings at odd times (generally not the most convenient ones). And in the afternoon I play with both kids before dinnertime comes around. By the time my husband comes home I’m generally headed for total collapse and netflix videos!
2.     What is your biggest challenge regarding time at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?
My biggest challenge at the moment is not finding enough time to write–I genuinely have very little of it that’s not taken up. I’m trying to write in the morning before the day has completely exhausted me, and also on weekends when my husband is around and can take on some of the burden of childcaring for me. I usually get a good chunk in on Sunday morning when he and the eldest are at the market shopping for food.3.     Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?
I used to, but for some reason Freedom won’t start up on my laptop anymore, and I haven’t found anything that really satisfies me? I haven’t found it really effective–I tend to research things on the internet for details and cutting it off wholesale didn’t work out for me. I know there’s finer tools out there but I haven’t really convinced myself to try any of them. And the internet and social media are contributing to keeping me functional at the moment (because getting out of the house isn’t always easy), so I have to admit I’m not that motivated to cut off the internet, even to write!

4.     How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent?
I’ve become very good at writing in snatches of free time, though I still need large chunks for first drafts–for everything else I do checklists and run through them and it’s actually worked surprisingly well, better than binge writing. I basically went through two rounds of edits on my novel while being the primary caretaker for my eldest (though I admit naps are very useful in that respect and I don’t know how I’ll cope when they don’t happen anymore!).

5.     What tip(s) would you give someone struggling to find time to create?
I think the hardest thing is to pace yourself–when becoming a parent I still expected to write on the same rhythm and production schedule as before, and of course that wasn’t going to happen! I know I find it very hard to forgive myself when I’ve not written because someone is sick, or because stuff happened that required extra laundry or cleaning the house or something–and a big part of this, for me, has been accepting that I can still write, but that it’s totally ok not to write or to write more slowly if that’s how it works for me.

6.     Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft
I’ve found the two best ways to deal with plot problems that have me stuck are going for a walk, and drawing a mind map on paper (it has to be on paper for some weird reason, it doesn’t work when it’s on a computer, though I do love Scapple as a piece of software).

7.     Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?
Not that I can think of? I think the most helpful was finding parents in similar circumstances, either young parents or people who remembered what it had been like to be parents–it’s very helpful to be able to chat and share, and also to set aside time to write together.

8.     Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?
I would love to involve my children in my writing, but right now they’re a bit young! I have no doubt that as they grow up they’ll feel free to give me their opinions of my plots and characters, though I’m not sure how much of it will make it into the final book…

9.     What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?
Green tea. I buy sencha from the local Japanese shop, and it’s basically my one treat of the day (well, my six treats of the day as I consume rather a lot of it).

10.  Final words of wisdom?
I think there’s this great pressure when you’re a parent (and especially a mother) to dedicate yourself to your child, and to feel terrible guilt when you fail to? And if you want to do it that’s totally fine, but if you don’t it can become stifling very quickly. I know that for me I needed to strike a balance between time for others and time for myself, and I had to teach myself not to feel guilty about taking time to write.

My thanks to Aliette for taking time to answer my questions, despite her obviously busy schedule! As ever, feel free to ask questions or share your own tips in the comments below.
If you’ve missed my previous blog posts on finding creative time, just click on the links below:
Thanks also to Lou Abercrombie for the photo of Aliette

It’s About Time for Gareth L Powell

Continuing my series of blog posts about finding time to be creative, it’s now the turn of Gareth L Powell. Gareth is the award-winning author of the Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy and three other novels. He is currently working on a new trilogy of novels for Titan Books, the first of which will be published in the UK and US in February 2018. NewCon Press will publish his second short fiction collection The New Ships in April 2017.

With so many fantastic novels under his belt, as well as undertaking freelance work, giving guest lectures on creative writing at Aberystwyth and Bath Spa universities and occasionally on the radio, how does he make the time to write?

GB:  Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

GP: My day usually begins around 6:30 am, when I get up to help my wife and kids get ready for work and school. Then, when I’ve seen them off, I’ll take a shower and make a cup of tea, and settle down at the keyboard, where I’ll usually remain until the kids get home around 3:45, and I start to think about cooking an evening meal.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

GP: As I work alone during the day, Twitter and Facebook are like my water coolers; they are places where I can go to chat with other colleagues and friends. And while a certain presence on those sites does help with promotion, it needs to be carefully balanced with the need to actually get down and do some writing.

GB: Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

GP: I haven’t tried them. I find it handy to instantly be able to Google information when writing. For instance, if I suddenly need to know how long a radio signal would take to travel from Earth to Jupiter, it’s useful to have that information at my fingertips.

GB: How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent? 

GP: The author and critic, Cyril Connolly, once wrote that, “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” And there’s no question about it: bringing up children is hard work. It takes love, devotion and lots and lots of time. As a writer, it can put a serious dent in the number of daily hours you have in which to write, and reduce your lifetime output from a hundred books to ten – especially if you also need a full-time day job in order to support your family. But listen to this: Before I became a father, I didn’t really understand what people meant when they talked of unconditional love. Now I know. Being a father’s changed everything. It’s made me vulnerable again. It’s given me moments of true happiness, fear, helplessness, and pride. It’s put me in touch with my emotions and given me new perspectives and empathy, and insights into my own childhood. And while it means I have to sacrifice sleep in order to find the time to write, it’s unquestionably been worth it.

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

GP: You have to look at your daily schedule with a cold eye, and decide what’s more important to you, what you’re doing or what you want to do. For instance, how many hours of TV do you watch in an evening? Could you limit yourself to a single hour, and spend the rest of the time working on your art? Would concentrating all the housework into Saturday morning free up time during the week? Would a part-time job give you more time to pursue your art, even if you have to tighten your belt? I can’t supply answers to any of those questions, as everybody has to decide their own priorities.

Knowing what I’m going to write before I sit down at the keyboard is a big help. If you’re subconsciously mulling over the plot of your story while washing the dishes, walking the dog, or doing the shopping, you’ll find yourself coming up with all sorts of connections and ideas that you just can’t wait to get down on paper. Some of my best story ideas have come while I was in the shower, driving long distance, or walking to the pub. Keep a notebook with you, and you can jot down notes that will have you ready and raring to go when the time finally comes for you to write.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft 

GP: Sometimes, I’ll write out all the dialogue in a scene before going back and filling in the descriptions.

GB: Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?

GP: While both my daughters are enthusiastic about my books, I haven’t really involved them. They have their own hobbies and creative outlets, and I prefer not to place them in the public eye until they’re old enough to decide how they want to present themselves online.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day? 

GP: Large mugs of decaff tea keep me hydrated, and ambient noise helps me concentrate. I use websites such as and to screen out external noise and keep me focussed.

GB: Final words of wisdom?

GP: Compromise where you must, but bear in mind that the work won’t get done unless you sit down and do it.

Massive thanks to Gareth for taking the time to answer my questions, share advice and giving us all a lovely insight into his creative process. You can find him at or on Twitter @garethlpowell. Gareth has recently taken the plunge and joined Patreon – if you would like to support him (every little bit helps) and bag yourself some cool exclusive rewards too, then check out his Patreon Page Here. There’s also a sneak preview video of Gareth reading from his forthcoming novel on there for everyone to enjoy!

If you missed my previous interviews on finding creative time, you can find them here:
Andy Bigwood
Joanne Hall

As ever, feel free to leave comments and ask more questions below. At the end of the month you will be able to find me at BristolCon where I will be exhibiting some of my paintings, selling prints, postcards and original paintings in the Art Show.

It’s About Time for Joanne Hall

In another blog post about finding creative time, I’m thrilled to share with you the advice and tips from writer Joanne Hall.You may know her as the author of The Art Of Forgetting series, Spark and Carousel and the forthcoming book The Summer Goddess.

Jo is not only a full time author, but also the chairperson of BristolCon and is Acquisitions Editor for Kristell Ink. So with at least three jobs that we know of, how does she find the time?

G: Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

JH: I wake up, walk the dog for half an hour or so while I think about what I’m going to do for the day, grab a cup of tea and some breakfast and go to my office where I check emails and social media to see if I have anything pressing to do. I usually have several projects on the go on different computers, so, for example, I might spend the morning editing a book on my desktop. I break for lunch at one, walk the dog again watch the news, then I get out my laptop and work on whatever I’m working on on there from two until about 5.30, when Dog and I have another walk. I usually stop then, but if I’m particularly enjoying whatever it is I’m working on I’ll carry on until about eight and walk no 4. I don’t usually work after 8.30 at night because it makes me too wired and I can’t sleep.

G: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

JH: Just having too much stuff on the go at any one time, and I find things slip through the cracks unless I write myself strict To-Do lists and do them. I’m not in the position where I can turn down work that might pay now at the expense of work that might pay in the future, so paid work has to take priority and I find other projects fall to the bottom of the heap.

G: Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

JH: I sometimes use MACfreedom – that’s a good one. It costs around $10 and it shuts off access to the internet for a certain period of time. And if you want to go online in that time period, you have to reboot! It helps me get a lot done in a short space of time, but it’s a pain if I need to stop and look something up.

G: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

JH: Just do little bits at a time. If you can sit down and really apply yourself for, say, 20 minutes, you’d be surprised how much you can actually get done. Carve out 20 minutes when you get up, or before you go to bed, or in your lunch break and just apply Bum Glue and put pen to paper (or whatever your preferred medium is. ) And don’t be shy about asking for the time you need – ask a friend to take the dog out, shut the kids out of the room and just do it!

G: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft.

JH: I often work out very complicated scenes in my head while I’m walking the dog, and sometimes I come back to the present and realise I have no idea where we are…

G: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?

JH: Tea. And breaks for walking. Since we got the dog, who you would think would be a distraction, it’s actually really helped me to get outside and just have periods of uninterrupted thinking time while walking around. Often by the time we get home I’ve completely worked out the next scene in my head and all I have to do is write it! (This also works if you don’t have a dog, but if you’re going to roam the neighbourhood muttering to yourself, a dog makes you look a bit less bonkers!

G: Final words of wisdom?

JH: Enjoy your craft, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not doing as much as you hoped or working as fast as you hoped. But don’t be afraid to let your creative work take priority when you need it to – value your work!

Spark cover

Massive thanks to Jo for her answers. If you’re lucky enough to be going to FantasyCon this weekend, be sure to check out the launch of the The Summer Goddess – more details about the launch can be found here.

If, like me, you’re only attending FantasyCon virtually, you can also find Jo on Facebook, Twitter (@hierath77) and her own website.

To catch up with the previous blog post in this series about creative time, just follow the link below:
Andy Bigwood

As ever, if you have tips to share about finding the time to be creative or would like to ask me any of the questions just leave me a comment. Stay tuned for more creative time questions and answers over the next few weeks.

It’s About Time

One of the things that I’m sure you struggle with is finding enough time.

Like most creative people who are passionate about their craft, I want to spend all of my spare time on it, and I know most of my friends feel the same. I seem to have a natural affinity for writers (after all – I married one!), and so quite a few of my friends are writers. I think it’s even harder to find time for writing than painting, and so I thought I’d ask some of my creative friends for their advice on how they find time for their craft.

This is the first in a series of blogs featuring the answers to finding creative time that my friends have given me. I hope you will find them as useful and enlightening as I have and that they help you to think more deeply about finding the time for your art.

So, this week, it’s about time for the talented artist Andy Bigwood! Andy is an Artist, Draughtsman, Bookbinder, Cartographer, and Illustrator from Trowbridge, Wiltshire. Trained in technical illustration, in Bath (shortly before the evolution of computer aided art), Andy has provided artwork, cartography and cover designs for a variety of Fantasy, Horror, and Science fiction novels, twice winning the British Science Fiction Association Award for best artwork.

 G: Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

AB: Up at 6AM, train journey, in work for 8AM work until 4:30, train journey until 17:45, 45mins cycling, microwave meal, then doing art or whatever until midnight – three days a week
The other two days I work from home gaining me an hour’s extra sleep and 2 hours extra free time!

G: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

AB: Weight loss, achieved by cycling 5 miles at least 3 times a week.

G:Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

AB: NO, One can never have too much internet!
You just have to recognise how much time a thing will take and how much you want to invest in it. I find that the hardest thing on the internet is an MMO where you end up leading a group/guild/team… you likely have kids/teens relying on your leadership, and thats a really tough thing to walk away from. Facebook is easy to walk away from.

G: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

AB: Try to maximise your day. The government has laid down an obligation to employers to allow working from home wherever practical. Not spending 2 or 3 hours travelling a day is a big bonus. If you have to travel to work, try to use public transport, use the time on public transport. On a train you can write, read, look at your mail/email. In the morning I get an extra 40mins sleep on the train and set my phone alarm for two stops before get off.  

G: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft.

AB: I am an author and an artist, creatively I can’t do both in the same week..the creative energy always goes one way or the other. If you are creative EXHIBIT IT, there is no better ego boost than the unsolicited praise of the public.

G: Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?

AB: NO. buying a book on time management is a waste of time. Every person is an individual and will have unique circumstances. In the same way that personal trainers and Gyms work for some people they won’t for others (that’s why I cycle for exercise).

G: Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?

AB: I don’t have a child. But if I did, then he/she would be the main focus..consider a child as an art project, teach your child to draw and paint, read and write… the young ones thrive on the attention and are (probably) less trouble when focused on creativity. Clearly what sort of art you can let a child do really depends on age.  

G: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?

AB: Internet access and an ebook to read.

G: Final words of wisdom?

AB: Creativity can’t always be set aside, sometimes an artistic concept will DEMAND to be put on paper. When you absolutely NEED to do a piece of art, then you should try to make the time to let it out. And thats what Annual Leave is for.


Many thanks to Andy for these answers and insights into his creative process. If you’d like to discover Andy’s fantastic art, you can check out his website and DeviantArt page. Andy is also the organiser of the BristolCon Art Show, so if you are coming along to BristolCon be sure to say hello and check out his work.

Do you have any advice about finding time to be creative, or do you want to ask me any of the questions above? If so, please leave me a comment!