This is part II of plotting your artist goals for the new year. In the last post, we reviewed what we did (and didn’t) do in 2016 to inspire adjustments for 2017. Did you crave more art-making last year? Creative output happens if you 1) reserve time & 2) give art your full, uncluttered focus. Art doesn’t usually chase you down. It’s up to each of us to pursue art. We’re more apt to prioritize emptying the dishwasher over sketching, or surfing social media instead of finishing that still life painting. Those activities are fine, but if you didn’t get enough art-making in 2016, you might fare better to reserve time for art on your calendar now. Try putting a basic system in place. In my own studio & life tug o’ war, the phrase “I didn’t have time….” is usually, more accurately “I didn’t take the time…”. Art-making rarely happens passively; we have to reach for it with deliberate hands and a steadfast heart. Let’s reserve a seat at life’s table for art in the coming year.
Let’s take a 12 month calendar, and lay it out on the floor or a table, or temporarily tape it to a wall in a 4×3 month grid, so we can see the entire year. We’re visual folks, so it’s important to see the whole picture. I’m using a Berol marker in crimson red, but a crayon or a colored pencil works too. (Write with something that won’t bleed through your paper.)
Mark the days that are spoken for with a diagonal line. Mark all holidays, birthdays to celebrate with family members, family vacations, incoming houseguests, days reserved for writing blogs, cleaning house, grocery shopping, babysitting, church, bible study, events like superbowl sunday, time at the gym, volunteering, classes, dentist & doctor appointments, etc. If you work a set schedule, you might block 3/4 of each workday, leaving a slice of evening open for art. If work leaves your creative gas tank empty, put a mark through the entire day. If you exhibit your art at festivals or shows on the weekends, be sure to mark those days as well. Now step back and look at the open spaces to book appointments with your muse. There’s usually less open time for that than we think, so let’s reserve it now, shall we?
While reviewing last year’s calendar in yesterday’s post, did you have a long list of art projects you meant to get to in 2016? Before any curb-kicking, take a moment to survey whether you still want to tackle that project, or should it perhaps be replaced with something more accessible? I often commit to more than I can finish in squeezey time brackets, so it’s better if I reach for shorter, more finish-able projects. So, for example, instead of saying “I’m going to paint a series of floral still life paintings!” – if you’re new to this planned approach towards art-making, start with “I’m going to make two floral still life paintings.” Finishing is important if you want to be encouraged to keep going. That’s one of the reasons I work small; you can finish a small peice much quicker than a wall-sized work. Working small provides 1) less intimidation, 2) a sense of accomplishment, 3) finished art, ready to be shared, and 4) you can work in a tiny space. #itsallgood
Now, lets propagate art-related fun in between all the life-stuff scheduled for this year. If laying things across 12 months feels too intimidating for you, just schedule the month of February. One month at a time works, but the point is to increase the time spent on art over last year. You don’t have to double the output, but every little step forward will encourage you to keep at it in the months to come. For example, let’s say you want to sign up for an online video tutorial from any one of the resources listed in this post.
Since I didn’t complete the two video courses I purchased last year, and each course is broken into segments (those smart-cookies in production must know we need help!!) I’ve reserved three one-hour time slots on my calendar in February to consume six 30 minute video segments. I’m actually reserving 90 minutes per session so I can think after watching, take some notes, and perhaps dabble with some of the methods outlined in those lessons. Does that make sense? My goal is to finish both classes I purchased last year, and take two or three more. If you purchase a class, take a look at the duration of each segment, and add them to your calendar one or two at a time.
It might be a good thing to select one or two classes, and schedule time with a partner or a group of friends. You may not live close enough to watch a tutorial segment together, followed by artsy-chatting while you work on art at the dining room table with chips & salsa. You can still partner by scheduling simultaneous watch-time, followed by a skype video chat to talk about the tutorial, and encourage each other to be accountable. I’m doing this now with a partner [550 miles away] for another (non-art) video class, and it’s working beautifully to keep us both on track & moving ahead.
I think it’s a great idea to fertilize your art-process with tools & tips from other artists. If you need face to face live instruction, peruse the artist forums for a workshop that fits in your schedule, and book it. Workshops (virtual and on-site) are like a drop of brightly colored dye in a bowl of clear water; they make us see everything differently, which helps with inspiration, and climbing out from creative block and habitual ruts. But, you have to reserve that time to make it happen. Research & book it.
Now, let’s take a look at juried shows… Here’s a post with links to a few resources you can subscribe to, so you’ll be notified via email once a week with upcoming exhibits. Let’s say I want to apply to the Adirondecks National Exhibition of Watercolors. I’d download their prospectus, see if my work fits the criteria for that show, and mark my new calendar with the deadlines for 1) submission, 2) jury notification, 3) delivery of art, and 4) exhibit dates. In addition, I’d block out a few hours, two weeks before the submission deadline to prepare my entry paperwork & images, and I’d reserve three days for prepping art to frame & ship in the month between jury notification & delivery deadline. Make sense?
You don’t have to apply to a national show to do this; search your local art clubs and galleries as well as art festival listings for shows coming up this year, and mark your calendars backwards in time so you’ll be ready to apply and deliver art to those shows. If you’ve never done this before, pick a few shows, select your best work, and give it a go. And if you get rejected, don’t take it personally, because there are too many cloaked factors you have no control over in the jurying process. It’s best to just get back to work, and try it again as soon as possible.
If art shows and workshops don’t float your boat, and you just want more painting or drawing time, make some dates with yourself, and/or with some friends to break out the art supplies, and have at it. You’ll be more inclined to show up for art time if you’ve reserved it on your calendar, and you can look forward to it. “I’m sorry, Mr. Zuckerberg, I’d love to join you, but I have a very important meeting with my art supplies that day.” You might enjoy this article about why a system is essential to increasing your creative output.
Leave your fears about art-making in last year, and go forth in 2017 all a flutter, singing and skipping in a meadow of possibilities. Art is fun. It’s not quantum physics or life-threatening surgery, so breathe deep, grab your art supplies, and take one little, intentional, confident baby step at a time. 🙂
Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in the next post –
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The muse and momentum are star-crossed lovers. Your job as a creator is to ignite their romance.