2017 WATCHWORD FOR THE YEAR

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“If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.”   Zig Ziglar

“A dream without a goal is a wish. A goal without a plan is just a dream.”   -Unknown

“Actions speak louder than words.”   – Unknown

 

It’s already the second week of the new year! How are you doing with your art goals for 2017?  

While I’m not a fan of making new year’s resolutions, I do love dreaming and envisioning new possibilities for where I might take my art in the future because doing so inspires me to raise the bar higher and hopefully move my paintings a little closer to where I’d really like them to be.  

This year I added a new question, “what habits or personality traits might trip me up?” (see my last post) to my yearly art review and goal setting practice and wow, was that informative! I realized that I have LOTS of habits that trip me up and stand in the way of moving forward in my art! That led me to ponder the second new question I added this year, “what actions will I take to overcome them so that I can achieve my goals?” for a very long time. In getting totally honest with myself, I became aware that while I’m good at making plans, lists, and setting goals, I’m not so good at staying the course and continuing on the path I chose for my art when I’m distracted by something in my personal life, when life gets too busy, or when I feel discouraged about a painting I’m working on. 

With that in mind, I chose a watchword for 2017 to help me stay clear and focused on where I want to go this year and the actions I will take in order to get there. A watchword is a word, slogan, or phrase that can be used as a focusing or re-focusing tool – basically a watchword is a reminder to yourself of your intentions. In 2016 my watchword was CONTINUITY. Last year, one of my art goals was to be in the studio regularly and to be continuously connected to what was going on in the studio even during those times when it was impossible for me to actually be painting. By recalling my watchword regularly, I was able to remind myself routinely that my big picture goal is to always have and feel connected to something percolating in the studio no matter how stressful, challenging, chaotic, busy, or wonderfully distracting things are in my personal life. Having a relevant and personal watchword proved to be a very useful tool that helped me achieve some of my art goals last year. An added bonus was that I also learned that sometimes a “slow drip” approach to the percolating process yields tastier results!   

After generating a lot of words and phrases over a number of days, I chose FOLLOW THROUGH for my 2017 watchword. I think it will be a perfect reminder to me to keep on keeping on in terms of my art goals and action plans at those times when time and my personal life become challenging, and most especially at those times when I haven’t a clue about how to resolve a painting I’m working on, or when I feel totally discouraged or depressed about how my work in general is progressing and feel like abandoning my art practice altogether. I guess this year’s watchword, follow through is a lot like my 2016 watchword continuity. For me it seems to be all about getting my head in a good place, always having something percolating in the studio, and showing up regularly. 

I encourage you to choose a 2017 watchword.  And if you do, please share! Send it to me via the comment section below. We all learn from each other and seeing someone else’s watchword may open up possibilities we may never have thought of.

 Happy Painting and Writing!

Yearly Review and Setting Art Goals for 2017

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“I will join Alice and explore every rabbit hole, even at the risk of shrinking and expanding. I will join Huck and ride the river, even if con men are waiting. I will discover the essence of poetry, unravel the mystery of song, grasp the intricacies of color. I am one terrific explorer.”     Eric Maisel 

“If we did the things that we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves.”   Thomas Edison

“Commit to a process and see where it leads.”    Chuck Close

One of my favorite things to do at this time of year is to sit down with my art journal and page through the year’s entries. I review what I focused on and thought about as I worked on this year’s body of work and ask myself what worked, what didn’t work, what still needs improvement, and what needs to be changed. Then I make a list of ideas for where I might take my work in the coming year and clearly identify some action steps for getting there.  Ideas for potential action steps can also be found in art books and magazines, on-line research, and studying other artists’ paintings that interest you. I add content ideas, series ideas, ideas and plans for how I might make needed improvements or stretch myself further, and more action plans to the mix. I believe that you can never have too many ideas or too many action plans for improving your art!

This year I changed up the questions I asked myself for the sake of more clarity and to achieve a deeper, more authentic intentionality in my paintings. If you would like to do a yearly review and set some goals for 2017, here are those questions. Enjoy! 

      1. What do I most want to achieve in my art in 2017?

      2. What habits or personality traits might trip me up?

      3. What actions will I take to overcome them so that I can achieve my goals?

      4.  What two or three specific areas would I really like too improve in my art in 2017?

      5.  What action steps will I take to manifest those improvements?

It’s fun to list goals and dreams, but without formulating specific action plans for achieving them they’re just empty words. You need to know where you want to go and what actions you need to take in order to get there. All of the answers are found inside of you. Always remember, you are the best expert on your life.

P.S. I recommend answering these questions over a number of days. It may take awhile for the more authentic answers to bubble up to the surface.

Happy Writing!

 

How to Break Out of a Creative Rut

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A comment from a reader on my last post inspired me to think about some of the strategies I use for breaking out of a painting rut. When fear and inertia start creeping in, I seek stillness and solitude, and in my journal I write down ideas and thoughts for where I might take my painting practice next. Here are some of those thoughts and strategies. I hope they help you out at those times when you’re in that yucky place of feeling creatively stuck, blocked, bored, or in a rut. 

1. Experiment With Color

  • . Find a color scheme in a work of art that interests you, describe it in your own words and try that color scheme in a new painting.
  • . Paint with “wild color.” You get to decide what “wild color” means.
  • . Make a painting using a limited working palette; mix every color for the painting from just 4 to 6 tube colors.
  • . Put colors you’ve never tried before on your working palette and experiment with new color mixtures and new color schemes.

2. Experiment With Your Painting Surface

  • . Try Hot Press paper if you usually use Cold Press.
  • . Try Cold Press or Rough if you usually use Hot Press.
  • Try Yupo paper.
  • . Try 300 lb. paper if you usually use 140 lb.
  • . Use gessoed paper.
  • . Try one of the new multi-media boards.
  • . Try Aquaboard
  • . Start with a bright underpainting.
  • . Start with a neutral underpainting.
  • . Start with an abstract underpainting with lots of texture and mark making.

3. Forget About Product. Focus instead on Process, Exploration, and Play

  • . Play with personal mark marking, brushwork, and non-descriptive textures. 
    . Experiment with a decorative use of line. How many ways can the element of line be used in a painting?
  • . Use your subject as a jumping off place for exploring personal creativity and expression rather than description.
  • . Don’t paint things, paint abstract relationships of color, shape, and value. 
  • . Discover new painting possibilities in the work of another artist. Don’t copy. Describe what you love about his or her painting in one or two words and let those words be the intention for a new painting.
  • . Empower yourself to try something unexpected, out of the box, and really risky.
  • . Make a big mess. Make a lot of mistakes. Bask in the joy of not knowing what the heck you’re doing. Proceed anyway. Then smile and pat yourself on the back for being so courageous. That’s what the creative process is all about!  

Happy Painting!

 

Fall Musings and Discovering Continuity

“I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time.”  Robert Browning

“Go to your studio and make stuff.”  Fred Babb

I love this time of year! Autumn, the season that Irish poet William Allingham called “the mellow time,” when everything slows down and we transition from summer to winter and move from the outside world to an inside world and make preparations for the cold months ahead. A long-standing autumn tradition of mine has been to look back over the year and to ask myself what I’ve accomplished, what worked and what didn’t, what I’ve learned, and what I want to accomplish in the coming year.

This time last year I was totally inspired by something I read about artist Alex Kanevsky. He talked about how winning a grant that allowed him to do nothing but paint every day for almost two years was a breakthrough experience for him because it allowed him to discover both continuity and his personal modus operandi.

Reading what he said got me in touch with how often it happens that when I look back over a year, I notice that while I can usually tally up a list of personal achievements, I’m often disappointed with what I accomplished in the studio. In unraveling that thought, I got in touch with the fact that when my personal life gets super busy and time becomes an issue, my painting life suffers because I feel like I don’t have time to spend in the studio. I began to recognize that when I stop painting for long stretches of time, I often forget where I was when last I painted. When I finally find my way back into the studio again, it usually feels like I’m back to square one again, with no idea of what square two even looks like. It’s like having to reinvent the wheel over and over again.

I’ve totally fallen in love with the idea of continuity! Merriam-Webster defines continuity as uninterrupted connection, succession, or union. My one and only art intention for 2016 was to discover continuity (OK – maybe I also wanted to discover a little more about my own personal MO as an artist – but of course that can only be found through continuous connection to one’s art; continuity). 2016 was as busy as ever, but I held the idea of continuity throughout the year. I still wasn’t in the studio as much as I would have liked, but I made a conscious effort this year to always have something percolating in the studio – something delicious to chew on that’s trying to lure me back into the studio. In looking back over 2016, I can say that the assignment I gave myself to consciously seek continuity not only made a difference in my art, it made the whole year a little more delicious as well.

Happy Painting!