Reflecting on the previous year, I can honestly say I feel a bit like the sponges I love to work with. I went into the year with goals in mind and threw myself into a sea of self-imposed challenges. I intentionally brought each challenge upon myself with the resolve to stretch myself as an artist and to bring my artwork to the next level. There is always a “next level” to shoot for, so even though I hit the majority of my goals this past year, there is more development in the works for 2019. In this post, I’ll share a few of the successes and lessons learned by stepping outside the box and putting myself in the position to do things I hadn’t done before.
The year started with my sights set on acquiring new painting skills and techniques. I have been painting long enough to know that some tools, techniques, canvases sizes, etc., were becoming very comfortable for me, which is a good thing…until it isn’t. One way to get into a rut and quickly become stale is doing the same thing repeatedly. For artists, if a certain series is selling well, it can be tempting to kick back on your artist stool and do what “they” want… over and over and over again. I’m not suggesting you abandon a good thing when you strike on something that sells like hotcakes. I just caution burnout if you don’t sprinkle in the variety that is the spice of art!
When you know you haven’t tried something yet, and the opportunity presents itself, go out on a limb and sign yourself up. Signing up for an exhibit with a delivery deadline is an outstanding way to force your hand into creating something outside your comfort zone. In this case, it was a Smallworks Showcase call for entry presented by ArtsKC – Regional Arts Council. The requirement for this show was to create a piece of art that measured exactly 10”x10”.
As an artist, who at the time worked exclusively on canvases 36”x 36” and larger, it was a unique challenge to think about an entire painting on a single 10” square panel. I had fun doing it, I learned a lot, and I received great feedback worth considering. Because of that experience, one gallery owner told me she would like to see me make some smaller pieces available for her collectors. As a result of opening myself up as an artist in that way, I have made a conscious effort over the past year to paint on a variety of smaller canvas sizes ranging from 20”x30” down to 12”x12.”
BLACK & WHITE ONLY
One of my most transformative challenges last year was creating an entire abstract acrylic painting in black and white. My color theory until that challenge had been, “Bring on the hues, let’s mix things up. The more colorful, the better!” I have enormous appreciation for artists who do black and white well, but I had no personal experience in monochromatic painting.
I set myself up one day for “no turning back” by leaving my studio with tools, a large canvas, and minimal tubes of paint black, white and grey paint. As I wrestled through the process, I remember several times wanting to rescue myself with color. I resisted the urge and stuck with the black and white through to completion. That painting lasted only two weeks in my studio before it sold and went to hang in a fabulous contemporary art-filled a home. Expanding my repertoire by getting over that hurdle led to a new black and white series that turns out to be something that is really speaking to people.
In addition, none of the content that had been previously used on my Instagram page could be reused on their site during this take over week. Because of the amount of content generated that week I am quite sure that I wrote more than I painted.
That said, I spent more time than normal looking around other artists’ pages to curate some fresh ideas. The unexpected benefit was the insight I gained on new types of things to share with all of the new followers that resulted from collaborating with KCAC.
If you’re doing what you love and what you’re doing feels more like a great escape than work, then good things are bound to happen. Instead of comparing your successes and failures to other artists turn the spotlight on yourself and be honest about the great, and not so great artwork and business decisions you’ve made. When you step away from the paintings and look at where you want to be in a year with the focus on YOU, it’s easy to see where your time is best spent in order to meet your goals.
You may not playfully call them self-imposed challenges like I do, but I’m betting you’ve done this to yourself in different ways. Share what creative steps you’ve taken as an artist or business owner to grow your practice with comments below!