We’ve just finished HowToPastel’s 5th Annual 31-pastels-in-31-days Challenge held throughout October. The Challenge is always an opportune time to prioritize art-making. A few days after it ended, however, I began seeing the odd post that expressed feelings of withdrawal and a bit of anxiety and sadness because someone is missing painting every day or they miss the camaraderie of community around the Challenge.
The purpose of the Challenge is to encourage each of us to be in our studios art-making. It’s about building momentum and habit. For some, this has happened and they continue to paint regularly. Whoo-hoo!!!
For others, not so much.
All the things that we put on hold while doing the Challenge come rushing back into our lives demanding to be acknowledged and dealt with. Rats! For instance, I’m focussed on writing this blog and preparing a demo with voiceover, both of which I put off during October. I love doing both but they do take time and effort and so right now, carving out painting time is tricky! I’ve only managed to do one painting in the last four days and that was because I was spurred on by the need to create a demo for my IGNITE! Membership!
So how did we make our painting happen during the 31-in-31 Challenge? Certainly, the whole experience is intense! Holding a space in our lives to create, even if it’s only for half an hour a day, doesn’t sound like such a big deal but committing to that amount of time every single day for 31 days IS a lot!! So what keeps us on track in the Challenge? And what keeps us going?
For one thing, when we join the Challenge, we make a commitment, mostly to ourselves, but also to others – to do the work, to show up in our studios everyday.
The Challenge also has support built into it – we post in the HowToPastel Facebook group under 31-in-31 daily threads and we’re cheered on by others experiencing the same trials and tribulations, joys and wonders, struggles and rewards as we’re experiencing.
We also have deadlines. Every day we need to create a pastel piece to post in the group before the end of that day. Deadlines can definitely motivate!
And then there’s accountability to the group. No one’s holding an axe over our head but there’s something about the commitment we make that creates a sense of accountability to the group. We show up.
Another thing is that we have to let go of outcome and instead, focus on the process of making art daily. Sometimes trying out a new technique or new materials gives us permission to mess up. After all, it’s all new to us so why would we expect anything to turn out perfectly? We have low expectations albeit high hopes. To produce work every day, we need to worry less about quality and focus on quantity instead. And you know what? That means we put in the miles of painting we need to do to grow as painters. The Challenge forces us to do what we need to do to evolve.
These are all the things that helped me, and many other participants, create 31 paintings over the month of October.
And then the Challenge comes to an end. And we either keep on with the rhythm we’ve created. OR we stop. With none of the things I mentioned above in place – commitment, deadlines, support, accountability, focus on process – we lose the push to paint. Yes, we can commit to ourselves and look to our inner drive to help us create but sometimes, external forces and encouragement are what we need.
So how can we recreate these and prioritize art-making?
Six ways to prioritize art-making
- Make a Commitment to creating art. Put it in the Urgent AND Important Quadrant. Often it feels Important to us to create but usually, there’s no Urgency behind it. And so it falls behind more Urgent things on our To-do list.
2. We can bring Urgency to our commitment by setting up a Goal. For instance, you might say, I’m going to create 20 paintings for my upcoming show. Or I’m going to use up all the sheets of pastel paper I have on hand. Remember to make your goal quantifiable so you can know when it’s been accomplished.
3. Give that goal a Deadline. If you don’t have a show coming up, you can say, by such and such a date (eg in two months), I’m going to have completed x-number of paintings. OR, by such and such a date, I am going to have used up that box of pastels (and then I can reward myself by buying more). You create your own goal and deadline.
4. To make sure your goal happens by the deadline, figure out how much time you’ll need to accomplish your goal. Then mark off studio time in your calendar. Mark it in pen. Mark it so it’s NOT negotiable. It’s as Urgent and Important as a doctor’s appointment!! Pick the days, pick the times. Have a good ponder before committing because you won’t be able to change these dates right?! By doing this, you prioritize art-making!
5. Set up an accountability system. This could be a painting buddy. Or you could report in each week to a non-painting accountability friend. To help you stick to your goal, set up a system whereby if you don’t reach your weekly goal (of say doing one painting), you pay your friend $20. Who wants to do that?! But if knowing that you’ll lose $20 if you don’t come through can help with your commitment to achieving your art goal, set it up! If you’re afraid to do that, then you’re saying you cannot commit. Try even a small commitment that you KNOW you can manage and scale up your commitment from there once you reach your goals easily.
6. Lastly, tell yourself that you’re more interested in the act of creating itself rather than an end product. Process over outcome! Remember painting is what moves us forward as artists!! (It’s also lovely to have a stack of work to prove our commitment.)
How does that sound?
Do you prioritize art-making? If not, does this post help? I’d love to know where you’re at when it comes to prioritizing your art so please do leave a comment.
Until next time,