Happy New Year! 2016 is turning out okay so far. (Although we’re only a few days in, but let’s be optimistic.) I usually don’t do Year in Review posts on social media, but starting this blog compelled me to reflect on a few highs and lows of the year and take action. For this post, I’m going to use an evaluation system that I learned during my residency with Gateway to the Arts called Praise, Polish and Perfect. This system helps artists with constructive criticism and action plans to improve their careers.
So let’s begin:
Praise – Positive Notes About 2015.
I went out of my comfort zone and found workarounds to deal with professional issues.
I’m far from complacent but there are certain mediums and techniques I prefer more than others. For example, I used to hate using acrylic paint. I’m a synesthete so there are certain things that I approach differently than other people. When I was little, I thought the word “left” was green and “right” should’ve been red. I feel like colors have flavors and temperatures too – blue is mellow and sweet, gold is warm and bitter and white is metallic. Anyway, whenever I’d use acrylic paints I’d get this anxious feeling like there was broken glass under my toes. Even with glazes, it dries too fast and doesn’t have the lovely sheen and smell of oils. Oil paint feels so wonderful to push back and forth across the surface, and it dries slower. Painting in glazes is pretty therapeutic for me, so the lack of euphoria with acrylics made them unpleasant to use. However, acrylic paint is a necessary evil for certain projects. I knew I had to start using them or else I’d be cheating myself.
My way of dealing with this was to give liquid acrylics a try, and guess what? I ended up liking them! As a matter of fact, my last solo show “Gamine” featured acrylic paintings exclusively. Acrylics are great because they add versatility and other design options to my work, like being able to move to the next glaze faster and the freedom to add other water-based media accents to my work. My favorite brand so far is Golden Liquid Acrylics*, and there are a few other brands I’m itching to sample soon. Oils will always be my first love, but acrylics aren’t so bad either. I just need more experience with using them.
Another thing I did this year that shocked me – starting this blog and re-designing my website. Even though I didn’t hard-code everything from scratch, I’m very proud of the fact that I built two websites and learned new software to help along the way. I think websites are like an artist or creative project – they’re a work-in-progress. Over time, I’ll learn even more and add features to both of my sites to improve them.
The Takeaway – Step outside of your creative comfort zone every once in a while. Who knows what you’ll discover about yourself?
Polish – Things I Need Work On.
I need to interact more online and offline.
I’ve started to get more acquainted with social media but am prone to taking breaks and this isn’t good. I’ve improved on this a little bit but can do more to let people know about my work on a regular basis and support fellow artists along the way. I’ve also been making efforts to network with other artists in real life, as well as attend openings around town.
I need more variety in the types of projects I do.
One of my weaknesses is that I haven’t structured my career to get the opportunities I want. For example, when I first stepped into the art world I had the idea that I’d do several gallery shows a year and earn a living. What I learned from interacting with successful full-time artists is that a variety of projects makes a well-rounded career and provides more sustainable opportunities for income. Adding a store website was a good start, as well as applying for book features, live events, licensing and special projects. I’m not giving up on galleries, but will make art shows part of my career instead of the primary focus.
The Takeaway – Admitting to characters flaws isn’t bad. Failing to recognize weaknesses and improve bad habits is the real enemy.
Perfect – My Goals and Action Plan.
Produce every day and stop obsessing about things I can’t control.
My schedule is crazy. I work about 40-50 hours a week and by the time the “real life” stuff is through, I don’t have much time left over for art. Instead of trying to crank out a masterpiece every night (and destroying work/beating myself up in the process), I’m focusing on one art career-related thing a day and praising myself for the accomplishment, no matter how small. There are days where I only post one blog entry, do one sketch or complete one layer of a painting, but one is always better than none.
As far as the things I can’t control, I’m getting better at learning to let those things go too. For instance, this year I really wanted to release a fashion and accessories line with my art and designs, and told myself that it had to be finished by October. So I worked like crazy to make this happen and designed non-stop, however everything took way longer than expected. I couldn’t anticipate the time and money it takes to build a store website, add payment options, find suppliers, get proofs and samples, weed out the bad samples, perform quality tests…the list goes on. Furthermore, I didn’t expect to land the book projects and installation, so from the beginning this goal was unrealistic due to simply not having enough time. Instead, I’m still rooting through suppliers and decided to add new store items/features gradually. Currently I have some of my paintings up and will add a few prints later this month.
Improve on other art techniques.
I need to fine-tune my acrylic painting and digital illustration skills, since some of the projects I’m involved in / want to be involved in demand it. I’m doing this by forcing myself to use these techniques more since practice makes perfect. I’ve also enrolled in a few courses so I can learn more skills that will help me achieve my goals.
Provide new and interesting ways for people to interact with my work.
By offering sales of my work online and providing other printed items, I’m giving myself more sustainable opportunities for creating work. I’ve also landed different types of projects like the books and installation I mentioned, which will round out my career in the long run.
Overall, it’s been an okay year but I want 2016 to be even better. What are some of your goals the new year? Please feel free to share, even if they’re not art-related.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase.