Recap, Regroup, Restart

Traci Turner_art_Hemorrhage_Distance

“Distance”, oil on canvas. By Traci L. Turner

Coming to the end of another year, it’s about that time again for reflection. I hope it has been an eventful and productive year, Creatives. Personally it’s been the best year yet in my own art-life. I had my first solo show, set up my artist website (finally!), sold some original work and prints, and I’m closing the year with an art schedule set up for the first half of 2015 already. For the most part I’ve been able to fulfill goals I projected at the beginning of 2014. How about you?

If some of your goals weren’t met, it’s ok! I didn’t hit all of mine either, and some of those goals were stupid-easy so I had no real excuse for dropping the ball. All that means is that we now have a jumping-off point for 2015. These types of lists and aspirations are on-going, so cut yourself some slack if some of your goals didn’t get the attention that you meant to give them. To help get you back on track, here are three steps that I hope will motivate you as we close out 2014 and enter 2015 with renewed energy.

Recap
This is the stage of reflection. Take an objective look at what you’ve done in the previous months. What did your creative life look like this year? What goals did you reach? What worked? What didn’t work, and most importantly, why? Asking yourself these questions (and being honest!) should help set the framework for the next step. I understand the inclination to want to maybe bash yourself for being inactive, or compare yourself to others who have more going on, but don’t. It’s not productive and it’s discouraging. Acknowledge where you fell short, yes, but try not to get stuck in it. The flipside is that you should also be looking for the times when you excelled. Overall, the point is to reassess and make necessary adjustments moving forward. That brings us to the next step.

Regroup
Now that you’ve reviewed the year you’ve had, it’s time to regroup. This is a planning stage. This should also be considered a resting stage. Yeah, take a bit of a break from life.

“But Traci, how can I be productive if I’m taking a break?”

Hush, because planning and chillin’ out IS productive as long as you’re intentional about your time and set a time limit. Setting a limit is important because deadlines push us. Maybe you can commit to 2 days to get your head back on straight. Or maybe you only have time for about 2 hours to yourself. Whatever time you can force yourself to spare, do it and make it count! You have to use this time wisely or you will fail yourself before you can start the final step. In the regroup stage, you should be taking the information from your recap of the year and using it to help loosely plan out your goals for next year. I say “loosely” because it’s more realistic. Nothing is permanent and you have to allow yourself some wiggle room for your goals and timelines or else you risk stressing yourself out and losing motivation. From the goals you were able to meet this year, extract what you did to reach them and plan to reinforce those good habits to meet new goals. The goals you didn’t meet should be high priorities for next year, unless other things prove to be more pertinent. Recall the habits that hindered you then resolve to avoid those pitfalls as best as you can. I suggest doing this during a planned period of downtime so that you can truly focus on this stage. The end of the year is usually a great time to do it because most people are already in a mindset of reflection and will be able to have some time off because of the holidays. And personally, I think having that kind of break to rest and visit loved ones, or being on your own, will allow you to return to everyday life refreshed and more prepared for what’s ahead. So once you have some goals in mind, have a good idea of what has worked for you this year, and are more refreshed, you are set up for a better position to do the final step.

Restart
The execution stage. Here is where everything comes together and plans can start to be put into action. The beginning of a new year is a prime time to build the momentum you’ll need to accomplish whatever you’d like to do. At this point so much looks possible, right? If you’ve done the work appropriately in the planning stage, you will already have a personal roadmap and a forward-thinking mindset by the time you are ready for this step. So follow it! Ride the flow of that renewed and refreshed energy you’ve taken the time to store up and finish off your tasks one by one. Just like with an exercise regimen, once you start to see results and make progress you will have more incentive to keep it up. But the trick is to just DO it – that’s it! Any little bit that you can do is way better than nothing.

That sums up my suggestions for figuring out your creative goals for the coming year, but I would love to hear any tips that you have to share in the comment section. Let’s keep this conversation going! What are your thoughts? If you end up trying out these tips, come back and let me know how it went!

6 Tips for Planning Your Creative Goals

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Now that the energy of the holidays has begun to die down and we’re well into the first week of a new year, it’s a great time to hop on the wave of change and plan out some of your creative goals. I think the key to setting yourself up for success is starting off with a broad idea then breaking it down into smaller, attainable goals. But there are also a few other things you can do that I’ve found to be very helpful. So if you’re ready to get a leg up on the creative goals you’d like to reach by the end of this year, here are some tips I hope will get you on your way:

1. Write them down
Seems like a freakin’ no-brainer, right?! But yes, seriously, write them down. The physical act of writing it out is literally a release, putting your ideas or goals out into the universe where you can see them. It’s a great way to organize yourself too. Sometimes just keeping it in one’s head isn’t enough, we need to see ourselves putting energy into the planning. If you don’t want to actually write it out, then type it out. Keep the list in a place where you can easily access it – be it a small notepad you keep with you, a file on your computer, or even as a task list on your phone. Use whatever you think will fit best for you. Overall I suggest doing SOMEthing to get your task list out of your head and made into a real thing that you can see and revisit.

2. Break your tasks down into smaller goals
A friend shared the this Creighton Abrams quote with me: “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” That encompasses the whole idea with tip #2. List your goals as broad statements. Then underneath each statement, jot down some smaller tasks or ideas that will allow you to reach the main goal. Here’s an example of one of mine:

Sketch more
– Carry a small sketchbook and pencils with me
– Sketch ideas for paintings
– Practice drawing figures
– Get useful drawing books to help improve skills and confidence
- Try to sketch at least a few hours a week

I’d like to use some more of my time to practice drawing, so I just used the umbrella statement of “sketch more” then listed some things that I wanted to do underneath that category. Organizing your thoughts in this way will give you an idea of what you should be doing so by the end of the year you will be able to gauge how successful you were at pursuing the particular goal. I like to keep my lists pretty loose, not necessarily sticking with too many quantitative goals (i.e. 3 drawings a week, 10 paintings by the end of the year, take 2 classes by the end of the year, etc.). That’s just a personal preference. However if it’s something that you need to put out there in order for you to commit to it, by all means write it down!

3. Tell someone
Let people know what you’re trying to do! I suggest telling at least 1 or 2 people that you trust, people that you know will make a personal investment in your goals and will hold you accountable to them. It doesn’t have to be someone with a militant personality (unless you think that you need that!). I’ve found that the best accountability partners are those who are also actively pursuing goals of their own. These people understand the process, and appreciate the energy of others who want to be productive too. These people will push you. If you’re not around someone like that, then of course someone like a spouse, a sibling or a best friend will also work perfectly. Basically, choose someone who you know will genuinely care about and support what you are trying to do. Someone that you wouldn’t want to let down.

4. Check in with yourself
This is where you revisit your list to evaluate where you are with your goals. This part will vary from person to person, and will also depend on the tasks in question. Personally I have an informal and formal way of doing this. Last year and the year before I’ve been doing a more formal check-in every 6 months. So at the beginning of the year I’ll make a list of things I want to try to do, while seeing if anything from the year before should roll over. Then in the middle of the year, around June or so, I’ll check my list again to see if I’m satisfied with how things are going at that point. This is also when I may tweak the list as needed. Six months later, at the end of the year, I’ll check again to see how much I’ve completed from when I first created the list. Then it’ll be time to plan again for the next year!

Informally, there’s no real timeline for how I check-in. I’ll just prioritize maybe one or two main goals at a time, working around the list in a loose way. Making some progress here and there, then switching it up. That’s just how I am though, kind of scatter-brained and juggling a bunch of stuff at a time. Lots of unfinished thoughts and actions. Then I use my formal check-in to reel myself in and refocus. You might need to be a bit more structured to keep yourself in line. As I mentioned before, checking-in will vary from person to person.

"To Do" An installation by the art collective, Illegal Art.

“To Do” A post-it installation by the art collective, Illegal Art.

5. Add or subtract as needed
Sometimes it’s easy to get in over our heads and create goals that we can’t achieve within a certain timeline. Or sometimes we just plain lose interest in it. It’s okay, just scratch it off! On the other side of that, you may knock out your goals early and are looking for more to do. Or you may realize that some tasks need to be added in order to supplement other goals. Well, then just add on whatever you need! Allow yourself some flexibility. Nothing has to be permanent just because you started out with it. Change it up if you need to!

6. Roll ‘em over
Here’s where flexibility comes to play again. If you have goals that you didn’t get around to accomplishing by the end of the year, don’t beat yourself up and cling to feelings of failure – shit happens. Just roll the unfinished goals on over to the list for next year! Really simple. Maybe set them at a higher priority next time around so they have a lesser chance of getting lost in the shuffle. Either way, I’m sure by then there will have been a bunch of other stuff that you DID complete, so don’t get too hung up on what didn’t get done. I’ve rolled over my goal of putting together my personal artist’s website for the 2nd year in a row now. But this awareness has made me more determined to get it done, so it’s definitely a high priority task for me this year. Rolling things over isn’t lazy, nor does it mean that you don’t value those goals. It ensures that you’re always planning and working towards something.

Those are some of the main tips that I keep in mind when setting creative goals, though I suppose they could also work with any non-creative goals that you may have. I hope this post has been helpful! What are some artistic goals you’d like to achieve? What has helped you stay productive in the past? I’d love to hear it!

A Bit of Inspiration: Frida Kahlo

FridaPaintingInBed

This is a photo I saw in person at an exhibition about a year or two ago that really inspired me. It’s Mexican artist Frida Kahlo strapped up and bed-ridden sometime after the trolley accident that left her dealing with physical pain and treatment for much of her life. When I saw it, immediately I thought, “Well damn, I really have no excuse! Nobody does!” To see her rigged up the way that she was, most likely in quite a bit of pain, yet still pushing herself to create left me awe-struck. Even if she was doing this just to pass the time, it’s still quite remarkable. This is an image that I think back on whenever I realize that I’m making excuses about my own lack of production. It’s an image that gave me a jolt of motivation at a time when I was in a deep creative slump and didn’t prioritize much time for expelling any creative energy.

I don’t claim to know a whole lot about Frida Kahlo, but I will say that the photo above told me so much about her spirit and passion. A fire that I think artists (or perhaps anyone, really) need to harness and apply to life in order to stand a good chance at attaining a bit of personal fulfillment. To be honest I wouldn’t even say that Kahlo’s painting skills were technically perfect (sorry!). A lot of us may have seen artwork that we would deem more precise and dynamic than hers, that just comes down to personal opinion obviously. But looking back at her body of work, to me it was clear that she put her heart and soul into whatever she created; losing herself in the meaning and the act of expressing her inner self regardless of how it looked next to anyone else’s art.

The Broken Column by Frida Kahlo OSA164

“The Broken Column”, 1944. Oil on canvas.

That’s what I take away from her legacy and that’s what has pushed me to take risks with my own work this year, and hopefully beyond. Thinking about that woman’s tenacity deeply inspired me to finally start to care a lot less about any external factors, just create whatever the hell I wanted to express, and keep pushing forward in my own way. And maybe that’s all it’s really about.

These things I share in the hope that you Artists out there reading this will either renew or maintain momentum with your work. It’s a constant struggle, I know, but it’s not impossible! Even if Frida Kahlo’s work has never moved you before, I ask that you take another look. At the very least “right click” and “save as” the image of her in bed above, use it as a reminder to refuse to roadblock yourself.

Your thoughts?

My Fears as an Artist

Braaaaainssss!!

Braaaaainssss!!

Happy Halloween!

With all scares and shares going on all day today, I thought I’d take a different approach and talk about some real fears that hit closer to home. As artists living and finding our way in this world, we come across some pretty scary challenges and thoughts. Today I’m going to share some of mine:

- I’m afraid of my own potential
I don’t mean that in a whiny-brag kind of way! I know it sounds ridiculous, but think about it. As long as I keep finding ways to push myself and put my work out there, it’s inevitable that I’ll achieve some kind of progress. More recognition and accolades means more pressure and responsibilities. The decisions that one has to make begin to get tougher and tougher. The balancing act of work, pleasure, and progress can be overwhelming. Will that be me? Can I handle all of that? What things will I have to sacrifice? How can I best avoid missteps and lulls in my artistic career? I can be rather lazy at times and I do love a certain amount of leisure, thinking about all the work I would have to do to maintain some momentum makes my brain hurt.

- I’m afraid that I’m not as good as I think I am
I’m admitting this, realizing that I’m contradicting my previous point. However I think that this is a thought that many artists have from time to time. If you don’t, then show me how you do it! Every time I start feeling proud about something I’ve done, I’ll see someone else’s stellar work and throw my hands up in defeat. “Why do I even bother!?” is the thought that often runs through my mind when that happens. Luckily it’s not something that paralyzes me, I still do what I want and move forward. But, I still have those moments…

- I fear that I won’t nail down my artistic voice
This is a real thing I’m facing right now! This has been taking years for me to develop and figure out and I still don’t think it’s any clearer to me. I’m realizing that there are at least two aspects to my artistic vision or voice, and they have nothing to do with each other whatsoever. Personally I prefer the more traditional side of my skills. Portraiture is definitely my strength and I want to start putting a lot more focus on that. However I think there’s something to some of the more abstract pieces I’ve made this year. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how I can possibly marry the two sides and really create some dynamic and memorable pieces. I think when I finally get a grip on what that is, then I will experience a serious level up.

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For now, I still feel a bit stuck.

These are just a few things that scare me about pursuing my creative goals. I share these in the hope to show you that you’re not alone! It’s normal and so many of us out here can relate, even the well-known artists. The thing to remember is that even though your fears are valid, they’ll only set you back if you let them! Instead, use your fears to push you forward. Yes I may be afraid that I might not be “good enough,” but I’ve combated that by taking classes and reading about the business of art to help build my skills and confidence. I challenge you to turn your fears around in the same way. Over time you will develop the habit of working with your fears instead of letting them hold you back, keeping yourself on the track to artistic progress and achievement.

In the Lab

My art space in my apartment. Gradually moving from just a corner to almost half the living room, yikes!

My art space in my apartment. Gradually moving from just a corner to almost half the living room, yikes! I made that bit of “motivation” hanging on the wall there, finally put it up!

Lots of movement happening in my little art world! Been spending the majority of my time these days thinking about and executing ideas for a group show that I’m going to be in towards the end of August! Yes, finally taking some bigger steps at getting exposure. It has been equal parts exhilarating and scary! More than ever I’m having to consider what my artistic voice is and maintaining a healthy level of confidence about it. There is so much more I can say about that, but that is for a later post!

For now I just wanted to share some excitement about this influx of creative energy and progress. Don’t laugh at my measly setup above (or fine, laugh, I don’t care lol). It’s been seeing a lot of action lately, despite it being a way less than ideal art space. So to those of you out there that think you need to have some sort of fancy art studio in order to create…you don’t. At least not when you’re just starting out! Just use whatever you have, seriously. So many of us really have no real excuse to stay stagnant about producing work. You see my spot, I don’t even have tables!

In preparation for this August show, I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of what’s gettin’ cooked up in “the lab.” So stay tuned for more updates and pics coming soon!

Jumped Ship

It’s been a long time since my last post, but I’m finally ready to start posting and sharing this year. Since this is my first entry of 2013 and it’s been so long since I last wrote, I thought I’d make this a more personal entry and take the time to get you caught up to speed with what’s going on with me. It’s ’bout to get real.

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I still miss my little friend. “Puddin” 05/1997-10/2012

The reason it’s been so long since my last entry was that I made a sudden decision back in November to move from the east coast to the west coast. With my cat passing away in October 2012, the hustle and bustle of the holidays, back to back trips around the country including a stop at Art Basel 2012 in December, and the exhausting tasks of preparing for a long-distance move, blogging was the last thing on my mind for the last few months. I had been wanting to make a move out west for a while and finally started saving up last year, but even when circumstances had cleared up for me to move I was still reluctant to pull the trigger for many reasons. Too many to get into in this post so you’ll have to ask me yourself! The increasing feelings of stagnancy, disappointment, and being uninspired became the main catalysts to making this move. So in mid-January I finally jumped that sinking ship and moved from the DC/MD/VA area to Reno, Nevada. Definitely wasn’t my first choice, I must admit! But basically I was able to make a job transfer so Reno was a compromise I had to make just to get the hell outta there at that point. Probably the most impulsive decision I made in a long time, but I was steadily feeling out of place where I was so this needed to happen. When it came down to it, I was more than ready to go. The move was low-risk but high-change and even though that plan wasn’t really what I envisioned, ultimately it was the right balance for me.

Here's a chunk of my life, didn't seem like a lot once it all arrived to the new place.

Here’s a chunk of my life, didn’t seem like a lot once it all arrived to the new place.

The first month or so was difficult! This is a new kind of isolation that I’m feeling. Continue reading