I was recently interviewed for an article in Professional Artist magazine. The focus of the interview was how artists stay motivated to create when there is no external deadline for completing the work.
While I have done some commission work, mostly pet portraits and a few house portraits, the majority of my work is self-driven. There is only myself to answer to if I don’t get into the studio and paint.
So, how do I stay motivated? For me, it is a matter of just getting in the studio and working. I find that if I have too many different projects going on at the same time, it is too easy to just move on to something else. Nothing ever gets completed. I focus on one painting at a time.
I set up my workspace so that when I walk in the studio, I can pick up right where I left off, without additional preparation. If I stall on a particular piece, I will walk away for a period of time. Overnight, or perhaps a few hours. I have my easel set so that I see whatever is on it as soon as I enter the room. Sometimes I will just walk to the doorway to make a quick assessment of the stalled piece. Usually within a day or two, I begin to see what the piece needs and can begin anew. If that does not happen, I make a mark, any mark, on the piece. That usually leads to a second mark and before I know it, I am back in the game.
I recently decided to challenge myself with the goal of completing a small painting each day. I gave myself the month of October to complete 24 studies, all of skies. You can read about that process here. This was a self-imposed deadline. I could have stopped at any time. The strange thing was, it invigorated me. I completed the 24 studies and decided to go further. My plan was to select some of my favorites and use them as the basis to create more finished paintings in a larger size.
Along the way, I thought of creating a
calendar based on my sky series. If I completed twelve paintings of skies, calendars could be printed featuring my work. What a fun way to get my work into the hands of people who might not be ready to collect original art! Who can't use a calendar? I was excited. Again, this is a self imposed deadline. If I am going to have calendars printed for next year, I had better have my 12 paintings completed by fall to allow time for printing.
It occurred to me that if I am going to be creating 12 paintings of a similar subject, I had the makings of a theme exhibit. It was a loose idea that rattled around in my head for a few months. I would have the larger pieces, but I also have 24 small studies that could be offered as small originals. I shared the idea with the owner of Off the Wall Gallery where I regularly show my work. He loved the idea and quickly offered me the opportunity of a solo show for my ‘skies’. This is planned for the fall of this year.
The point is, that first self-imposed deadline grew into a real deadline for a solo exhibition. With printed calendars as a bonus! How exciting is that?! What began as a personal challenge to stretch myself as an artist, became a great opportunity. I have been painting steadily for about 4 months and have completed 6 of the 12 planned paintings. I hope you will follow along to see where it leads. For you artists out there who have difficulty staying motivated. Create your own deadlines! Give yourself a goal. You never know how it may morph into a real opportunity. As always, I would love your comments!