Do you ever feel like you know what you want to accomplish but get overwhelmed in the process? I do. Whether I have given myself a goal of making a whole new series of paintings or dreaming of doing a workshop in Morocco. It doesn’t matter what the thing(s) is I am trying to accomplish, somewhere along the way my energy drops and I lose my way.
I recently was reminded of the solution to this problem by one of my artist friends and business mentor, Tom Miller, who recently facilitated an off site for the Art2life team.
It has to do with understanding the difference between thinking big, the mindset that allows you to come up with the big idea in the first place, and the smaller, more patient mindset of moving slowly, taking the small steps in order to accomplish your goals.
In the beginning when we set off dreaming and scheming that next big idea there is always excitement and passion. Finally we are identifying what we desire. It feels awesome. It is crucial we say what we want to do. Letting the cat out of the bag and setting an intention is the first step in accomplishing anything we desire.
However, once we start along the path to actually doing it, the luster and enthusiasm often diminishes. This is, I believe, because the mindset of thinking big is different from the mindset of accomplishment. In fact, they are opposite. This mindset of accomplishment is about moving slowly.
This second phase mindset is often one of patience, planning and small incremental steps. By its very nature it is just not as exciting. Imagining a series of 10 paintings all over 7 ft. tall is exciting. Cleaning out your garage or studio so you have more room to work is not. Adding to this problem is that there seems to be a million small steps, many of which feel mundane or tiresome, that all have to be taken in order for that dream to be realized.
What has been especially useful for me is to redefine these smaller steps, almost imbue them with more importance so I can stay on track. Here is what I do:
I create a roadmap. I write every step down I can think of that needs to be taken to arrive at my goal. I put them in order. These are like the stepping-stones to cross the river. It is relatively quick to do this and what you have at the end is a visual pathway with your goal at the end of it. There it is! All the steps leading to what you desire. This planning phase is exciting as it is so clearly connected to your desire. You are thinking big but also slow at the same time.
Even taking the first step moves you towards your goal. Not only can you see it, but also your progress is measurable which is super energizing. This is such a simple idea but it has made all the difference in the world for me. You might be in the weeds for a while but knowing where you are going by clearly seeing that star overhead makes all the difference in the world.
How do you accomplish what you desire? Please let the rest of us know by leaving a comment below. Thanks!
I was working on a painting today and was having a bit of difficultly figuring out where to go next…and then the solution hit me!
Click on the image to watch the video and let me know what you think – how do you get past potential roadblocks in your art?
I just returned from a 3 day conference that focused on entrepreneurs and people starting small business. While there I had several realizations that are proving to be major game changers for my art practice, and now I’d like to share them with you.
Watch the video to see what I learned, and let me know what you think. What realizations or revelations have you had about your art practice?
And it doesn’t feel so good. The real problem, however, is that this discontent sometimes never goes away. If we are not careful it can follow us around. It sits just out of sight with us in the studio when we are making our art and it even can follow us home if we let it.
Never feeling good enough is pervasive. Lots of people have this feeling.
It takes time to change this habitual way of thinking. But it is worth it if it even partially brings back the joy, and the ease of making your art again. If we can, then there exists the real possibility of bringing amazing, personal artwork into the world. This issue, this feeling of not being happy with where we are presently, needs some attention.
Here is how I like to reframe the narrative so that I can feel more content with where I am…
There is a very, very long road. It starts at the bottom of a valley and gradually winds its way up hills and then, eventually, it goes all the way to the very tip top of the mountain.
This pathway or road represents the entire creative journey you may take in your life. When you start exploring the possibility of making art you are in the very beginning. As one climbs this pathway the view becomes greater. The experience is heightened because it is more expansive in beauty and vistas the higher you go. You can see more and more. It can take years, decades, a lifetime even to climb this road.
The most fantastic thing is to be on the road. It doesn’t matter where you are on the road, only that you are on it. Some people are further up the road and others are further down the road. Your place on the road has more to do with time spent walking, not talent. Even though the road slowly gets better the further along the road you go, you don’t want to short change yourself by magically appearing someplace further up the road than where you are right now.
Each and every step forward is to be savored, because you will never get to move through this part of the road again. You get to do each part only once in your lifetime. You never get to go backwards. Only forward.
Here are just a few of the first steps possibly encountered along this path:
The first time you realize you can make art, the first time someone that matters loves what you have made, the first time it feels hard then incredibly easy, the first time you have a show or you give something you made away as a gift, the first time you teach someone something you have learned, the first time you get interviewed, your first solo show, and especially the unforgettable moment when for the first time, you know in your heart of hearts, that you are an artist
There are of course infinite steps you get to take but the most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to miss any of them.
The value of the next step you are about to take or discover is in part determined by the prior step.
So in this scenario, if you can imagine wherever you are on the road right now, then why would you feel you want to be anywhere else? The reason you are not at mile 50 is because you are only at mile 25. It has nothing to do with talent, lucky breaks, tailwinds, money etc.
What has helped me is to take all my dissatisfaction, my impatience and all the limiting negative thoughts about where I think I ought to be and re focus back to what I am making and where I am right now. Not surprisingly, this frees up a lot of energy, which now can be channeled back into your art.
So if you feel that sinking feeling of judgment or dissatisfaction creeping back in, take a breath and re look at what you are making right now. Take a chance, re commit to making it the best thing you have ever made so far. Savor this moment, this opportunity because it actually will never be here again in this certain way.
Do you sometimes feel dissatisfied too? What do you do about it?
In my efforts to become a better teacher, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on how people learn. What I’ve discovered is that there are basically 4 stages of learning, each of which presents their own challenges and opportunities.
Which stage are you at? Watch the video and let me know!
I’ve recently had a change in how I think about my work when it is not going as well as I want it to. This change has helped me regain control of my creative process and has made it so much easier to paint.
Take a moment to watch the video, and let me know how you stay in control of your work.
As artists, there are always distractions; maybe your work is not progressing how you would like it to, or perhaps your show didn’t go as well as you expected – what is important to remember is that in the end it all comes down to your work. As long as you are producing and developing your art practice, you will get to where you want to go.
In life, it is important that we remain open to different experiences, just like in art. And as we absorb those new experiences we grow as people, and in turn so does our art. The two are inextricably connected.
In keeping with this theme, I have put together a list of differences into a free downloadable PDF; I keep this list close by when I am painting and often look to it for inspiration. Hopefully it will help you along in your artistic practice as well. Just click the link below to get your free downloadable PDF.
The answer to this question, for me, has never been entirely clear. I made art as a child because I loved getting lost in my imagination. As I grew older, as fewer and fewer of my friends continued with art, I know I liked the attention. It made me feel different from everyone else. I felt valued which, when you are growing up, is especially important.
But as one matures and grows older these reasons become less sustaining. If you happen to find yourself still making art some 15-25 years later, eventually one does have to ask and ponder the simple question why?
The answer to this question seems to become more nuanced over time I still am not entirely sure why I love to make art, however it is becoming clearer the more art I make. So maybe this question is answered by the progression of one’s art making. Maybe, if we understood the “why” from the very beginning it would not be such a seductive inquiry.
It is difficult to always know our “why”. However, there are clues. Practically every decision in your art making is made by a simple yes or no. Often these are intuitive. A choice between a color, a shape or a direction in your art that can be made just on the basis perhaps of what feels right to you.
The sum total of all these yes’s, in the end, culminates with your finished artwork. It is also the reason that your artwork becomes more and more unique. The somewhat repeating pattern of yes’s and no’s is what gives artists that much sought after “style” or individual distinction.
As the work becomes more clarified, I believe the answer, the “why,” becomes clarified too. We just have to trust that even though the answer is not evident now, in time, by the making of our art, it will be.
What is your Why?
When I’m at the beginning stages of a painting and deciding where to go next, I first try to figure out what I like about the piece. I then do the opposite of what I like about that piece – it’s a great way to move forward when you’re looking for a little inspiration.
What do you do when you’re stuck?