When I am out of the studio I become happily engrossed in my life. After only one day, however, I start to lose touch with what I was doing in my art practice. Sometimes if I am gone for too many days I even forget basic principles of Art that I teach in my workshops and classes. I actually have had to reread my course outlines to remember. In the end, what always refreshes my mind and gets me back on track is coming into the studio, sitting down and beginning to make my Art.
This realization illuminated, for me the most powerful and influencing agent of change in my Art practice: Consistency.
Understanding and incorporating the idea of consistency into my Art practice has dramatically shifted and improved my Art. It has also made the process of making Art more enjoyable. I simply stress out about it less now.
Here are some of the primary understandings around Consistency that have helped me the most.
1 Frequency is more important than duration.
One of my favorite books on creativity is David Bayles’ book “Art and Fear.” Bayles describes an experiment that was done in a college ceramic class. Half the class was graded on the number of pots produced over the semester and the other half of the class was assigned to make just one pot for the whole semester. In the end, surprisingly, by far the most amazing pots were created by the portion of the class that was being graded by the number, rather than the singular achievement of one pot. Frequency of effort, repeated process from start to finish in short periods of time allows the artist to work without the nagging pre occupation of results, but most importantly to more easily remember and stay connected to their own particular way of working. In this mode, Art is simply more easily generated. And often much of it is very strong.
Pay attention to by how often you work not how long you work. If you can only free up one day and you end up working all day on a Saturday, and then can’t return till the following Saturday, it can be easy to forget during your week what and where you were going when you were working. I find it better to show up, even if only for half an hour, several times a week. Of course you can still pull off the marathon sessions but try and add touchstone visits in between. Your work will really begin to move.
2 Self Doubt grows in absence.
Next time you feel uncertain about your Art, ask yourself when was the last time you actually made something?
I have found that I hit patches of self doubt when I am returning from a vacation or a business trip that has kept me out of the studio for 4-5 days. Oddly Xmas break is the worst for me. Trying to understand why you’re just not feeling it, or how exactly you could change your work never seems to yield any results.
The only thing that eventually does help is when you finally, finally start back in again. Within minutes of actually doing your practice, the feelings of uncertainty begin to lift. Clarity begins to return.
Of course we all come and go from our practices but it is helpful to remember that more often than not, clarity and ease are waiting for you as soon as you begin your practice. The answer is in the doing. And doing more frequently, even for shorter periods of time can yield amazing results. Next time you find yourself thinking about what might be the solution, stop and just begin doing your Art again. The answer is patiently waiting for you there.
3 Consistency creates consistency.
Consistency is not something that we are necessarily born with. It takes focus and resolve to repeatedly show up. I always have noticed the less you do the less you do and the more you do the more you do. In other words it takes a bit of concerted effort to put the trend of being consistent into place, but once it is, the benefits, the results are so rewarding that it almost becomes addicting. It just feeds your curiosity to see how this thing you are involved in, this personal pursuit of your own making, is going to turn out.
What will I possibly make today?
This curiosity, this momentum is fed by consistency. The potency of the Art you make today is absolutely derived and fortified from the arc of repeated efforts trailing behind you. The more of these efforts, the more visitations to your practice there are, regardless of how small, is what in the end will take your Art to that next level.
Put consistency in place, and then you can just let your Art naturally unfold. You will be amazed at what happens.
What has your experience with consistency been? Please leave your comments below so that we may learn from each other.