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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Don't Get Stuck Cleaning The Sock Drawer

It has recently been brought to my attention that...shockingly...not all artists are good at planning.

I am fortunate (or cursed) enough to have always been a natural planner and lister-of-tasks-to-do.  So planning events such as a 100 person feast or a quarter of a million dollar seminar sort of came naturally to me.  And planning my art projects are very much a "no-brainer."

But I realize that I must approach this topic with compassion, for some walk into their art studio and are immediately thrown into agony at the idea of trying to figure out what to do...first, in the middle, or last.  Some artists claim that they don't plan because they are trying to be spontaneous.  Maybe that is true.  But the chances that they get things done as effectively or efficiently as those who do have a plan are much slimmer.  Perhaps some artists are afflicted with Atelophobia--the fear of imperfection. And this stops them in their tracks. Take your medication and get on with it. (No, really, I'm not making light of your illness...but maybe the meds will help so you can get on with it.)

Perhaps it is just not knowing "how"...a frequent theme I've run into in a number of venues.

SO, here is the down and dirty on how to plan an art project:

1.  Choose What You Want to Do.  If, like me, you have too many options, pick one.  If it is something that can be done in the time you have available today, HURRAY!  Celebrate and move on to step 2.  If it is a project that requires a longer term commitment, then...commit yourself to see it through to completion and move on to step 2.  (If you're a commitment phobe, then just commit for today and start again tomorrow.  The Law of Averages dictates that sooner or later you're bound to finish something.)

2.  Decide if There is a Deadline.  If for example, you have chosen to work on something for a gallery show or an art faire, your deadline is clearly going to be at some point prior to those events. If you don't have any specific time or event that coincides with completing the art project, pick a date.  Even if it is random.  Of course, if what you chose in #1 (above) can be completed today and you pick a deadline for a year from now, then you're going to be committing to doing the same thing day in and day out for a year. (Okay, okay, I know you can always procrastinate, stop, or change your mind.)

(c) LouLou and Tummie, Robo graphic map.
Used for educational purposes.
3.  Brainstorm & Then Make Progress.  This sounds soooo simple.  But really, how do you know if you're making progress on your art project?  Perhaps this might be a good time to pull out a pad of paper and a writing implement or to pick up the chalk and write on that cool chalkboard you picked up at the flea market...Ask yourself...what indicates progress?  Would it be that you chose the colors and mixed the paint? Would it be that you stretched a canvas for the project or sorted out beads?  Whatever tasks might be a part of completing your project, write them all down.  They don't have to be in order.  But it will help you to at least get the ideas in your head as to what you need to do.  Once you have done a little brain dump of various aspects necessary to complete the project, pick the logical one to do now.  And begin doing that.

Planning map example or art? (c) unknown.
Used for educational purposes only.

4.  Break It Down, But Don't Get Stuck Cleaning the Sock Drawer.  If you have chosen to start with a task that immediately throws you into the search for snacks or a nap, go back to the pad of paper or chalk board and do a little more brain dumping.  Capture all the steps you think might be necessary for completing that one task.  Chances are, there are smaller steps you can take.  For example, if I walk into my studio tomorrow and choose "Create Enamel Jewelry"--well, that can be a pretty big task.  But if I examine that a little further I find there are mini-items I can do toward that large task looming over me.  I can
  1. turn on the kiln
  2. choose what metal or glass to use 
  3. prepare the blank--which can be broken down further into
        a) cut out shape
        b) file edges
        c) drill hole
        d) clean metal

and any one of these items gets me going.  What I do caution you on is getting stuck cleaning the sock drawer.  What do I mean by this?  Well, by all means, sock drawers do need to be cleaned out and organized once in a while.  However, today,...right now...may not be the best time to get distracted with this.  If I am going to do enameling, I don't suddenly decide to alphabetize my enamel colors on the shelf.  This is a procrastinating technique and really isn't helpful toward making progress or completing the project.  Your map doesn't have to be enormously complex and intimidating (although it might be, in which case I suggest taking one item at a time and brain dumping it.)

5.  The last step, as we "girls" know say it is...Rinse, Lather...REPEAT.  If you repeat each step faithfully, eventually, depending on the size of your project, you will be done and ready to move on to another big beastie.

Words of wisdom:  Be kind with yourself.  Stuck?  Go back to the brain dump board and see what else you can think of or see if there is some other task you can do instead.