I have been wanting to paint a mural for a very long time. In fact, it has been my New Year’s Resolution for the last two years. Over the weekend I went to a workshop on taking sketches from small to big scale – i.e. mural size, taught by Gemma O’Brien (so much internal fan-girling.) After the workshop, I can finally stop second guessing my instincts about the how of mural painting. Once my basement is not a flooded wasteland I am going to attack the back wall as a test of my new skills!
At the end of the workshop, there was open time for each of us to meet with Gemma and ask questions or get feedback on work, etc. I had plans to sit down and work up some really solid questions the week before the event. Due to some unfortunate circumstances that tore my house apart over the course of last week, and massive amounts of flooding the night before the workshop, I was not at my best. I definitely did not maximize that awesome opportunity. Through some general conversation about balancing passion projects and full time jobs, I realized a few hurdles that I am trying to tackle to allow for creative growth.
Creating art that you really care about generally requires a lot of experimentation. I can spend days testing out different ways to use one tool (like a brush) to apply paint/ink/coffee/whatever. This type of experimentation is what drives creative output. It creates original work and inspires ideas you never would have had without going through the process of trial and error.
What happens when you don’t have the luxury of time?
Whether you are on a paid project that has a tight deadline, or your full time job is way out of the confines of 40 hours a week, it can be hard to set aside time to let yourself experiment. I have a major problem with wanting to sit down and knock projects out one by one. I want to start and finish a piece in one sitting.
This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it certainly doesn’t leave much room for growth.
I am working on changing my mentality. For me, instagram has been a huge influence in the way I produce. I feel pressured to create things that will get more likes, more comments, more exposure. In doing this, I am shooting myself in the foot, because I am skipping steps in the process. Here are a few guidelines I have set out for myself to reign in the feelings of obligation and allow the creativity to thrive.
Make Yourself Take Time
I think my most over-used mantra is, “Quality over Quantity.” It rings true in so many verticals though! There is a time and a place for quick, sequential creating. Sketch exercises, quote of the day-type projects – these are both great, but give yourself time to really get into finessing and loving some of your projects too. The more you do it, the faster you’ll get at it and eventually the “quick” projects you do will be at the level of your old long-term projects.
Don’t Be Too Precious About It
Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s OK if you get going on an approach that you thought was going to be revolutionary when you envisioned it in your head, but turned out less than. This is where the experimentation is key.
One of my recent projects DEFINITELY did not turn out as planned. I sat with it for a couple of days and ‘destroyed’ the technique which led to a really awesome finished piece. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I planned the project, but I learned a lot from it and walked away with a cool finished project in the end. There are plenty of times where the finished project wasn’t worth saving but I view those as learning experiences that have pushed my skill-set in the direction it’s headed now.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Whether it’s scale, material, or subject matter, be sure to switch up what you are working with every now and then. For the last few years I have been lettering with ink on paper. I have stepped out and done some woodcuts (the types of projects I favored as a kid) and it totally changed the way I view dimension in my 2D work. Inspired by the Go Big workshop, my next major project will definitely be large scale lettering and I am so excited!
P.S. If you know anyone with an extra projector laying around, hmu.