Monday, September 3, 2018

Lesson Learned from Having a Deadline

It's been almost a year since I was contacted by the Art Committee of the Orcas Performing Arts Center and asked if I would hang an exhibit of my art quilts in the lobby gallery.  I was so pleased to be asked that I immediately said YES! However, when I got off the phone, I was a little freaked out because I only had 4 or 5 of quilts. on hand.  YIKES.  That was not nearly enough to fill the gallery.  I almost called the committee woman back to tell her I couldn't do it.

But I really wanted to do the show, so rather than make that call, I decided I needed to become much more disciplined with my work, and produce a body of work.  I know artist who produce an astounding 10 or 12 pieces a year.  I was averaging three. 

So, I rolled up my sleeves, oiled my sewing machine, and set to work.  I had no shortage of potential projects.  I had pages of sketches and ideas, some dating back years.  Honestly, my biggest barrier was simply my irregular studio hours.

I once worked for a principal who used to say you can do or learn anything if you simply work at it one hour a day, every day.  He had examples of people who became fluent in a foreign language, wrote a novel, learned to musical instrument--all by spending one hour a day just doing it!   One hour is barely enough time for me to figure out what I'm doing, so I chunked my time a little differently.

My husband and I took a couple trips this past year which knocked out about 6 weeks of work time, but whenever we were home, I spent at least 4 hours a day in my studio for a minimum of 3 days a week, but most often 5 to 6 days a week.  I have never been so disciplined as I was this past year, and I found it very rewarding.  Instead of putting my art in last place in my list of priorities, I put it near the top of the list.

What I learned from this practice:
  • I often used to let a piece sit for months if I came to a sticking point.  This last year I hit lots of problem spots as I worked on pieces, but since a deadline loomed, I was forced to think about it constantly.  I wrestled with the problem not only in my work room, but at night as I was falling asleep, in the morning on my run, sitting in the car on the ferry, pretty much 24/7.  When a problem is front and center like that, and a deadline is on the horizon, it's amazing how quickly a solution or two pops into your head.
  • Keeping a studio journal is very helpful.  Before I left my studio for the day, I tried to jot down notes on what I needed to do the next day, and I'd set out fabric, thread, paint, whatever, ready to work the next day.  This saved a lot of dithering time--I'm a good ditherer!  I didn't always used the plan from the previous work session, but even rejecting an idea has a certain momentum:  If not that, then what??
  • Other people may be able to work in fits and starts, but I found I was most productive and most creative if I had an uninterrupted 3 to 4 hours.  Stopping to get a cup of tea, or throw some laundry in the washer, or answer the phone broke my concentration in ways that did not serve me well.  After each interruption it would take me time to reorient myself and get started again.  
So time's up.  I hang my show two days from today, and I feel ready.  I borrowed back two pieces I had sold earlier, and I completed 7 new pieces this past year. 

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