Saturday, December 15, 2012

In The Weeds

No matter where you are in your career, there are times when you feel like you are "in the weeds". You feel so deep in the undergrowth that you will never be able to hack your way out and see daylight again. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you you are struggling with finding or evolving your style, or getting a handle on a new medium. Maybe you feel stuck with a bunch of creatively dull projects, or worse, no projects at all. Maybe there are things beyond art that are out of your control, like unexpected expenses or demands on your time such as caring for the welfare of a loved one. Whatever the reason, all of us as artists will face times when things look bleak and the way out is unclear. Those are the times when you must, As Dorrie in Finding Nemo suggests, "Just keep swimming". The only sure fire way to fail is to quit. My family has had plenty of challenges this year both financially and health related, but through it all, I have tried to see the daylight beyond the weeds. So when you are facing your own personal jungle, here are a few things to try as you carve a path out:

Do Your Best. Sometimes things just have to get done and "good enough" is a concession that,  is sometimes necessary in order to move ahead. Although compromise may not be ideal, try not to beat yourself up over what might have been on a particular project. Chances are that your client will still be satisfied even if you are not. It's not worth the anxiety spent worrying about something once it is out of your hands. This is a tough one for me and all you perfectionists out there, but learning to chalk something up to experience and focusing on what is next is a healthier way to go. The day you are 100% satisfied with your work is the day you stop growing. If you are like me, you will never "arrive" so it is better to let it be about the journey. I have revisited many "failures" later and determined that they were actually pretty good.

Do Personal Work. I know that this sometimes sounds counterproductive when you are in the middle of a string of hairy deadlines, but try to always have a project that can get your juices flowing. Pick something that you have always wanted to create and make drawings for that idea. Have a little painting on the side that you can noodle on when you need a little break from that mind numbing, overly art directed project that you are in the thick of. Try a new medium or surface just for fun. I promise that the energy you will generate from these personal explorations will spill over into your regular work and make it better. Those personal pieces will also build your portfolio and show your clients what you are capable of and the passion you inject into these works will be evident.

Take Some Time Off. This has always been a tough one for me, since as with doing personal work, it can feel selfish unfinished projects are staring you in the face. I have found that if I let myself, I can ALWAYS be working. This is not good. The deadlines never go away and sometimes they overwhelm. I can drive myself crazy worrying about getting stuff done, so I am learning to just let it go, even if for just a few hours spent with family. The work will still be there tomorrow and with a little down time, you will be better able to focus your energy. Besides, the people you work so hard to provide for need you to actually be there once in a while. Don't forget that. Spend some time connecting with the people you love. Also in your down time, take a moment to connect with your spiritual side, whatever that looks like for you. Pray, meditate, go to church, engage in meaningful service, study scriptures, go for a walk in nature, whatever. I find that this allows me to see the bigger picture of what life is really all about and then when I get back in the studio, I can be more effective and productive.

There are tons of ideas and methods that could be added to this list, but these are the ones that I am thinking about today, the things that are helping bring balance and focus to my life and work at the moment. Keep climbing that mountain- one step at a time!

8 comments:

Jim said...

Greg- great post! These are lessons for everybody. Thanks for taking the time and keep on swimming. Hope things are well.

Jim

Alyssa Scott said...

Greg this is really great advice! Something even students should be reminded of. Thanks!

Kathy said...

Great post and great advice! Need to get a poster of Dory with the "Just keep swimming" quote to have in my art space! :)

Greg Newbold said...

Thanks guys, and may your trips through the "weeds" be mercifully quick.

Mike Blake illustration said...

I would like to say that my "patch of weeds" is in-between jobs, but I have no clients to speak of yet. I am diligent and patient so i know I will succeed eventually, but my hardest problem right now is coming up with viable projects that are portfolio quality and cater to the market...especially when I have only a few individuals to bounce my ideas and the finished illustrations off of. Any suggestions?

Greg Newbold said...

Good question Mike- I have penciled your question in for a future post. Stay tuned- I will address it in the new year.

Mike Blake illustration said...

Thanks Greg! As always I will look forward to your posts.

Coreopsis said...

This sounds like great advice--for more than just artistic endeavors. Best of luck to you in the coming year!