Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let's Hear It For Non-Resolutions!

By now, many of you have made a resolution or two.  And if you're like me, maybe you've broken one (or two).  For me, the euphoria that comes from the promise of a new year has worn off.  I'm still having fleeting thoughts that this year could be "the best year yet," but those thoughts keep getting over shadowed by anxiety.

When I started my New Year's resolution list, I immediately thought of all the lofty goals I wanted to achieve.  What shows I wanted to get in, how many sales I wanted to make, even what awards I would aspire to receive (right, like we have some control over that!).  I looked over my list.  Then I started to hyperventilate. 

It seems as a society we are so focused on "fixing" ourselves, rather than to believe in being ourselves!  As artists we aren't immune to the social pressures in which we're exposed.  I can't be the only one who finds spending too much time on social media can become stressful.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy for other artists finding success.  I am deeply grateful for the successes I have had in my career thus far and only hope the same for my peers.  Yet, seeing who got into which show, who sold a painting, and who won an award – it's easy to get caught up in what others are doing and start to believe that I need to do all of those things.  Not only is that adding unnecessary stress to my life, but more importantly, it's keeping me from being true to myself as an artist.

So I will ask this question, what if the New Year's non-resolution was to enjoy being ourselves?  An artist's greatest asset may very well be allowing their art to be a mirror of themselves.  You've probably heard the famous Judy Garland quote, "Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else."  I can not think of a better occupation to which this should apply than one in the arts.  Being a first-rate version of yourself should include discovering more about oneself and finding more joy in our daily lives.

I threw away my first resolution list and decided to make a non-resolution list that was fun not forced.  Here's what's on the list (in no particular order):

Prioritize time for daydreaming.
Read more about classic artists and find inspiration in their work.

Make time for warm up exercises.

Experiment with new media and techniques.

Sketch often.
Collect poems that speak to you and imagine them in paint.
Give yourself a plein air challenge when the weather is nice.

Spend time outside observing nature without painting or sketching.  Listen to the sounds, feel the wind and sun, and mentally record colors you see.
It's important to note that I intentionally didn't put anything on this list that made me even the least bit tense.  For example, I could easily have written "Sketch every day," but that felt like it would have been too forced so instead I chose "Sketch often."  That kept the fun not forced rule.  If you love and can't live without sketching every day then including that on your list would be fine.  Fun not forced is the ultimate goal here. 

I'm not suggesting that resolutions are all bad.  And setting goals can certainly be a positive thing.  But 2016 seems like the right time to look inward to find suitable goals, not outward searching for someone else's.  I would be interested to hear if any of you have gone the non-resolution route this year.  What would your 2016 non-resolution list include?