Best little motivation idea EVER!

The credit for this goes to Austin Kleon author of “Steal Like an Artist” and “Show Your Work.” I’ve always been a list maker but I found them cumbersome and I’d not be consistent using they. Lists and this new method are very calming influences on my work life.

artist Avon Waters working on thumbnail sketches for larger artworks

Me in my studio space working on thumbnail sketches for larger works of art.

The Accidental Discovery

My wife often asked “so what did you do today at the studio. ” My memory isn’t the best, especially for mundane things that helped reach larger accomplishments. My answers to her question always seemed simple and lame. She likes to talk. She wants details. If we argue, she wants to beat the dead horse bloody and to a pulp, so me answering, “I started a painting” after 8-12 hours at the studio just wasn’t very satisfying for me knowing she wanted more.

Eye-Opening Exercise

I decided late in the summer of 2018 to track what I did. I knew I was busy and working and not drinking beer or sleeping, but I didn’t know just what I was doing. So I kept a log. I forced myself for two weeks to record when I arrived at work, when I made tea, when I ate lunch, when I did preparatory drawings, when I worked on larger pieces, etc. It was an eye-opening experience because I could see patterns. It forced me to think about what to do next and think about “just how long of a break do I want to really take?”

Before I even knew of the simpler way of tracking activity: I created a daily log of activities for a week so I could explain to my wife “what I did” when she asked what my day was like.

Importance of outside reading

Little did I know these lists would come in handy. I read, but it is always about art, artists, art marketing — always something art related. I came across the work of Austin Kleon and had read is two books on art career and marketing. In one of the books he showed an image of how he kept track  of what he did and how he kept focus on tasks related to writing his book rather than just thinking about it.

I remembered I had made those lists of daily activities for two weeks and dug them out of the pile of papers. From them I created a list of art activities across the top, and the dates of the month down the left side of the page.

I started using this the last week of September 2018 and made a few tweaks to use it in October. Everyday in October I would check off art activities. My goal wasn’t to check off each box daily, nor to see how many I could check. My goal was to look at the list and decide what I wanted to do each day.

This is the first draft of a monthly log of studio art activities. It not only becomes a visual record of what I work on, but when I can’t think of anything I can do, it becomes a prompt. I can usually look at it and find something I feel like doing even when tired.

The list not only became a way of tracking what I did: but in the afternoon when I became tired and not thinking as clearly, the list of activities became a prompt to give me choices of different activities to do to reach my year end goals as an artist.

What I learned

  • be accountable for the hours I spend on art
  • be open minded to new ideas
  • Read, read, read, and then read some more about art, artists, and marketing

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