"Unless you try to do something beyond what you already have mastered, you will never grow."
This quote is the reason why, every year for the last 4 years I've been challenging myself, before work, every day, to create more. To push myself and see where my creativity can take me.
The same quote, is also the reason why I love challenging you to create more for yourself, more art, more creative connections, more .
Now, more than a month after the end of my February Art Challenge (where I create an artwork a day for the full month of February and I invite other creatives to join me - if you are interested to join me next year, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter here).
After 4 years, I can definitively say, these seven points, are the main learnings about creating an artwork a day, every day for a month. Doesn't matter if you dedicate 10 minutes or 2 hours to the project, but these points seems to be a constant, trough out the years, pandemic or "regular life".
1. Respect Your Creative Time
While creative time is different for each one of us, it's quite unlikely you're going to be creative all day long.
So... when do you feel most inspired?
I’m a morning person, always been and probably I’ll always be...
I’m not the person that wakes up at 5am to make you climb a mountain, I'm the one that wakes up early to enjoy silence and solitude, to be at peace with my own thoughts while you can still sleep in the comfort of the bed. I wake up early, sneak out of bed, make tea and then go play in the studio.
I'm using the word "play" on purpose here. Sometimes I paint, some other times I tidy up, or sit on my stool and think about what I can do with that colour I bought 2 years ago and never used.
Creativity doesn't necessary need to be the act of making something. It can also be connecting with your creative self. You don't have to paint a canvas to be creative, you can just draw on a post-it...
Morning is my creative moment, I wake up with ideas and I bring them around with me until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, then... they leave me.
I know my hands are to be trusted for painting in the morning, because they are guided by ideas, while in the afternoon they get tired and mess happens.
And while I know all the above, and have always respected it moving my days accordingly, for this art challenge I decided to try to push myself. Let's see what happens if I paint live on Instagram in the evening...
Let's just say I'm very happy I've tried it but I doubt it will happen again for me to paint at 8pm. Mornings are my thing.
When is your creative moment? When do you feel most inspired? When do feel ideas coming to you?
That's your creative moment.
Maybe you're a night owl, or maybe you're at your pick after a nice run/walk outside.
Respect your timing, cherish it, protect it, make it become your strength, ideas will flow and your hands will follow.
2. Commitment vs Prompts
Prompts are less important than the actual execution, your commitment is what will make the difference. It's not the group you joined, it's not the email you get every morning into your inbox.
It's your commitment to yourself.
When you sign up for a Creative Challenge (see here why I think it's really helpful for you to sign up for one!), prompts are there to motivate you and to inspire you, but interpretation is all up to you.
Getting daily prompts can keep you committed more than the actual meaning of the prompt itself.
Some people take prompts quite literally, some others use the prompt as a reminder.
Whatever is your way, it's completely fine, prompts should never feel like a blocker for your own creativity or a boundary. A prompt should inspire you, and if it doesn't, then trust that idea you have in your head, because it's the right one! And if the prompt doesn't fit your idea, forget about the prompt.
Prompts can work as a reminder or a suggestion, either way what you'll create will always be more important than the prompt itself.
However your commitment, whether you get prompts or not, is what will keep you creative.
And how do you keep yourself committed?
Read point n. 3
3. Understanding your Why
This is probably the most important point of them all. Understanding why you are committing to create art is the key to keep coming back at it.
As simple as it sounds, it can be a hard task to pin down because as soon as your brain thinks about why you should create are, then it automatically sparks a series of reason why you shouldn't.
You're not good enough, you're not committed enough, you don't have time, you don't have the right tools... and oh... this list goes on and on forever.
The reason why I do create art every day, is different than yours, but I'll tell you why I do it...
When I create art, I truly see myself, I'm in my element, and I channel a physical need. Sometimes it's more about the process and taking the time rather than the actual final piece. Sometimes I just spend my creative moment in the studio mixing colours. It's a connection with who I really am.
And that connection sparks into beautiful and simple artworks, where a gradient functions as a connector between opposites.
It sounds complicated, but it isn't really. You just have to keep asking yourself why.
Why do you paint? Why do you create?
Ask yourself why. And then once you get an answer, ask again why you do that or you feel in a certain wait, and then ask again.
Your Why doesn't need to be complicated. I can also start from the fact you want to create a body of work. But then if you want to stick to it you'll have to ask yourself why you want to create a body of work. Go deeper, and that's where you'll find your Why.
4. Trust the Process and let your hand guide you
Learning to let go of our inner critic is difficult. From Professional Artists to beginners, every artist has to deal with self-criticism. So first of all, you're not alone. I get you.
However, I think that once you know your Why, you should be able to bypass that mental block, and on the other side you'll find the freedom to create. You won't bypass it all the times, but it will definitively help you.
And if you're still figuring out you your Why, how do you get there?
The key here is to understand that some days will be less creative than others. Some days you won't be happy with your colour palette. Some days you won't be happy about that tiny little details that only you can see. And it's ok.
As I mentioned before, you can't be creative all the time. Not at all the hours of the day, not every day of the week, and not even day after day in a month or in a year.
Sometimes the problem is lack of confidence in your skills. If you think you need to take an art class to improve your skills, then go ahead and do it. There are a million of courses out there that will give you the basics and techniques to make your craft better.
The more you practice your craft the less doubts you'll have about it.
Some other times, you'll just have to embrace the fact that a wrong colour is ok, a weird shape is ok. Don't create for perfection or for a sale, just create because you want to. Because your heart tells you to. That's how you'll learn to trust your own process and to the less creative days as a fundamental part of your craft.
5. Take your time + make time
This could probably be an add on to the first point. Finding your creative moment during the day is essential, as well as take the time you need to complete your project.
If you are planning to paint a really big canvas but only have 10 minutes between meetings, well... you know already what I'm going to say :)
It probably won't work.
Keep it small and manageable.
One of the things I find very interesting when talking to people is the fact they say they don't have time to paint. They wish they could do it but they don't have time.
And I don't believe that. If you don't have time, I invite you to look at your priorities.
I get that you're busy - I'm not saying you're not - but we do always make time for what we consider important. At the cost of waking up earlier, at the cost at saying no to other things, at the cost of putting down our phones, or turning Netflix off.
We give our time to what we think is important for our lives. You do have time, but maybe at this moment in your life relaxing in front of a Netflix series is better for you than painting a canvas. And that's absolutely ok. But time and priorities are two different things.
6. There's no falling behind... Just keep going
There will be moments when you're busy/tired/hungry/away... and the last thing you'll want to do is being creative.
Those are the moments where you have to really challenge yourself, because the reward is on the other side of business and tiredness...
And if you don't? It's ok.
You're not a failure, you're not a bad creator (there's no such thing!), you're not bad at your craft.
It is ok. Clear up your head from negative thoughts, forgive yourself for missing a day or two, and get back to what's really important, get back to your commitment with yourself, with your idea of what you want to achieve when you started.
Remind yourself Why you're doing it.
The more you pay attention to the way you breathe the more you can learn how to let go.
Let's be honest, a lot of work and commitment goes into the creation of an artwork a day. Whether you do it for a week, for a month or for a year. And with a lot of work comes also the need for a lot of self care, while positioning your good intentions.
Life will get in the way, you might fall behind, you might feel uninspired. And, as we've seen in the previous point, that's ok. It's all part of the creative process. Nobody can be creative 24/7.
The first thing I tell people when they join the challenge, is to take care of themselves.
Eat well, drink a lot of water, go for a walk. Take care of your body so that you can take care of your mind.
When we feel overwhelmed, we stop breathing, which doesn't help us at all and in fact it generates more anxiety.
So it is very important to take care of yourself and breathe. Let go of your fears, let go of all the negative feelings that are blocking your head and, follow your flow.
You don't have to create a masterpiece, maybe, for today, just a scrabble on a piece of paper will do.