2016 Goal #1: Experiments in Blue



“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
-Ernest Hemingway

If you know me, you know I love a good goal. Each year around this time, sometimes starting in December, I map out my goals and resolutions for the year. It feels like a fresh start to me, something clean in the messiness of life (and my life feels very messy sometimes).

I have been setting and working toward goals for most of my adult life. In my twenties and early thirties, they were mostly athletic goals (I was a serious swimmer back then). In my late thirties and early forties, they were art & illustration goals — things I wanted to accomplish to find my voice and grow my career. These days (and I turn 48 in a couple of weeks), they are mostly goals around balancing my work with the rest of what motivates me in life. To be fair, much of what I set now are technically “resolutions” — that is, efforts to focus on a particular healthy behavior or daily activity. Goals are typically about end points, not process (though the lines are blurry for me) and most of what I work on these days they are things I want to practice each day to be a better artist or human being — and not specific things I want to accomplish by the end of the year (make XX money, work with XX client, etc.). Ultimately continued happiness & sense of fulfillment in my life are my ultimate goals, and the resolutions are meant to help me toward that end.

This year I have three big goal/resolutions (along with loads of tiny ones, which would bore you and I won’t get into here):

1) More Experiments in Blue (and more on that in a second)

2) Get Messy in my Sketchbook (more on that on Thursday)

3) Stay Grounded (whoa, that’s a big one — more on that a week from today)

Over the next week I am going to write about all three of my goals. Writing about them is partly an exercise in hashing them out in my own mind, getting clear on what I mean by them and why they are important to me. It’s also partly an exercise in accountability — sharing my resolutions and goals motivates me to stick with them.

Today I’m focusing on my first goal, which is to embark on a new year-long project called Experiments in Blue. Those of you who have been following my work for awhile now may remember that this past August I went away for a three-week residency in Hudson, New York, in which I painted and drew almost exclusively in the color blue for the entire residency (you can read more about my experience at the residency here). This experiment was so challenging and yet so intriguing to me that I decided I wanted to embark on a new challenge in the same vein over the course of 2016.

Experiments in Blue will be a weekly challenge. Over the course of the year, I will make one painting each week using mostly the color blue. I will allow myself also to use white and a relatively small amount of black or one other color in each painting. I am also allowed to use plain white or brown paper for some collaging  The paintings can be of any size, and on paper or a wood or canvas panel. This work will personal work — and not work for a client or gallery or illustration project. This is another important part of this year-long project — making time for personal work, something I’ve been struggling with since my illustration career got busy in 2010.

To document the year-long project, I will post a finished painting here on my blog and on Instagram every Monday until the end of 2016. I’ll also make an effort to write about how the process is going gin the context of the rest of my life. Today’s first entry is pictured above. She is 4×4 inch mixed media painting on wood.

I’m experienced at self-imposed year-long challenges, and one thing I have learned from three previous personal yearly challenges (Collection a Day, 2010, 365 Days of Hand Lettering, 2012 and The Reconstructionists, 2013) is that they always lead to very unexpected places. I have no doubt that if I commit to completing one painting a week that what I am doing by December of 2016 will look very different (and hopefully 1000 times more developed) than the painting I posted today. And that’s because discipline and practice are what help us to define, develop & then continually refine our artistic voices.

And this is precisely why I’m embarking on another challenge — I am feeling a tremendous need to push my paintings (and my art practice, in general) to new places, and I find that self-imposed constraints (in this case, painting mostly in blue) are helpful in forcing me to think outside my normal go-to box of tricks, colors and imagery.

Thanks in advance for following along. I could not do what I do without my community!