The best medicine for the mind is to decompress somehow--to do something that takes your mind off the hustle and bustle of the every day and unwind. For me, my mind is constantly running; thinking about things I need to do and tasks I need to complete. If you don't take time to step back and enjoy the little things, your life can pass you by and you'll never really enjoy it.
Usually sometime around February I find myself in a frazzled state--I'm just going through the motions. Shuffling being a full-time art teacher, taking care of two children and doing my best to keep our house in a state that most would call "cluttered." I look forward to the summer months when life is moving slowly. I enjoy my days and home with my children and love our relaxed way of living. Several years ago (perhaps 4 or so), I came across something called the Index-Card-A-Day challenge. It was posted on a blog called Daisy Yellow and I was thoroughly intrigued by it--the idea that you take a flimsy, none-too-impressive index card every day for 61 days and turn it into something magical.
The first year I participated, my cards were nothing special. I was using a very simple creative arsenal of gel pens and watercolors. Much of the card was left plain and as you can see, while they were whimsical, they weren't jaw dropping. I stuck with it for a couple of weeks, but I didn't have any desire to continue for one reason or another. I stopped.
The second year I missed the challenge--life was in the way and I was far too busy.
Last year, I dove in head-first and really embraced the challenge. It was after my second year of teaching high school art and I was inspired, had new ideas, and had spent the year teaching students so many things about different mediums. In a way, teaching art made me more artistic; it's true--the more you do, the more you learn. I was devoted to the challenge. After about a week of making time every morning to create my mixed-media cards, my day was not complete without my card being done for the day. I've often heard that it takes 21 days to start a habit (they used to tell us this back in my basketball days during the hard workouts), but for me, this creative challenge was much more addictive.
By the end of the summer I had my 61 cards and flipping through those cards was magical--and still is.
In about December, I started to look forward to ICAD for the second year in a row. I'd often grab my stack of 61 cards and look through them and evaluate. Some were better than others, but as a whole they were truly a body of work I was proud of, and they ignited my spirit for art and I found my true calling as an artist with extreme media mixing and an abstract realism style.
This past year has been my most evolutionary year as an artist. It has taken me upwards of 10 years to find my own style and embrace it--make it my own, tweak it, and follow the journey it leads me on. Being creative is like the tide coming in at the shore. Sometimes the tide is high and you're creating wonderful pieces of work and the more you do, the more ideas you have. Sometimes, though, you're in a slump and the beach is dry. Ideas are few and far between. These are the hardest times to create, but if you hope to grow, you must persevere.
For me, the most important concepts behind creating every day are recognizing that I have to share my work--I love positive feedback on my work; whether it's a small mixed media piece on an index card or a huge 4' canvas painted in a more refined style. I also don't wait for ideas to come to me--I just start painting, or drawing, or sticking collaged elements down. I know that artwork is like a person--it evolves and changes over time (even if that's just 30 minutes). Sometimes I make work that is muddled and messy and haphazardly done; sometimes it's wonderful work that I can't wait to share. Either way, I enjoy the process, learn from it and continue to create.
If I, a full-time artist and mother of two young children can find the 15 to 30 minutes every day to make something; I challenge you to do the same. I know if you stick with it for just one week--no matter the outcome of every creative session, you'll become more creative and your desire to create will become like mine: a welcome addiction.
If you're looking for inspiration for your work; to motivate or inspire you, please check out the ICAD prompts on the Daisy Yellow blog. Some of them are weird and challenging--which makes creating even more fun.