Oh, November! Internet meme month of get-on-the-stick- and-get-started challenges. Write a novel in a month! Post a drawing a day for 30 days! Draw 30 characters in 30 days! Write, design, and ink a manga comic page every day! Make a masterpiece in November!
We all know that artistic and creative success doesn’t happen in a month (don’t we?). That do accomplish goals, we need a sustainable rate of practice every day of the year. But it’s hard to do, especially in the vacuum of those empty rooms in which we’re supposed to work.
Enter painter and blogger Paul Foxton. Riffing off the book Composition, by Arthur Wesley Dow, and tapping his own knowledge of drawing (Paul is a lovely painter) he created a series of exercises to help build skills, as well as sensitivity to design and artistic ability. Then he created a place called Creative Triggers where folks could find the exercises, and get together to support each other as they work.
Creative Triggers video (Here I’d like to embed Paul’s video, but WordPress won’t let me, so you’ll have to go check it out yourself)
The exercises are well thought out, and he’s built them so that they are bit-size junks that bring you to the next step. I’ve been drawing and painting my entire life, and even so, it’s nice to revisit these basic (and not so basic) exercises in a systematic manner. Plus, it’s been very nice to post to the forums, and later that day get a couple supportive emails from other students (you don’t have to sign up for the emails if you don’t want to).
My favorite exercise has been the most beginning exercise: “breathing lines,” a way of developing your drawing muscle in a quiet and meditative way. I make a page or two at the beginning of every work session; they put my chatty-Cathy monkey mind into a more reflective, deliberate mood. And I do them every night before I go to bed; they are calming, and I can say goodnight to my favorite paints and paint brushes (you know that I’m in love with my #14 sable Rosemary watercolor round.) Of course, sometimes this backfires, and I have to stay up and paint!
On November 1, Roz Stendahl wrote a great blog post exploding the “empty room” notion as she suggested some ways to deal with being creative in “all conditions, whether he or she feels so inclined, isn’t “inspired,” is tired, is stressed, whatever.” I suggest you read it if you’re interested in upping your art (or writing, or stitching, or any kind of practice you might have). Because since life just happens, we have to make sure we get our own stuff done.