Monthly Projects: An Attempt to Get Back On the Horse

As of tomorrow, April 1st, I’ll be embarking on a monthly project for the next five months. This is yet another gimmick I’ll be employing in order to become a more prolific artist. My art practice has suffered pretty terribly since October, when I went from part-time to full-time at my job. At the end of a full work day, after I’ve finished making and eating dinner, I often have very little energy or desire left to try to be creative, so I need to set up some external motivation again. My open-ended “make something a day” technique has not been yielding much other than knitted items (mostly because I can do this in front of the TV), which is not really pushing my creative boundaries or inspiring portfolio-worthy work.

So, upon the suggestion of my very smart husband, I collected all of the project ideas that have been relegated to the back burner and wrote them on slips of paper. On the first day of the month I will draw one from a hat, and that is the project I will work on for the next 30 days, ideally completing it by the end of the month. My April project has already been assigned by Uppercase (for Work/Life 3), but May through August will be ruled by fate. After that it will be time to take a break and assess how well this is all going.

Weekly progress will be posted right here on the blog in order to keep me somewhat accountable, but I’d also love to hear feedback from other folks during this time. Are you working on something similar? How do you motivate yourself to keep doing creative work at the end of a long and tiring day? Please share your experiences and thoughts below.

Wish me luck!

Thing-A-Day: Craaazy Eyes!

Last week I was working down at Klutz Books, helping them mock-up advance copies of some of their newest books.  One of them contained a painting of a certain U.S. president, and it was our job to cover up his painted eyes with a set of especially jiggly googley eyes.  Now, I’m not normally a sucker for googley eyes, but for some reason, this combination was hilarious.  Literally everyone who walked into the room laughed out loud when they saw it, so I couldn’t resist taking home a few leftover pairs and experimenting on my own.  My thoroughly scientific conclusions were as follows:

Googley eyes are somewhat amusing/disturbing in any size…

…but they’re even funnier if they’re just a couple of sizes too big…

…or they’re looking in a shifty direction…

…or in two different directions.

Athletes are pretty funny with googley eyes…

…especially when they make intense faces…

…and “rockers” are pretty funny, too…

…but no one is funnier than babies!

Magazine/catalog images courtesy of Sports Illustrated and Knit Picks ©2010.

Thing-A-Day: Birthday Bot

I know I’ve already made a few of these, but there’s something so irresistibly fun about turning gift wrap into its own little work of art.  I made this Birthday Bot for our friend Paul, who is really into robots.  And no, he’s not five, he’s thirty, but this gift was presented at a party with the theme “It’s Your 5th Birthday!” The party included balloon animals (I made a snail hat! awesome!), dinosaur tattoos, and a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey in which everyone missed the donkey’s butt but managed to collectively and blindly create the longest inappropriate fixture I have ever seen at a children’s party.

To make Birthday Bot I wrapped a huge encyclopedia of beers (Paul is a brewer) in mylar wrapping paper, inside out.  The wrapping has a really pretty print on it (from which I cut B.B.’s eyes), but I thought plain silver would be more appropriate for this project.  The mouth was made from Mrs. Grossman’s stickers I had leftover from my first mandala projects, and his arms are made from cut and folded cardstock.  The antenna thing that is holding the CD envelope is one half of a broken tape dispenser I had sitting on my desk.  The “Robotophant” is a sticker from Neon Monster.  Paul also loves Neon Monster.

As it turns out, what Paul loves more than anything is opening presents, so Birthday Bot didn’t last more than 30 seconds after he got to the party.  Happy 5th birthday!

Thing-A-Day: Knitting

Knitting is one of the most relaxing ways I am able to accomplish making a-thing-a-day.  It’s quietly repetitive, which is very meditative for me.  It’s also relatively stress-free, because as long as you follow the pattern (and the pattern is good), you know exactly what your finished piece will look like before you’ve even started.  The potential for failure or unmet expectations is extremely minimal.

If you like to knit, too, you might enjoy some of these patterns that I have used in the past month (free ravelry membership required for some):

“Owls” sweater by Kate Davies.  Free pattern from Needled.

“Sally” fingerless gloves from Getting Purly With It.  $6 pattern available through Ravelry.  I’m wearing these right now as I type!  The awesome brass lion buttons came from my grandma’s old button box.

Greenleaf Baby Hat by Evelyn Uyemura.  Free pattern on her web site.  This one is going to a newborn in Paris!

If You Know Your Work Sucks, You’re Halfway There

Or so I gleaned from this video with Ira Glass, in which he reinforces the old Thomas Edison idea that “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”  Glass’s thesis is that if you know your field, and you have the eye to recognize that your work is not as good as it could be, then what is holding you back from greatness is not your lack of taste, it is lack of practice.  I personally find this notion very reassuring, because lack of practice is something you can easily remedy with something like a Thing-A-Day project.  Acquiring taste, on the other hand (as the judges on Project Runway will tell you) is much more elusive.

p.s. I am still making a thing-a-day, but I have had to revert back to my original rules.

via Craftzine

Thing-A-Day 16: An Effing JOB

Like many creative types these days, I’ve had to get a day job.  It’s not that I’m getting fewer projects, it’s just that fewer of them pay much, if anything.  When faced with the choice, I always go for the well-paying projects first, then fill my remaining time with the projects that pay in web traffic, nebulous future sales/commissions or “cred.”  Unfortunately that’s been most of them lately.  I’m pretty good about not taking on jobs that realistically won’t give me much of either.

My new job isn’t bad.  It’s mostly tech-y admin stuff and it changes on a regular basis so it’s not too boring.  I also really like everyone I work with and I can make ends meet by working only 25 hours a week.  Even though it doesn’t sound like much, 25 hours a week will basically eat up four full work days when you add in lunch and commute time, which doesn’t leave much time for creative projects.  It makes me kind of tired and stressed.  Prepare to see this blog get a little crankier.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re all: “this girl is going to completely reneg on her thing-a-day responsibility!”  I did consider it but no, I will continue to make a thing-a-day. BUT, I might not post it every day and the rules may relax closer to their original incarnation. On days like today when I don’t get home until 10:30, I will probably not make something AND photograph it AND post it AND tweet it.  Sorry, but I need to not make myself crazy.  I have enough doing that for me already.

Today I took photos of my yoka in various poses.  Then I accidentally dropped him and the very tips of two of his toenails broke off.  You can’t really tell but it’s enough to bother me so I made replacement toenails tonight.  That’s my thing.  Whatever.  I’m going to bed.

Thing-A-Day 13: Schnitzels

Ever since I was a wee bairn, I have loved making schnitzels.  No, not that kind of schnitzel (though you all know about my affinity for meat). I’m talking about teeny tiny paper and fabric bits.

For example, one of my favorite projects ever was this Paper-Aid recreation of Van Gogh’s “White Roses.”  I started it in college for an art class, but I didn’t finish it until more than two years later.  This image is pretty much actual size (the finished piece is 4” x 6”).

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may also remember the credit card wreath I created in which every leaf was made up of 7-9 individually cut, punched and wired pieces.  Yesterday I made a pile of little felt schnitzels with a hole punch and scissors.  I’d been gluing them steadily onto an ongoing project (of which I will post progress photos when I’m finished) when A. walked in and exclaimed, “My God!  You’re building a bird literally one feather at a time!”  Bliss.

Your instruction for today is: make some colorful schnitzels.  You don’t have to make them into anything, just create a lovely little pile and revel in it.

Thing-A-Day #12: Show Some Gratitude

Finally managed to print those tanks cards today.  The print areas were so large that they turned out with a little bit of distress but I really like what it adds to the image.  It makes it look more military-industrial complex with a hint of hand-printed propaganda.  Sweet.  (**Update: They’re up in the shop now.)

Today’s instruction: make something that shows gratitude.

Your inspiration for today comes from Jeff Rudell’s ingenious client-getting nutshell book.  Enjoy and be thankful.

Thing-A-Day #11: Wire Armature

Today I made a pair of wings from wire.  They are not attractive on their own but will make a light and flexible base from which to hang some felt feathers.

Your instruction for today, therefore, is to create a form out of wire — either a finished piece or a structure on which to build something else.

Your inspiration for today comes from the book and web site Bent Objects by Terry Border.  One-liners to be sure, but fantastically adorable editorial stuff.

Thing-A-Day 10: Fixer-Upper

Today was a long day.  I attempted to print those Tanks! cards tonight, but the screen burned badly because I apparently didn’t leave enough buffer room around the edge of the image.  The entire top row of tanks didn’t register at all and a couple of the ones on the sides got partially cut off.

While adjusting the image some more, I noticed that the spacing between tanks was off in some places, so I fixed those, too.  I also discovered that my inks print much darker on this new brown bag stock, so tomorrow I’ll pick up a lighter blue ink and re-copy the image.

In the end it was good that the screen was messed up, because it allowed me to fix a number of tiny things that will take these cards from being 99% awesome to 100% awesome.

In light of today’s experience, thing-a-day instruction #10 is: make one or two tiny changes to a good finished project that will make it a great finished project.