Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A year of self-imposed challenges

Mini lino blocks by Toni Hartill for #30daychallenge

Every year since about 2013, when I was able to devote more of my time to my arts practice, I have set myself goals for the coming year to help to direct my creative energies. I always have one key goal that is a catch phrase for the year  that I use whenever I get stuck. Usually its as simple as "build new connections", "experiment and explore", or, when I felt like I needed to reign in my desire to trial every possible printmaking technique: "focus and hone."

Leading up to the new year I mull over what I have achieved in the year gone by and consider what change or improvement I want to make to my current practice. What's working for me and what's not.

"Tears of Rangi -Too late" Detail, monoprint, Toni Hartill 2017.

Last year's goal: "Choose then DO!" 

Last year I created some of my biggest works in print, "boldly" going where I hadn't gone before and had works selected for some key exhibitions which was all well and good. I consciously chose what I would commit to for the year and met all of my chosen deadlines BUT I still spent a lot of energy second guessing, dithering, and coming up with lots of ideas of "great" projects that... are still in sketchbook phase - how many of us have a lifetime's worth of work dreamt up in our sketchbooks that we never get around to creating? Is it because we doubt whether it will work? ...because we are short on time? ...would anyone else be interested????? etc... When I flick back through my sketchbook I have enough work to keep a studio of assistants fully employed for several years! ha! if only!

Moth Plant linocut by Toni Hartill
Start as I mean to go on: printing session Jan 1st 2018!

 This year's goal!

All the same ol' chants of "focus", "just do it" and "follow through" came to mind, again. Refining these ideas in my mind I hit upon the catch phrase "Be Prolific!" My plan is that by being prolific I will be driven to banish some of my procrastination demons and hopefully produce some work I am proud of as well as actioning some of my many ideas AND meeting some deadlines.

And yes, "life" will constantly still get in the way. (Tip: Don't be fooled into thinking that when your children grow up that your role as a parent becomes any less important or less time consuming - the goal posts just move, constantly, and get higher!) So, in the midst of renovating our tired old kitchen and supporting our sons through some big life challenges I feel like I need some way that I can take small bites of creativity to keep the momentum going so that when I get a window of opportunity to hit the studio, I'm ready! To be prolific!

A recommendation:


Incidentally, over the summer I read a very helpful book that was just the right thing at the right time: "Creative Strength Training" by Jane Dunnewold. "Prompts, exercises and personal stories for encouraging artistic genius!" Its a practical guide to getting on with being an artist amidst all the other distractions and excuses, including overcoming stumbling blocks, disbanding the committee, the power of giving yourself limitations, learning to make time, mining for content. etc. I found it to be a very helpful guide as I was planning for the year ahead.

Facebook vs Instagram: 

As a result of reading this book I decided I needed to limit distractions! Namely the likes of online distractions, such as Facebook! If there is ever something that can suck up time its opening facebook and being distracted by the news feed full of random news articles, videos and cute animal stories and everyone's wonderful social lives of lunches out and holidays abroad. Less and less do I see posts that inspire my work or are by other artists I follow. So, fine, I have opened an Instagram account. I follow only artists who's work I am inspired by, and no-one that posts pics of their adorable children/holidays/food/pets.... I now use facebook as I might pick up a well-fingered, slightly out of date magazine in a doctor's waiting room - for a quick flick through every now and then. So I'm probably well behind the eight-ball in online gos' and stories but hey ho, life goes on and I am wasting less of my time for it.

So, how do I take small bites of creativity to keep me primed to pounce? I chanced upon a link on Instagram for an online challenge:

#30daysketchbook2018 - Toni Hartill


Starting on the first of January, and provided with daily prompts, any media, any style, no pressure. I could share online if I wanted to... or not. I had an incomplete sketchbook from starting the 100 day challenge last year and I do hate an unfinished book, so why not? Some days were creative bliss of puddling away for an indiscriminate time, other days were quick fire bursts of randomness. I practiced trying not to overthink what I thought I should do, to convince myself it didn't have to be THE best/cleverest/ most profound... image of whatever the prompt suggested (other perfectionists will understand.) 30 days is easy to keep track of: the date of the month is the clue! And its more finite and reachable than 100 days, which, having done at least three 100 day challenges now, they seem to go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r! I have MANY goals I would like to shoot for and so setting myself the challenge of a 30 day challenge every month of the year seems like an achievable way of tackling a few of them.

Lino print experimentation #30daychallenge - Toni Hartill 

30 days of block printing

February is coming to a close today and I have just completed, well 28 days, being February, of block printing. And what a productive and fun challenge this has been - so much so that I will need to continue this in some form for the  next month! So much more to discover! Working on small sample-sized pieces of lino, using up some of my scraps, I have created many, many wee blocks which I have printed in many combinations, exploring colours, patterns, layering effects, ink applications, embossing... Using these small samplers I have then followed through to create mini editions and a small body of work to use for an upcoming deadline PLUS to inform my ideas for working larger towards a couple of bigger projects for later in the year. "Two birds, one stone" and all that.

Lino print experimentation #30daychallenge - Toni Hartill

Lino print experimentation #30daychallenge - Toni Hartill

 So, what will my next challenge be? 

hmmmm.... mulling it over today to decide...

Follow me on Instagram and or facebook 
(I do still share most, but not all, of my posts to fb) if you are interested. 
You can view the images of my challenges on either of these sites and you don't have to be a member as the profiles are public. 

Join me in a challenge if you like, I'd love to have your company!

BTW I'm also aiming to set myself a few "other" challenges for a bit of "life balance" - February was also a month of.... planking!! hehe, started out straining for 10-15 secs... can now do 2 minutes! Pretty boring though, as far as challenges go...