Monday, December 4, 2017

Creating a Daily Practice

Creating a Daily Practice
I have done variations on daily practice studies for many years. They have included a variety of approaches – everything from a postcard a day to a blog posting to a set of bound books. This blog will show some of those and list potential ideas about ways to pursue a daily practice.

But first – WHY? Why do a daily practice? It’s not easy to do – 365 days of discipline. I have tried variations, like once a week or a larger problem addressed for a month but it is the daily practice that I come back to and that has the most rewards.

My approach has been to set some guidelines for myself

  • What do I want to accomplish with this practice? Do I want to learn something new or explore something in depth?
  • What format do I want to work in?
  •  How am I going to make it happen each day? Do I need to have a reminder or a time of day that is set aside?
  • How do I motivate myself when other things get in the way or I am just not interested in doing it on a particular day?
  • Thinking through some of this and writing it down for you is a good thing. Because you will probably need to come back and look at that at some point throughout the year to remind yourself why you ever thought this was a good idea!

Examples of my daily practices
The first year I did a daily practice was in 1997-1998. I was still working a corporate job and had little time to do anything outside of working, commuting, and caring for my husband. But I felt the need to try and find a creative outlet. I decided that I could make one small quilt block each night based on something I had observed that day. It would allow me to explore new techniques, be manageable and if I kept a sketchbook of the idea for each day I could catch up on weekends! A plan. And it worked. I didn’t worry about making something big, I didn’t try to do anything particularly difficult, I just did something.  

 I ended up developing a template for a quilt block for the days that I traveled for work so those gave me some breathing room. The rest were based on sketches of something that happened on the day – so I became much more observant about the world around me and it gave me something to think about besides work and other problems. Toward the end of the 365 days, I started looking at the pile of blocks and thinking about what do I DO with them. Eventually, they became A Ring of Days, a strip of blocks for each month, hung on a circular ring like a giant windsock. It hung for a very long time in my home along the open staircase. It is one year of my life that I can say THIS is what happened on March3 or July 8 or…

A Ring of Days

And this is what I learned from that practice. New techniques, the discipline of carrying a sketchbook and paying attention to the world around me. Also that it was the time of me to leave my job as nothing other than the travel templates ever made it into the artwork,  that I really wanted to learn more about surface design, and that I could bury my other problems in the creative challenge.

In 2008 I created A Book of Days, 12 volumes of pages. This time the daily practice served to get me back into the studio after my husband’s death and a year and a half of grief, moving and starting a new life. I set myself some goals again. I wanted to learn how to be more proficient with Photoshop, I wanted to use an unusual format to push my boundaries, I wanted to incorporate wording about the day, I wanted a reason to get into the studio and work even if it was only to do the daily practice. And again, it worked, especially in that once I was in the studio I was drawn to BE in the studio more and more.

 A Book of Days, 12 volumes, 1 month of pages spread in a circle, and 1 individual page.

Other formats that I have used for daily practice include:

  • Postcards – a week’s worth of explorations on one subject.
  • Blog – posting a photo every day along with thoughts about it.  I am finishing up a year of blogging again. The 2017 version was based on the Mindful poem by Mary Oliver so it was even more focused. And this time I both blogged and put it on Facebook.
Postcard samples.

Ideas for Daily Practice variations:
  • Sketchbook – one page a day based on anything you decide is worth pursuing – new surface design techniques, a particular location, and a theme, a shape you love to work with.
  • Reprinting – Overprint daily thoughts or sketches in layers on one piece of paper – what would develop?
  • Use the daily junk mail in small collages
  • Pick a shape and work with it – maybe a different shape each week or month?
  • Pick a tool and work with it for a week or a month
  • Pick an artist and study and/or develop artwork based on what you learn. Maybe a weekly or monthly approach.
  • Choose a textile tradition and work with it for a week, month, year.
  • One long scroll for the year – just keep adding more each day.
  • Note cards, postcards – one a day yields something usable!
  • Do a stitched piece each day or add to a piece each day and end up with monthly projects.

There are lots of ways to explore the concept. The take away is that daily practice improves your artist’s eye, hand, and mind.

Resources and Examples

Below are other examples and writings about Daily Practice that may be helpful.

I hope this article might inspire you to try a daily practice if you have not done so as yet. Or if you do, to post about it on the blog. 

Barbara Schneider

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Traveler and The Maker

Having recently returned from a trip to Japan that was crowded with

the unexpected and the mundane,  I realize there are comparisons to be made between 

being a traveler and a maker.

As travelers, we take only a limited number of personal belongings. We take
the essentials and leave much behind. When we make art, we limit the 
variables. We choose the palette, the cloth, and specific techniques and 
leave other great ideas for the next piece.

When we arrive at our destination, we have a limited structure---a place
to sleep, a map and a plan. We have to contend with the dissonance between
our expectations and the reality of language barriers, alphabet differences,
and unfamiliar social situations as well as less-than-ideal weather. The 
experience draws on the mundane--what we eat, what we see, how we sleep,
and what we notice as well as how we navigate the new landscape.

The limited structure we impose on our project forces us to grapple with
ambiguity, lack of direction, and self doubt. We also have to face the gap
between our vision of the piece and the reality of the completed work.
The work often calls on common-place skills--taking a stitch, cutting or 
dyeing a cloth and pulling a silk screen.

As we explore our port-of-call, we make the effort to embrace the confusion 
that comes with being lost and disoriented. As a result, we are fully
present, engaged in the moment and find our hearts and minds open
to the new and different.

Something similar happens when we make art. We do our best to accept 
the anxiety and self doubt about our ability to create a work that captures
our intended idea. From that acceptance comes a work likely to surprise and 
mystify us. 

Another comparison comes the impermanence of the experience. When 
we travel, we notice so much that is new and wondrous and compelling.
Sometimes we try to hold the sensations with photographs and keepsakes
or drawings and collected artifacts. We use them to cling to the adventure.

When we make art, the creative moment arises from the many directions our 
work can take us. At times, this can be so overwhelming we hold on to all 
our options finding ourselves at a loss to continue.

In both circumstances, we succeed when we recognize the transient
nature of these situations. By definition, being a traveler is a limited event. 
Artists' works are expressions of ideas at a certain time and place with certain
materials that can never be truly reproduced.

Losing our way and finding a new path is part of travel and making. 
Letting go of expectations and allowing the adventure to unfold and 
develop is the beauty of wandering and making art. If we accept the
experiences as fleeting and temporary, we have room to notice the 
change in our perceptions of who we are and the work we create.