I’m never sure how I feel about New Year’s resolutions. While a new year is a great time to look back and then set goals for a fresh start, it can also add a lot of pressure, and there’s nothing fun about starting a new year with the anticipation of failure, which, let’s face it, is the fate of most New Year’s resolutions.
As our own worst critics, we artists definitely don’t need more reasons to feel guilt or shame over what we’re not achieving, which is why I try to be very careful to set achievable artistic goals. I want goals that will build me up and empower me as an artist, and goals that I can own. Something like “sell more art in 2018” is going to rely a lot more on other people than on me, unless I’m willing to buy my own art, or pay others to buy it. (hmmm, not seeing that as a good marketing strategy…)
I’ve already discussed why “paint more” isn’t a good resolution. It’s just too intangible to achieve. If painting more is your goal, add something measurable to it, like “Paint 15 minutes a day,” “4 hours a week,” or “5 paintings a month.” Or whatever you think you can realistically achieve – then reduce it slightly to make your probability of success higher.
Growing as an artist isn’t always about painting more, however. You can set goals that help you grow not just your skill, but your creativity, and these are some of the best goals to set, because they are just darn good fun. Creativity should be fun!
Artistic Goals You Can Set (and achieve) in 2018:
- Learn a new creative skill.
Glass blowing? Pottery? Jewellery making? Hula hooping? Dance? Using your hands and body to get creative in a different way than your chosen discipline can revitalize your creative thinking and open new doors, even if it seems completely unconnected to your “serious” art pursuits.
- View more art – in person.
We have access to a wide variety of artists and art on the internet, but there is nothing like seeing art in person. Make a plan to visit a gallery every month. Even if there’s just one gallery nearby, most galleries change their exhibitions on a monthly basis, so the art will be new every time you visit, and studying art up close and personal will give you insight into other artists’ methods and vision, open your mind to new styles and approaches, and influence your own artistic journey.
- Share your art.
Almost every artist struggles to share their art in some way. Some are too self-conscious about mistakes to show their art to anyone, some paint abundantly but never frame anything (thus it hides in a closet and can’t be displayed) and some dream of going professional but haven’t reached out to a gallery or made goals to show their work. There is great reward in sharing your art with others even though (or maybe because) it feels so vulnerable and risky. Join a painting group, start an Instagram account, or post a painting in my peer group painting page on Facebook. Set a goal to frame a painting a month, or approach 3 galleries by a set date, and then make it happen without procrastinating!
- Fail. Setting goals to create more art means that as you create more paintings, you’ll also ruin more paintings. Recognize that a failed painting is a sign of growth; you were willing to take risks and try new things. If you’re not trying something new, are you really learning? Failed paintings, paintings that aren’t going the way we want them to, mistakes; all of these things force us to adapt our methods, examine what we think we know, and change in meaningful ways, and this is so healthy for the artistic journey!
- Use stuff up.
I just ordered what I think will be a year’s supply of watercolour paper, and I’m am excited about using it. Creatives tend to hoard their best supplies, but paper, paint, brushes – their purpose is to be used! A blank sheet of paper is not fulfilling its purpose, so fill it! Empty paint tubes show that you are creating (I keep mine in an old gumball machine in my studio bathroom, and I love seeing it fill up!), and a worn out brush means you’ve added brush miles to build your painting skills exponentially. Progress is happening when your supplies are being used, and your art is worth it! Make it your goal to use up that item you’ve been “saving,” and get started today.
- Find/Be a mentor.
My local art group is like family to me. After twenty years, I’ve progressed from being mentored to being a mentor. We’ve celebrated each other’s successes, taught each other from our strengths, and shared the common struggles of the artistic life. It feels good to have companions! Whether you are in a position to be a mentor, or looking to be mentored, on both sides we have something to offer each other, and to walk together on the journey is precious. Reach out to someone! I’ve noticed that when I have new students who are also parents or grandparents, they will use their newfound art skills to create with children. This is something that can have a huge impact, so never consider yourself too inexperienced to take on a guiding role!
Creatives see the world as inspiration for their art. Make stilling yourself to SEE one of your artistic goals this year. Use a camera to record, yes, but train yourself to pause before going for the camera, to be present in the moment and capture that mental snapshot before you put a lens between yourself and the world. Your camera can capture the details, yes, but only your heart can see deeper and “feel” the scene, and this adds something essential to our ability to create a painting full of spirit and life.
What are your artistic goals for this year? How are you achieving them?