Sunday, 27 April 2008

SMART working

Working as an artist is tricky – the right brain is creative and emotional while the left brain is logical and practical. Keeping a balance is essential, because without a bit of business/organising savvy, the career of the artist is elusive.

So, if like me, you’re faced with a body of work to complete (without it, I can’t earn any cash…), then a very simple, memorable acronym can help you a lot with your goals….SMART

The acronym SMART has a number of slightly different variations, which can be used to provide a more comprehensive definition for goal setting, so you can tailor it to suit you:

S - specific, significant

M - measurable, meaningful, motivational

A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T - time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

When you are next faced with a project, take a moment to consider whether your goals are SMART goals. Then set it out on paper and pin it to your Dream Board.

Be open to change. Goal posts shift all the time, along with motivation. Face the changes head on, and set new goals to deal with them. Perhaps set a regular appointment with yourself to check your goal setting. Taking 10 minutes once a week would be acceptable for short term goals, and once a month for longer term goals.

If you find it hard to do this by yourself, enroll a friend you can trust to help you keep on track.

Good luck, and watch your success grow with pride.

painting above right : Bridging the Gap (c) 2008 Deborah Eileen Burrow

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Keeping a Dream Board

You may be new to the concept of keeping a Dream Board, but I can tell you its one of the most useful tools to keeping your career and life in focus and in balance.

Basically, it is a visual support for your goals, hopes and dreams. It is a notice board filled with representations - you can use magazine cuttings, drawings, postcards, writings, badges, stickers and anything else that helps you keep your dream in focus. You may have smaller dreams to complete which act as stepping stones to the final vision.

How do you start? Well, the most important thing is to know what your dream is. Spend a few minutes with your eyes closed and picture in your minds eye your perfect working day. Starting with getting out of bed in the morning through to getting back into bed again at night. In just a few minutes you will have a pretty good idea of what to put on your dream board. You will include your ideal home, workspace, job/occupation and the people around you. It should also include positive affirmations, and in the centre should be a photo of you when you are smiling!

I put together a Dream Board 10 years ago where I clearly visualised my desired house, studio, hours of work and the people sharing my life. I had achieved 90 percent of it within 6 years. So yes, it’s a long term dream to bring into focus, but without my dream board I would have lost heart, lost my way and probably sabotaged most of my dream. Each day was a step in the right direction and I was determined to get my heart’s desire! Now of course my dream board has been updated and I’m heading toward more happiness as a visual artist.

You can add things to the board over time. For example, a postcard of a fantastic holiday destination, adverts for successful events, and big ticks and smilies where you have achieved something significant. Everything is personal to you – these boards are not to impress others, or to feel ashamed of. Just keep your dream alive!

The only limitations are those which we set ourselves... :)

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Coping with Bad Creating Days

Thanks to Nicky ( for inspiring my subject this week.

I know you will appreciate what I’m talking about when I tell you of days when the paint won’t work for me and the subject gets lost and the brain is in a state of frustration.

What is the best way to cope with these days where clear flowing creativity eludes us?

Well, here goes:

  1. Step away from the area!! Take 3 deep breaths and go and make a cup of your favourite drink. Relax!
  2. When you are in a state of calm, decide whether you want to go back to the project or take some time out.
  3. If you decide to take time out, remember NOT to beat yourself up because you’ve had a bad session – creating is creating, and there are no mistakes, only experiments. You are still talented and deserve to be an artist. Your contribution is undiminished, even at rest.
  4. If you decide to go back to the project, ask yourself 2 questions. Will you feel better if you carry on with that project, or is it time to move onto something else for now?
  5. Whichever you decide, do the 6 phrase breathing exercise (from my previous blog, “Stopping Before We Work??”).
  6. Next, remind yourself of your basic elements to your art. Are you following these? For example, colour theory, subject matter, personal statements…
  7. If you are trying something new, do you have too many changes happening at once? Do you need to do some research?
  8. Is the light good in your work space, and is the music right? Or do you need to turn it off? Is the room the right temperature?
  9. Now I’m getting you to think about this process, is there anything else to consider?
  10. Finally – keep your mind open to allow flow at all times. Allow yourself an extra break or two today where you get some fresh air.

    Oh yeah, and Nicky reminds me that sharing with a friend always helps to dispell the negative frame of mind :)

To finish I have a small challenge for you!

With your favourite music on, doodle with your 3 primary colour pencils. Remember, this is fun, not a test of your ability! After 5 minutes, swap hands and doodle with your other hand. Carry on for another 5 minutes.

What can you see?

How you feel?

Write it down beside your doodle and pin this up on your notice board.

Thanks for joining me this week, and I wish you fun and happiness in your creating.

It’s what you were born to do :)

Monday, 7 April 2008

Stopping Before We Work??

Most of us probably don't realise that to get 'present' ready to work at our next creative project, we need only take a minute to prepare. When I teach, I spend a minute or so taking my students through a breathing exercise which without fail brings my students to focus and in a relaxed state. Eric Maisel takes this one step further by adding some positive affirmations to the breathing process.
Try the following example - you can use a different phrase if you please whereever you like, except that it should be in the same theme.

Breathe in slowly on the first part of the phrase saying the words in your head. As you breathe out, mentally say the second part of the phrase.
  1. I am completely....stopping
  2. I expect....nothing
  3. I am becoming....a real artist
  4. I resources
  5. I embrace....this moment
  6. I return....with strength
This really works! Try it now! Do this exercise whenever you have a creative task ahead of you. I'm using it as I sit with the canvas in front of me at the start of my time in the studio.

Let the exercise make you stand out from the crowd like the brightly coloured nasturtium above - its really possible...

Keep shiny,

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Seven Ways to Keep Joy in your Creative Life

How many times have we felt so clogged up with worries, negative thoughts and disillusionment? As creative people we are sensitive and often driven by emotional responses to even the smallest thing.
We need to guard against the negative spiral of these blocks to our creativity and treat ourselves like precious objects to keep us strong.
You may read this and dismiss the "psychobabble" as nonsense and a waste of your time. But trust me when I tell you that I teach singing, and one of the most powerful methods I use to get my students to improve their performance, is visualisation of being in their most favourite place in the world when they sing. The results are amazing. So if a small thing like that can make a difference, why not try the Seven Ways...
I found the following in a small book on my shelf called, "Your Psychic Pathway to Joy"by Sonia Choquette PhD :
  1. When you wake up in the morning, give yourself three loving compliments.
  2. Before you go to sleep, think of three good things that happened to you that day.
  3. When you brush your teeth in the morning, look into your eyes and say, "I love you," and mean it.
  4. During the day, pay attention to any subtle energy shifts, and ask your heart for guidance when anything is off balance.
  5. Put a white loving light of protection around yourself every day.
  6. Every three hours think of at least one thing that makes you laugh.
  7. Appreciate yourself for making at least one creative choice a day.
My greyhound, Jaz, knows how to chill - maybe we should take a leaf out of her book!

Happy, relaxing, self protecting time to you :)

sketch above: Jaz 1 (c) 2007 Deborah Eileen Burrow

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Maintaining Creative Mental Energy

Eric Maisel's book is an inspiration and helps you to develop a self-coaching mentality about you as a creative person.
One of his exercises is about maintaining creative mental energy. He tasks you to ask 3 questions of yourself:
  1. What generates mental energy?
  2. What saps mental energy?
  3. What replenishes mental energy?
Because I felt so inspired by this exercise, I will share with you my answers from my journal:
  1. What generates mental energy? For me its a good night's sleep. It's also being inspired by other artists' work. I spend time on the internet every day at the moment and I always see something I really like. I'm also inspired by nature - I look for abstract designs and colour combinations. Reading creative books. Good feedback gives me the energy to continue.
  2. What saps mental energy? Being in demand. Or thinking I'm supposed to be doing something when I really don't want to. Being very tired. Feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Putting pressure on myself. Feeling confused. Overeating. Lack of exercise. Fear. Worrying about something. Distraction. People being wierd. Not being supported.
  3. What replenishes mental energy? Reminding myself that I am talented and deserve to be an artist. That I can make my own destiny. Eating well and getting fresh air. Love. Support. Good feedback. Relaxation. Letting go of niggling voices that are negative. Allowing myself to heal. Resting. Reading. Looking at other's art work. Reading success stories - particularly of un-formally-educated people. Letting things "be". Turning up at the canvas.
Its a fab exercise and I encourage you to try it. Its particularly good when you feel stuck. Knowing what's going on in your head can help you solve the problem.

Good luck with your creativity, and remember that trees start as saplings :)

painting above: Majestic Wood (c) 2008 Deborah Eileen Burrow

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Quotes to Keep You Creative

Here are some of my favourite quotes that keep me sane when I am creating:
  • Beatrix Potter: Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.
  • Buckminster Fuller:There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.
  • Eric Fromm:Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born everyday; to feel a sense of self.
  • Franklin D Roosevelt: Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
  • Pablo Picasso:All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
  • Scott Adams: Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
  • Sharon Welch: Injustice can be eliminated, but human conflicts and natural limitations cannot be removed. The conflicts of social life and the limitations of nature cannot be controlled or transcended. They can, however, be endured and survived. It is possible for there to be a dance with life, a creative response to its intrinsic limits and challenges ...
  • Virginia Woolf:Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.
People who have had a very restricted vision, with hindsight their comments can be used as powerful examples of what can happen if you don't allow creative thoughts to flourish:
  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." --Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
  • "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." --Western Union internal memo, 1876
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" --David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
  • "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." --Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
  • "Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." --Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
People who have had a much more creative, open view of life:
  • "There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes." -- Buckminster Fuller
  • "Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world. Imagination is the highest kite one can fly" -- Lauren Bacall.
  • "Instead of pouring knowledge into people's heads, we need to help them grind a new set of eyeglasses so that we can see the world in a new way." -- J S Brown.
  • The opposite of creativity is cynicism. -- Esa Saarinen
  • "Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created." --Albert Einstein.
  • "Go some distance away because the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony of proportion is rapidly seen." -- Leonardo da Vinci.
  • "Creativity is the ability to see relationships where none exist." -- Thomas Disch
  • "If you can dream it, you can do it." -- Walt Disney.
  • "Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream." -- Malcolm Muggeridge.
Then if that all makes you feel tired and needing a break then the following is for you:

"My contribution is undiminished, even when I need to rest."

Happy Creative Days to you :)