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Katherine D.

Illustrator, Designer, Sloth Whisperer

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Grow Ideas + Make Them Happen

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I've struggled with productivity for ages – throughout college, and even a bit in high school. Not because I was a poor student, but because I've always felt dissatisfied and disappointed with myself and how I've spent my time. And while I wouldn't say I've "fixed" my problem or even really improved all that much, this course did help me to change my thinking about productivity itself.

I really enjoyed what Tanner said about how productivity is the action we take. By taking the first step, just by doing, we are being productive. Maybe this seems like a no-brainer, but it made something in my brain click into place.

When working, I could spend all day sketching, painting, collaging, and making, and I would still go to bed feeling like I hadn't accomplished anything. I suspect it was because, while still doing work, I hadn't actually finished or completed the project. Oftentimes I wouldn't even reach the goal I had set for myself, because I simply hadn't realized that reaching that goal involved so much other work.

Another problem that I think might be even more common in creative people, arose whenever people would say to me, "What've you been up to?" or even "What did you do today?" Maybe they meant it in a kind of "Hey, how's it been going?" kind of way, but oftentimes I'd become defensive. Because I didn't know what I had done with my day. I'd been doing something, right? I'd only watched two episodes on Netflix, and that definitely hadn't taken up my whole day…right?

Case in point, a sketchbook page:

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But I had been doing something. Everyday, actually. 100 Days of Curios, an on-going project which I would post daily to Instagram. Every day I would sit down and make a piece of art from materials I could find around me. I wouldn't start with any real idea of what I wanted to make. There was no agenda. And I usually made them when I was alone and in my studio. I skipped a few days (and felt awful about it), but for the vast majority of days I actually did complete my task. I'm up to day 75, officially 3/4s of the way done and on the home stretch. And I've learned some valuable lessons throughout. So why did I feel like I wasn't doing enough?

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There's probably a whole bucket-load of reasons why, but in taking this class I confronted the main one, which is a classic - I didn't feel like what I was doing mattered.

…or was legitimate, or was art, or was real, or was just too-damn easy. I think under-valuing our work is a problem for artists, perhaps especially female ones. I was still proud of what I was doing, but when asked to respond to the above questions I usually answered with something like, "I'm making, uh, objects, everyday for Instagram". There's nothing there that really conveys the dedication, or the creativity that the process involves. 

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So hearing that "every little bit counts" started me re-thinking how I view my time and work. And when I started exploring what it was that made me happy, I thought of the process of making my Curios. When I make them, it's an exploratory kind of making. It's play. I go from nothing, to a little, teensy idea, into something tangible and real. This process of growing the idea, is the part I enjoy the most – not the conception of an idea, but seeing how it grows, changes, and develops into something that does mean something. When I'm doing that, I feel empowered, fearless, and like anything is possible. That's why my drive (at least at this point) is to grow ideas and make them happen!

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I'm working on refining my habits, and really getting a proper studio environment together, but I've already identified some challenges or aspects that I'll need to be aware of going forward:

  1. I work best when I can relax and be open, without fear of judgement. This usually means working alone, or at least with someone I trust completely.
  2. Getting to a physical product needs to be done fast, and as soon as possible. I was reading some one else's project and I completely agree, once you get it down, you can edit it and refine it. But it needs to exist first.
  3. I need to become a champion of my own work. I'll go on and on about a friend's work, but when it comes to my own work, I need to give it more respect. 

That's all (perhaps the longest thing I've written about my experiences so far). I hope that helped or was at least interesting in some way. If you'd like to check out my 100 Days of Curios project it's here, on Instagram. 

You can also check out my website, or Tumblr where I'll go a bit more indepth into what I've learned doing this project.

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