October Is For The Birds

“Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. [Creating] is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration.” -Ray Bradbury

I decided to undertake the popular Inktober challenge this year to light a fire under my creative ass, so to speak. It can be easy to back yourself into a creative corner from time to time, and I needed some guidelines to help me get unstuck after a long dryspell.

Spoiler alert: painting every single day is every bit the challenge it promised to be.

 

At the start I did not put a time limit on each day’s little bird painting. That, it turns out, is absolutely crucial for me. I WILL get hyperfixated and I WILL spend 2 hours on the tiny details alone–and that is what you call “overworking a piece”, which is not ideal. So while diving into details is incredibly zen, my goal is to exercise that “finish something and let it go” muscle which is sorely underused. One of the hallmarks of great art is that the artist knows what to include and what to exclude when it comes to details. Much to learn, young hyperfixated grasshopper.

So on day 3 my intentions became:

  • Continue figuring out what a consistent creative practice looks like for me
  • Build confidence in my painting skills through daily practice
  • Challenge myself to share the work regardless of how I perceive it
  • Limit myself to 1.5 hours max for each painting
  • Remind myself that I can’t go from painting a few times a week to painting every day and expect total perfection. Not every piece will be wonderful. Not every piece will be my favorite. Not every piece will be “finished”. And that’s a-o-fucking-kay. That’s not the point for this month. See the points above.

1.5 hours?! Yeah, it sounded absurd. The first three paintings took about 2-3 hours each, which I knew was not sustainable for a month of 31 paintings. An hour and a half would be plenty of time to get the basic shapes, colors, and values in while also giving me a little bit–a LITTLE bit!- of time to consider the key details then put them in. I’d rather have less detail than ruin the piece by overworking it. Anyway, this constraint worked really well to reign myself in a bit. It was also helpful to practice time management because it’s one thing I majorly struggle with in life. So set the timer for 1 hour and off we go, then I get another 30 minutes if I need it (I always need it).

Aware of the difficulties (and knowing how life can easily get in the way of our best-laid plans) I told myself going into this month that even if I didn’t actually complete a painting every day, showing up to try was my main goal.

One thing that helped overall was to remind myself that this month was a chance to put the idea of “failing faster” into action. But shit, failing feels bad! It feels  like a waste of time! But also….it’s necessary. These birds didn’t come out of nowhere–they flew in on the wings of thousands of incomplete, wonky, one-eyed, lop-sided, footless, anatomically challenged birds who flew before them (I mean, if I’d taken the time to draw their wings, which I usually didn’t. So many limped before them is a better way to put it).

In the past I’d allowed defeat take over. If a sketch didn’t match the next to impossible vision I had in my head then all was lost. What a defeating mindset to have. What pressure. I wish I’d been able to learn from those sketches in the moment and muster up the courage to take them further. So, learning from this, here’s a new chance to rewrite those old stories and move forward with more intention and joy in my creative practice.

Well folks, I showed up every damned day, literally through illness and exhaustion and everything in between. Here on the other side, I feel empowered. I’ve never completed this challenge before and honestly did not full expect to this year either. That isn’t supposed to sound as self-defeating as it does–I just don’t ever feel the need to actually finish a whole piece every day. That seems like a fast track to creative burn out–and totally would be if I tried to keep it going year round. I’m not one for hustle culture or “girlbossing” or whatever you want to call it. This project, while it did involve a brief period of time prioritizing painting over most other things in life, served its purpose by reconnecting me with my creativity on my own terms. I chose my project, set the parameters, defined what would be “good enough” to consider this a success, and checked in with myself daily to make sure I was having fun and not frocing anything.

Thanks to these clear intentions, this supportive online community, and a perennial love for birds, here we are one month later with 31 little portraits completed!

 

To say I’m proud of these paintings would be an understatement. Each bird in this collection is a testament to the fact that I prioritized creative wellbeing, worked to break down perfectionism, and showed up for myself—and the birds—every day.

I’m celebrating the end of this project with…yep, more birds! I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks painting commissioned portraits and watching the leaves change (with plenty of cups of spicy ginger, no doubt).

 

Some of these originals are still available in my online shop. I am also offering affordable custom commissions of your favorite bird species through the end of 2023 (and possibly beyond). Place your own custom order through my shop or by emailing me directly at jennjoslinart@gmail.com.

Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and love for these birds this past month. It means the world to me!

 

Onward,

Jenn

 

 

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