It’s a new year! Which means a new phrase-of-the-year. Because I’m not very resolved when it comes to resolutions, I come up with one word or phrase designed to inspire me, challenge me, and even nudge me in a new direction. I call it my non-resolution, and I actually devote a LOT of time to choosing it. Last year’s word was Order — which was amazing! I dedicated the year to getting my health, home, and finances in order. I dove into the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, gave away or threw away what seems like half of my belongings, emptied out and sold my 1929 house and moved into a new apartment with a river view.
So the non-resolution phrase-of-the-year for 2018 is . . . 50 Pounds of Art.
The phrase is adapted from a popular anecdote in the book Art and Fear that suggests that focusing on quantity in any pursuit is a way to experiment and learn and will thus lead to quality. Would you rather be asked to make one PERFECT something . . . or 50 POUNDS of it? My idea is to make 50 pounds of art (metaphorically) by making a painting or drawing (literally) every day of the year:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
— from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
This first week of the year I have made a painting each day, and I already feel transformed in the way I think about making art and in my connection to others who I’ve been interacting with about this project. And I’ve already learned so much about my materials and paper and process. I’m learning what I’m drawn to, what I’m good at, what I need to practice, what I can do on this paper or with this type of brush or paint that I can’t do with that one.
That said, I had no clue where to begin when I started on New Year’s Day. I vaguely knew that I wanted to draw/paint something each day but was still trying to come up with a phrase for the year. Then I drew the thing that was in front of me: my Dial Complete hand soap. And so it began.
I posted the image on Facebook and got nice feedback and support, and since I had no plan for what to do next, I made some paintings inspired by my friends’ Facebook photos:
Against my better judgment, I even joined Instagram so I can post there.
I don’t know how it will evolve, so I’m thinking that each week will be a different series. A friend of mine sent me a link to a Library of Congress exhibit on Women Illustrators and Cartoonists, so that might be the focus one week. I’m taking a couple of online art classes those will probably each get a week. Last year I got a new Gelli plate for easy monoprints that I’ve never used, so maybe I’ll spend a week with that.
I’m obviously very suggestible (so please share ideas), and I’d also love some company. Anyone else in for making 50 Pounds of Art this year?