Monday, February 21, 2011

Creative Challenges

At different periods in my creative life, I've avoided challenges. I tell myself that a true artist doesn't need outside motivation to produce, which is certainly true. However, the right challenge can be fun, and fun feeds the artistic muse. Playing is really at the heart of making. If it's fun, we'll do anything.

After seven weeks of participation in two different weekly challenges, I've spent my down time this week (illness) reflecting on the rewards of participating in challenges. I thought I'd share some of my insights.

A deadline institutes pressure to keep up. It limits time for procrastinating. It kicks you into movement. Stop over-analyzing that piece and just get it finished!

As David Bayles and Ted Orland say in their quintessential treatise, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmakingquantity is more important than quality. I love the story of the ceramics teacher who offered his students two choices. At the beginning of the year, they could elect to be graded based on the quantity of work, which would be weighed, or on the quality of the work, with just one perfect pot needed for that A. At the end of the year, all the best quality pots belonged to the quantity students.

A weekly challenge clearly supports that idea of quantity. Not all offerings will be great, but the sheer process is really what is needed to get to the next level. Let go of the fear of perfection (the lack of it) and move forward.

Beyond the forward momentum boost, challenges offer creative community. Others are traveling the same path, sharing their insights. A step they take can pop a new idea into your own head and be the beginning of something exciting and rewarding. There's a sense of flow and serendipity that is beneficial.

Challenges can lead to new opportunities. Perhaps a new medium will come to your attention. Perhaps an exhibition will pick up the best of the challenge work. Perhaps a gallery or magazine editor will see your work as a result of increased exposure.

To truly keep the challenge pace, modifications  may be needed. For example, the wrap ring at the top of the page was a deviation for me, due to a need to make something simpler and quicker than the other, more complex, rings also shown. It still fits with my body of work, but it gives me more options. I have loads of new ideas because of that change. I can't wait to try them out another week.

Putting yourself out there can lead to creative growth. Try it!


  1. Um good food for thought. I agree this is changing some of my working ways as well:-) Hope you are feeling better.

    Joy x

  2. Stunning work as always and inspirational too.

  3. Hi Vicki - This is very interesting - I had never thought of it this way. Looks like I need to change my work habits.

    GA-GA-GORGEOUS work!!! COVET! :-)

    Hugs, Christine


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