5 Things I Learned From Taking A Year Off

Looking back 2017 was a rather interesting year. Cinder Block Studios as both a personal career and as a brand has gone through many changes. The largest of which was my big move into a new studio and living space. It was in late 2016 it was confirmed that I would be buying a place of my own so from the start I knew that I would be taking a break from art shows and market sales for a while, and honestly I’m really glad I did! In previous years I had built to doing about one show ever 5 or 6 weeks, with some overlap with long term exhibitions. It was an incredible high that I rode for a solid two years, but even after those two years started winding down I was starting to feel a little burnt out. I knew that I needed to step back and work on my art, and really think about my process and my products as a whole. I needed time to work on my skills, and not just be in constant promotion mode. So with the move underway by late February of 2017, I focused my energy toward straight production, and rebuilding new work habits in the new studio space.

Very quickly I was able to rediscover how much I really loved to work on new paintings. For much of 2016 and part of 2015, I had painted about half of my new inventory’s work of projects live at various shows. I do really enjoy the live painting experience, however it does involve me traveling with a limited set of colors and brushes, which often leads to some frustrating moments at these events. In addition to the limited tool set, my focus is also half in the painting and half on the show, which often hurts the quality of the work produced. So, having the time and tools I needed for a full year of paintings was such a welcomed relief. Focusing back on my own skill, technique, and style and forcing myself to push the limits of what I had made for myself in previous years was a truly rewarding experience.

Another thing I noticed was that the constant highs and lows I get from art shows are very tiring. It’s really easy to get into a slump of not wanting to work, so without the constant push to those extremes I could more easily created when I wasn’t feeling into it, and create really incredible stuff when I was!

As I mentioned already the need for constant promotion was a nice reprieve, however I would say that art marketing doesn’t stop when you’re not at shows, it merely changes. Rather than in person and one-on-one conversations with patrons, I found that the marketing concepts get broader to encompass a wider online audience. Granted I’ve been promoting my work online for years, but I did find that I was seeking out conversations online that I was used to having in person. In many ways that’s a good thing. It’s important to be able to talk to other artists about your work and theirs in a collaborative fashion. If you remain bottled up in the studio, and don’t take the time to go and talk with artists, then your work can very easily become stale. Filling your head with new ideas CAN be done online, but it shouldn’t be limited to doing so. With online interactions though I was faced with the challenge of bringing that level of interaction, engagement, and curiosity to the artist and fans of my work around the world.

A big change I made was also with my level of organization. Having the extra time on my hands away from shows let me rebuild and reorganize my inventory to make it both easier for me, and easier for others to browse through my art, and my video library. By doing show after show after show, I found that the amount of “new” work I had for each show was very small. For the few shows I did do, however, I was able to collect dozens of new works (and a few old ones) to create a much more compelling presentation. Going forward in 2018 I think it will be important to pick and choose shows in order to keep my production up, my skills sharp, and my joy of the creating process alive and thriving.

So yeah it’s been a busy past year, and I found that more than anything life gets in the way. A lot! So it really is about how much you want it. Art that is. How much do you want to make stuff? If the desire is strong enough you’ll find the time. That thought is actually what made me want to take art more seriously in college. I had less time in college than I did in high school so I had to really plan on when I painted. Now it’s the same challenge over again. Live is busy. My day job, my home, and my day to day needs keep me VERY busy, so when I paint I can escape from those things into new and unique worlds. It’s my hope that this idea of “escapism” is what my art conveys to all of you. We all have stuff we deal with everyday, so why not take at least a few minutes and escape into a fantasy world!

What about you guys? How did you grow in 2017? And what will you plan for this year (2018) to take your work to the next level?