Contemplating Year 10


As July gives way to August, I try to stay focused in the face of the most excruciatingly hot months of an Alabama summer, look forward to the pleasant fall days that always come along to quench them just at the right moment, and remember that nine years ago this month, I was preparing for a September art show-- my very first.  

When I began painting that summer, I was a fresh graduate from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, working as a waitress at a German restaurant, and my mind was full of dreams and post-college concerns.  School had been a defining feature of my life for so very long that I felt lost without it, but also too tired and anxious to go back.  I would give myself a year to work, to rest, to pull myself together, then give graduate school a try.  The life that I was imagining for myself was that of a writer and professor in Germany, so despite being a reclusive, sensitive kid who drew and stared out the window most of the time, what would happen next was not part of my original plan; art managed to completely consume my thoughts and life decisions, constantly reshaping my course for me.

About four years ago, I wrote about how my mother always said that it takes a decade to master something.  Since I wrote that post, I became a full-time artist, opened a shop and studio, painted two large murals along with my usual canvas works, and added myriad events, receptions, galleries, and honors to my CV. . . and here I am, entering my 10th year of making art.


Somehow, I do not feel content to simply let this year come and go as usual.  If it is to be a proper milestone, it ought to be memorable and transformative.  If I am to celebrate a decade at the easel when Summer 2017 rolls around, I owe it to myself and the people who have encouraged my work to make a few new investments in my career.

So here is the plan for Year 10:

1)  Art Lessons-- I am mostly self-taught, but finally feel humble enough to know what I need help with, not to mention mature enough to accept constructive criticism regarding information of which I was simply not aware.  At this point, I have admitted to myself that this is as far as I should go alone.  I am now reaching into uncharted territory and want a guide.  I look forward to working with two artists whom I admire in the near future.

2)  Plein Air Painting-- This is something that I have become interested in during the past three years to the extent that I need to turn it into a habit.  My outdoor paintings tend to be vivid and expressive enough to be positively liberating to my mind, so while I will not venture to spend hours outside in the heat, when cooler temperatures greet me, I will be ready.

3)  The Checklist-- I have a notebook in which I now record all sites where I would like to paint and subjects that spark my interest, and my goal is to be diligent about pursuing these ideas and adding new ones. 

4)  Juried Shows and Competitions-- I occasionally enter these, but I feel the need to pay more attention to them and try to enter a few more.  I would still like my own work even if it never won anything, but I feel that this would keep my skills sharp and generally be a useful career move. 

5)  Health and Wellness-- I had a health scare this year that sucked up about two months out of my life and a lot of money (and I still do not know what hit me). . . it was highly unpleasant, but it reminded me that if I am to have a long career, this might be a good time to re-evaluate my habits.

What do you think?  What does it take to really master a skill or topic?  Naturally, I do not expect to ever have to stop learning or exploring or practicing, but what else might I do to really make this year count?