why I enjoy commission work

I find this process satisfying. I find the limitations of client work an engaging and refreshing break from what feels like creating in a vacuum. And a commission can mean that you get to work in a way that you had never thought of before, as when I created a single giant fabric sunprint to be turned into a baby sling for a wonderful friend of mine. 

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redefining artistic success

I was trying to grow something suited for shade in the sun, and sun in the shade. By rearranging my pursuits to fit my actual (newly-discovered) values, my life felt more livable. I could still cram my time to the brim (a bad habit of mine), but the things I pursued didn't really feel like work. It was just what I did.

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the #31daysofimagemaking project

My #31daysofimagemaking project has been quite the challenge. Making myself create a specific kind of thing with specific parameters never felt so hard before. (See, I thought it would be a lot like client work, except in this case, the client was me.) In this case, the daily project was to create a work on paper that featured a beloved line of poetry.

The daily deadline revealed this about my work: I prefer to let things sit and simmer when I'm not sure where they're going next. Many times it's felt as though I haven't quite finished with them, but the day is ending and I have to "call it." The daily deadline means that I need to move really fast—to say goodbye before I felt ready.

The daily deadline also gave me a clearer sense of how much time I actually give myself to make art in a single day (it varies, but it’s limited). During the project, my children were on spring break, which changed the shape of my timeon another level as well (many times, they’d watch me). I re-learned something I already knew: the daily practice happened best if I made it a first priority (even if that felt at odds with the pressures of the laundry piles). 

Before beginning, I imagined that cyanotype would figure prominently in the project. In practice, the length of time required to expose, rinse, and dry a cyanotype meant that it ran up against my limitations of time. I learned that if I insisted on using cyanotype for the whole project I may not actually succeed in making something at the end of each day. So I had to pivot, and found that watercolor, ink, oil pastel, pen, and pencil all became my daily tools.

The biggest surprise for me was how much I disliked the things I made. Why? Because the daily deadline imposed unexpected parameters on my medium. The daily deadline meant to say goodbye before I was ready.

I'm most grateful for the work done weeks prior to the beginning of the project: finding novel sources of poetry, by asking friends, my newsletter readers, and subscribing to a poem a day via e-mail. I know that letting the poetry simmer, re-reading my choices and seeing them new each day helped me to find excerpts that resonated. It also served to reconnect me with my love of written language.

In the end, whatever the #31daysofimagemaking project looks like, it has been a fruitful garden of growth and opportunity.