There are times when I get impatient with myself. I always have lots of plans and things that I want to do, and many times I only get a fraction of the things actually finished. If by some chance I do get close to the bottom of my list, I then feel that I didn't set my goals high enough. As you can see, I am kind of setting my self up for a 'no win' situation.
It is hard sometimes to be objective though. Especially when I am dealing with myself. As I look at the Facebook posts of all my creative friends – both woodworking and painting – I see project after project and sometimes feel inadequate and as if I am not 'keeping up'. It is a very destructive mindset.
I always do best when I 'mind my own p's and q's.' When I worry only about what I am doing and not comparing myself to everyone else. Of course it is nice to be inspired by others and see all the wonderful things they are creating, but when it begins to make us feel as if we aren't keeping up or doing enough, it can very quickly turn from inspiration to paralyzing feelings of inadequacies. And that isn't good.
As a teacher, I always preach to my students that we shouldn't compare ourselves to our neighbors, or even to me for that matter. Since I mostly teach things of an artistic nature, I think that it is more important to learn the method that is being taught, and making projects with your own unique flair added in. That is after all what makes something "artistic". Everything shouldn't be done exactly the same as the person's next to us. We each have our own style and flair that we add to our work, and as we learn and become more comfortable with the methods, we tend to meander off the line just a little bit more as our confidence in ourselves grows.
Everyone works at a different pace, as each artist has a different amount of experience, ability and looks at things in a different way. That is what makes creating so exciting. Why then do we find that we need to compare ourselves to those around us? It really isn't being fair to ourselves, and it usually does more damage than good.
The same goes with designing. I need to remind myself sometimes that we all have different goals and abilities in creating our designs. Some may look to make as many new patterns that they can in a given time. Others, like myself, are much slower in the process of teaching a pattern or creating a pattern packet. It is just the nature of the beast.
On Friday I had the goal of having my new "Black Cat Society" pattern ready and on the site by Monday. Surely I would complete it over the entire weekend. But here I sit on Monday morning and it still isn't quite there. I made good progress, but I didn't really reach my goal.
Last night when I realized that I would not finish, I began to feel crummy about myself. I was feeling kind of down and Keith asked me why. I answered that I was kind of depressed because I wanted to be finished with it and I wasn't. He said to me "But you worked on it all weekend." and at that moment it struck me – he was right. (Shhh! Don't tell him I said that!)
I DID work on the pattern all weekend, and I spent a lot of time making it a good one. There is a lot going on in the plaque and I didn't only want to list the colors that I used for the pattern, but also TEACH the process. That takes time.
I spent most of Saturday re-painting the main part of the plaque – the cat. I did this because (as you may remember from reading last week) I wound up changing the cat from the initial painting that I did. I was much happier with the results, but I wanted to be sure that I could re-create the cat in the same manner again and again – and so could my students (the ones who bought the pattern.) I thought it would be best to re-paint it one more time so I could be sure of the process and then relay it to those who purchased the plaque. So I did that and in the process took probably 100 step-by-step photos along the way. Not only does that help me remember the steps as I am writing the instructions, but it gives a visual to those who may be newer to painting and it helps them understand and successfully recreate the design.
Below is an example of some of the steps:
When looking at things in this manner, you can see that it actually does make the process much easier. These are just five of the actual 25 photos for the cat that I will include in the pattern. Ten of those photos will focus on just the eyes, as I understand that the eyes are an integral part of the design.
Is it too much? Perhaps in some people's eyes it is. But for those who are newer to painting and who want to learn something new and expand their painting ability, I don't think it is. I think that they will appreciate these 'lessons' and not only recreate my design, but learn something in the process. That is my goal, anyway.
Over the years I have purchased hundreds, if not thousands of patterns. They range anywhere in length from a photo with a color listing and general instructions to step-by-step guides with lots of photos and explanations. Even though I am what some would consider a 'seasoned' painter, I ALWAYS appreciate the patterns that offer the full explantions and lots of photos. I just feel that I get much more out of them and even if things are done differently than I am used to, it opens me up to new methods and techniques and I learn from them. I want my own patterns to do the same for others.
In the many years that I have been designing, the most common thing I hear from newer painters or woodworkers is "I can't do that – it's too hard". In both instances, I try to explain that while some things may be more complicated than others, if broken down into palatable 'baby steps', anything is possible. Most of the time, when showing the process one small step at a time, it is far less intimidating and doesn't overwhelm even newer students. It is just a matter of looking at things differently.
I need to keep reminding myself that as well. As I look at my long list of things that I want to accomplish, I sometimes get overwhelmed. I need to remember that there are a lot of stopping points between the start and the finish and in the end, it isn't the number of new patterns or things that I accomplish, but the quality of the ones that I do. I need to stop beating myself up for not putting out the same quantity of patterns as some of my fellow designers and know in my heart that the patterns I put out are my very best effort. After all – I think I would feel a lot worse if I had a larger number of patterns that I didn't feel good about. Sometimes I forget that.
So today I will continue working on my "Black Cat Society" pattern. Over the weekend I not only recreated the cat, but I adjusted all the photos for the pattern and re-drew all the line work so it would be accurate and clean. When I looked at the results of what I DID accomplish, I felt pretty good about it.
Today I will be actually writing the process. It will be a somewhat easy task because the photos are all in order and already tell the story. It is as simple as adding words to them and laying them out in a manner that can be easily and logically followed. All in all, I think this will be a good pattern. It will be something that I will be proud to put my name on and I think that no matter what level of painter attempts it, they will be successful. That is the most important thing to me.
I appreciate in all of you indulging me with this. I hope by sharing this story and these thoughts with you, that you can apply them to some of the circumstances in your own life. Is it really important to do as much as those around you appear to be doing? Or are you putting unnecessary stress on yourself to keep up with something or someone that may not even be in the same circumstances as you are? It is something worth thinking about, I believe.
I am going to start this week with a light heart and happy soul. When it all comes down to it, we, ourselves are our own worst critics. We need to learn to treat ourselves with the kindness and consideration that we offer to others. When we do that, we are not only happier, but much more productive in the long run it seems. At least I am.
I am looking forward to a wonderfully productive week ahead. I wish you all one as well.
Happy Monday to you all!
"Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"