Hiya! I’m Misty, and three and a half years ago I decided to Make Something Every Day. This is the story of my journey.
Lisa Frank Was Not My Hero
I was a professional drawer and gluer of things even as a child. I started collaging my notebooks in elementary school because I wasn’t into Lisa Frank and my only other options were boring notebooks in primary colors. My mom took me to art classes at the local arts center, which was a BIG deal in 1980s central Arkansas. I remember very specifically being annoyed with the instructor because it was supposed to be a perspective class and he kept passing out construction paper and telling us to “draw what we see.” If only seven year old me had known how to roll her eyes.
I had a fantastic art teacher in middle-school who took me through a well-balanced art curriculum. We surveyed watercolors, acrylics, and large-scale, grid pencil drawings. And those are just the ones I can remember! My mom has several of the pieces I created that year hanging in her house still. That was the year I fell wholeheartedly in love with making marks on paper.
In college, I felt I had to choose a career that would pay my bills. I chose graphic design because that’s art, right? I dutifully tried to love it through a nightmarish stint of working 60-hour weeks at an ad agency. Nothing kills a love of art and joy in the work like working at an advertising agency. Nothing. I had the luxury of being able to switch careers and so I walked away.
At the end of 2012, my youngest had started Kindergarten and I had just finished nine years of full-time parenting. And while that time was wonderful and I was thankful to have the opportunity to do it, I was ready to start a new chapter in my life. Art was calling my name.
The New Year’s resolution that turned into a lifestyle
It started with a book I got for Christmas: Noah Scalin’s “365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!”. As I flipped through the the book, I was particularly captured by the artist’s interviews. I decided to make a New Year’s Resolution for 2013. I would show up every day and make art for 20 minutes to see what might happen. I would take a picture of the results and post it on the internet to keep me accountable. To say I had no idea what I was doing was an understatement. But I’d made a commitment and I followed through. Who actually makes resolutions that they keep? Me, apparently.
What did I make that first year? All kinds of things: Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), even though I didn’t know anyone to trade with so I have a three-ring binder full of them still; postcards (SO MANY POSTCARDS); a travel journal that I carried to Nepal to have a place to record memories and store keepsakes; a granny square afghan that I gave to my mother-in-law for Christmas; a tiny Ganesh shrine made out of a Japanese candy box that I gave to a friend going through a divorce; and other random bits that didn’t turn out to be anything at all.
Friends, I am not kidding when I tell you that some of the things I made in 2013 were bad. Really bad. Cringe-worthy bad. (If you want to cringe too, I have weekly recap posts on my family’s blog at granades.com. Start with the New Year’s link above and work forward.) Some of the work was bad, but I’m ok with it because I kept working. At the end of 2013, I had completed 303 days out of 365. 303 days at a minimum of 20 minutes a day is a little over 100 hours of work for the year. And while 100 hours of work isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, it was 100 more hours of making art than I’d done in 2012. I still feel really good about those numbers. I hold it as a badge of honor for perseverance.
2014: Make Something Every Day. Again?
At the close of 2013, I felt like I had some decisions to make. Should I go for it again? Should I change the scope of the project? If I changed anything, what should the new parameters be? In September of 2013, the worship pastor at my church asked me to create Advent art to hang in the sanctuary for the month leading up to Christmas. Working on four 48×36 inch canvases for a couple of months lit a new fire under me, so for 2014 I decided to use my same guidelines as 2013 with one addition: finish 4-6 larger pieces.
What did I make in 2014? More ATCs and postcards. Their small sizes lend themselves easily to limited time. Crocheted hats, sweaters, blankets, and shawls. I even crocheted at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle just so that I could say I did it! And I finished more than 20 larger pieces of art. I loosely defined “large” as anything that was 8×10 inches or more or was stretched canvas. The most amazing thing was that people started to ask to buy some of the things I made! I sold seven mixed media pieces.
I worked fewer days in 2014–273— but I was working for longer stretches per day: thirty minutes to an hour many of those days. I wish I’d been better at keeping up with the time I spent so that I could point to that increase in time, but looking back over the work I produced, the increase was clearly there. I started to see some themes emerging in my work. I started to feel more confident in the work I was producing. I made the conscious decision to start calling myself an artist when people asked what I did. That was a huge step for me.
“I made the conscious decision to start calling myself an artist.”
Big plans for 2015. Big plans, I say.
OOH! 2015 was looming on the horizon and I was feeling so big and bad! Starting in November 2014, I made a bunch of lists and daydreamed all these plans for projects. I wanted to make hand-bound books! And work on a theme each quarter! And have these monthly questions I answered with art! And have a new art-only blog separate from my family blog! And, and, and…
I can admit in retrospect that it got just a tiny bit out of control.
I giggle a little bit at those big plans now but I refuse to apologize for dreaming. I was practicing setting larger goals for my work and looking for ways to push the boundaries of what I was doing. I set goals for 2015 that I didn’t achieve. I’m ok with that.
“I refuse to apologize for dreaming”
I wanted to go on this crazy bookmaking binge. I set a goal for ten. I made one. Instead I sold twelve paintings, including a giant commissioned piece that consisted of two 24×48 inch canvases. I collaborated with a close friend on a huge canvas that we ended up selling to a women who quite literally jumped up and down and squealed with joy when she saw it in person for the first time. I entered a contest with a mixed media piece. I didn’t win, but I ended up giving the finished work to a college friend who cherishes it.
I began art journaling. I still made ATCs and postcards, but fewer ones than in the previous years. I got on Instagram and started finding community with other artists. I set up a new website and blog for my art.
At the end of 2015, I’d cataloged 290 days of work. Even without hitting the arbitrary milestones I had set up, it was an extraordinary year.
What’s going on in 2016?
I’m still working. Every day. As of this writing, I haven’t missed one day of Make Something Every Day. I’ve finished two commissioned pieces.
I was lucky enough to win a membership to the Get Messy Art Journal website and I’ve enjoyed expanding my work in my art journal and getting to know a fantastic community of artists. I’m working toward a goal of having a show at a local gallery. I’m now spending several hours in the studio instead of a few minutes each day (thanks in part to having had surgery on both of my hands at the end of 2015). So I’m thinking through what I want this part of my life to look like. How to balance the work I enjoy so much with daily life.
What I’ve Learned Over the Past Three and a Half Years
Saying “yes” to a small thing can change your life in a really big way.
I never dreamed that, by committing to 20 minutes a day, I’d be where I am now and getting the opportunities that have come my way. I’ve tried very hard to not bind it up and insist that the process go a certain way. Saying yes and then staying open to what possibilities form out of those small choices has been huge. It’s free form and scary but also completely magical.
I am a maker enabler/encourager.
I want people, specifically women, to find joy in making something. Whether it be arts and crafts, baking, writing, or digging in the dirt in her backyard, I want women to be bold enough to carve out time for themselves to do something that sparks joy and brings refreshment. It doesn’t have to generate profit either. Just spend some time doing something you love. If it makes you a little side cash, awesome! If not, take pleasure in creating a thing and call your day a success.
“Take pleasure in creating a thing and call your day a success”
If you ask me, “Should I start making hand-carved coconut shells with the Stephen King’s face on them?” I’m probably going to tell you yes, yes you should, and encourage you to study up on carving coconut shells and start forwarding you cute pictures of Stephen King writing and Stephen King on walks and Oh My Word! HAVE YOU SEEN HIS CORGI! I LOVE HIS CORGI. You should totally carve the Corgi next. I’ll also start checking in on you periodically to see if you are working at it. Creating a space for women to do something that brings them joy makes us all healthier. I’m all in for crafting a better world through making. See what I did there?
Find a community and participate in it.
Whether it be in person or on the internet, there is a group of likeminded people who love making the same thing you make. This community will have makers on the same path and at all different stages, so you will find both mentors and mentees. Encourage them and learn from them. Show them your best carved coconut. Ooh and ahh over their best work. Ask them what books they are reading about the coconut carving process or if they’ve attended seminars or classes. Save your money and go to the one that looks the most promising and meet other awesome coconut carvers there. Meet people who love your work because that never gets old.
Enjoy an awesome life of making.
No, seriously, every once in awhile I stop and look around and take the time to be thankful for having the space and time to practice this thing I love. It’s hard not to be thankful for something that continues to give me so much.
I’d love to hear about the thing you are already making or the thing you are dreaming about making! Tag me in social media with pictures. I can’t wait to see it!
Misty is a dedicated mark maker who is obsessed with paint, glue, and paper. Her interests range across a variety of arts and crafts such as: modern and contemporary visual art, book binding, crochet, and yarn spinning. When she isn’t in her studio slinging paint or gluing things together, she is busy with her family.