Archive for January, 2018

Procrastination and Burnout

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Procrastination and Burnout would seem to be at opposite ends of a productivity spectrum, but I’m coming to believe they’re not actually all that far apart.

Inspiration or Burnout?

“Inspiration or Burnout?”

Procrastination – the action of delaying or postponing something.    Procrastination, which is often manifest by replacing one task with another, often unrelated,  activity, is often triggered by fears—of either failure or success, of embarrassment or unwelcome recognition—or by indecisiveness or lack of motivation.  Or perhaps we’ve been sidetracked by demands in other areas of our lives and are finding it difficult to get back into the swing of those things we need (or even want) to return to.

Burnout – physical, mental, or emotional collapse caused by overwork or stress.    Burnout is caused by applying effort without incorporating sufficient downtime.  The phenomenon of burnout can also be brought on by fears—of failure, loss of motivation or opportunity—or by insecurity or losing perspective on our physical, mental, and emotional needs in relation to our efforts.

Both cause a slowdown in our level of productivity.

We all need time occasionally to regroup, evaluate the direction and effectiveness of our efforts, and consider alternative means of accomplishing our goals.  Some of us may need encouragement to overcome indecisiveness or insecurity; others may need help in finding direction or motivation.  Some may need a mentor or encourager to help us overcome various fears that deter us from accomplishing our goals … or to remind us to pay attention to other areas of our lives that may have been neglected.

If our lives are out of balance, as mine often gets over summer travel time or winter holidays, we sometimes swing from procrastination in some areas to over-compensation, which can lead to burnout, either in the same area or in other areas of our lives.

Scheduling can help in overcoming procrastination.  I sometimes set myself imaginary deadlines to complete certain goals.  That technique usually works pretty well, so long as I don’t allow those “deadlines” to float, which defeats the purpose of providing motivation to accomplish those tasks without further delay.

Though habits and schedules can help us use our time efficiently, they can also dig us into ruts that leave little room for variation or innovation, both of which are necessary for creativity.  It’s like following the same set of recipes every day:  Without variations, those favorite and nourishing meals eventually become boring, and we may be unaware of shortchanging ourselves of other important nutrients.

So to combat stagnation or creative burnout in our artistic endeavors, sometimes we artists need to change it up, try a different medium or tool, select a different kind of subject, view a scene from an unusual perspective, limit our palette or change to colors we rarely use.  We may need to experiment with a different size or format.  Or it may be time to put down our own materials and go to an exhibit of other artists’ work to gain perspective and inspiration for our own.

How do you combat your own tendencies toward procrastination or creative burnout?  I welcome your suggestions and feedback.

2018 Watercolor Classes

Monday, January 1st, 2018

A new year marks a good time to take a fresh look at the methods and approach I will be taking in teaching my watercolor classes this year, as well as to redefine my goals for them. I look forward to starting my new 5-session series of beginning watercolor classes next week in both the Verandah and Pelican Preserve communities here in Fort Myers.  I want to give my students more than bragging rights for a “refrigerator magnet” style one-time souvenir.

Instead, I have two goals.  The first is to provide my students with the basic understanding of the medium, technical know-how, and confidence to be able to begin painting in watercolor on their own, from an unlimited choice of subjects, for the rest of their lives.  The second is to instill in them a joy in painting so they want to continue developing their skills and understanding, increasing in both confidence and satisfaction in their ongoing efforts.

"Still Life with Ixora Blossom" by Charlotte Mertz (171207w detail)

“Still Life with Ixora Blossom” by Charlotte Mertz (171207w detail)

As I review my course syllabus, I know the information to be covered in each class session will lay a groundwork upon which any further learning can be based.  But more important than that is the enthusiasm I hope to express as I talk with my students and demonstrate my own joy in painting.  Enthusiasm (or lack of it, unfortunately) is contagious.  So I want my joy to always be apparent both in my own work and in my attitude toward the students and each topic I present, so each group of students bonds into a supportive community, enthusiastic and encouraging toward one another as we learn from both our successes and that inevitable “School of Oops,” from which few of us ever entirely graduate.

Art is one field in which we can never “know it all.”  It’s a wonderful subject for those of us who consider ourselves “lifetime learners,” because it poses a never-ending challenge to exceed whatever our current level of skill and expertise might be.  No matter how innately “talented” we may be even without instruction, or how developed our skills become through extensive education, there is always room to learn more.  But without a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction we will probably feel little impetus to maintain a long-range drive toward excellence.

So that is my primary goal for these beginning classes—not that I necessarily start my students on a road to becoming great artists, but that they feel motivated with an inner sense of pleasure and satisfaction to pursue their budding interest in watercolor painting and carry it as far as they will.

While maintaining an atmosphere of camaraderie and encouragement, my subsequent 5-session series of Continuing and Intermediate classes in both communities will continue to build on the basic skills learned in the Beginning classes.  The Continuing and Intermediate classes will focus more on general artistic principles, which contribute to a sense of perspective and reality.  Although my classes will address how artistic principles can be applied specifically to watercolor work, understanding them can enhance compositional design in any medium.

Will you be joining us as we begin our classes next week?