As many of you will know – last year I turned 50. To celebrate my birthday I created 100 small encaustic works and gave them to 50 cherished family members and friends. One piece they kept as a small token of love and gratitude while the second piece they placed or hid somewhere out in the world for a stranger to find. As the first anniversary of that project is approaching I thought it would be a good time to do a little reflecting and share a few of the important things I learned while doing that project. (To see a short video on the project click here.)
- Don’t over think your projects before starting. When I first got the idea to do this endeavor it was late in August. I quickly jumped into producing the works with the goal of having them completed and out in the world within one month. It wasn’t until I was well into the project that I started to question my sanity. By then I already had so much momentum going and there were other people involved that there was no turning back. Sometimes, if we spend too much time analyzing our ideas we can lose our passion for the idea, forget about it altogether, or talk ourselves out of it when we consider the effort that lies ahead. Sometimes it pays to jump right in!
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone (or surround yourself with others who will do that for you!). While I was working on the 100 encaustic works my husband suggested that we create a short video that would explain a bit about the process as many of the people who would be receiving the art knew nothing about encaustic painting. It seemed like a good idea but I knew nothing about video production and hated being on film. With his encouragement (prodding) we made the video and it was a very fun project to do together and I learned a lot from him along with overcoming a few of my fears.
- Remain open and trusting – you never know in advance what your efforts will lead to. Once we released the “Love and Gratitude” video I started to receive several emails from people asking about the techniques and processes I was using in the video. That initial video then spawned a series of 14 short videos explaining various approaches to working with encaustic. An entirely new project was born out of the initial endeavor. The project also encouraged several other people to try similar projects of their own design. I hope that in the coming months I will have some of their projects to share on this blog.
- Do the opposite of what’s expected (both from yourself and others). While I was contemplating how I wanted to celebrate my birthday friends and family were asking me what I wanted for my birthday. Rather than thinking of what I wanted to receive I focused on what I wanted to give. I also challenged myself to create each piece as a stand alone work rather than a series which was definitely “doing the opposite” for me. When you get your next idea…try doing the opposite.
- Sometimes its great to just give your work away. Contemplate a fun and creative way you could share your gifts with the world. Are you a musician, chef, writer, photographer or artist? How could you give your work away and spread joy – delighting yourself in the process?
- Use your creativity to create community. One of the most rewarding aspects of the project was involving others. First of all the project gave me a wonderful reason to reach out to special people in my life – some of whom I had been negligent in keeping in contact with. I loved how they embraced the project – surprising and delighting me with the time, energy and effort they put into placing their artworks out in the world, sharing their photographs of the special locations where they placed the works and writing about why that location was significant for them. (Many of these stories were shared on my Facebook page.) The pieces travelled far and wide – from coast to coast in Canada – Vancouver to Halifax, across the United States – from California to New York, Chicago to Memphis. The works ended up on a hiking trail in New Zealand, in a temple in Japan, outside the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, nestled in a hotel in Shanghai among many other exciting locations! One piece actually made it into the Louvre in Paris! Hearing inspiring stories from the people who found the works of art and what that random act of kindness meant to them still fills me with joy! I didn’t anticipate how much connecting with complete strangers around the world, celebrating creativity would mean to me. Our creative endeavors continually teach us about ourselves.
- Take time to celebrate your accomplishments and start your next project! I had so much fun doing that first birthday project that I decided it would become an annual tradition. From here on I will use my birthday as an opportunity to create a special art project and share it in the world in some manner. I am currently working on my next project – so stay tuned for the video and description to come next month!
I’d love to hear about the special projects you’re working on or are planning…so don’t be shy! Happy Creating!
To view the 100 works that were created from 2 large text panels click here. The grid shows the original squares which transform into the completed pieces when you hover over them. You can also click on any image to see a larger version.