Sunday, November 24, 2013

making things happen

I loved a recent post from one of my art heroes, Elsa Mora. The title of the post is "Making Things Happen," and it's about, well, how a busy artist can make so many things happen the way Elsa does. The steps she names go like this:
  • Think: sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and think about what to make and why. This helps to clarify the mind and gives you focus and purpose.
  • Make a Plan: figure out what the big picture goal is, and break it down into small steps.
  • Start: the hardest part-- do not abandon the project or plan. One foot in front of the other, and begin.
  • Manage your time: try to work in 2 to 3 hours bursts with no interruptions (internet, phone, people) followed by a break.
  • Discipline: set a deadline, hold yourself accountable to finishing the project.
  • Have fun: Elsa believes projects are more likely to get done when it's fun, and a project stops being fun when one step has not been done correctly.
This formula has been incredibly helpful to me as I get back to working on creative projects. Like Elsa, I am very impulsive. Often when I get an idea, I run headlong into trying to make it, leaning heavily on my creative abilities to carry me through and not thinking about a concrete plan. My studio is littered with unfinished projects that seem to hold promise but stopped being fun to work on.

Her post inspired me to work on a large scale papercut for my front window at the studio. It's something I've been thinking about since the springtime, but I was hesitant to start because I know my penchant for starting big projects and then not finishing. I didn't want to let myself down or have some lame bullshit in my window. I followed each step, including the working for 2-3 hours at a stretch. This piece took about 8 hours and it about 3 feet by 3 feet:

The thing I really learned through this process is that I have a tendency to rush through "tedious" details. For instance, I wanted to somehow cheat on cutting the scallop frame properly.  I noticed that I wanted to rush, or get bored with the process, but then I remembered the plan, and that the scallop frame was really important to making the piece pop on the window. That helped me re-focus on it, enjoy it, and do the work so it would look great and not sloppy.

I've started using this technique with every project and I'm hoping it will continue to help me finish great projects. Stay tuned.


  1. Love this, great advice. I tend to start things and then loose my vigor- and rushing is the enemy! I try and remember I have to live with the finished product and I better make it right so I don't want to throw it away when its fired and done and there is nothing I can do to fix it!

  2. Thank YOU for introducing me to the incredible talent that is Elsa Mora! I've been drooling over her art since you mentioned her in a past post. And her expert advice might even encourage me to delve into the Paper Cutting Bible I have 'indefinitely' checked out from the library and actually MAKE something. Sheesh.

  3. Ooooh, a papercutting bible? I'm going to have to check that one out myself!

  4. Sage advice. I often find myself hurrying through things and then not being happy with the end result. I am slowly learning to take my time and realize that the time consuming details are what make the finished product spectacular.

  5. Oops, it's actually the Ultimate PaperCRAFT Bible, but still pretty cool to flip through. Here's a link from Amazon: