Attention: Big Thinking Required

Are your days filled with meaningless tasks that leave no room for work that could define your life and career for the best?

Stop Going Through the Motions

Does this sound like your day? You have many responsibilities: driving kids around, making meals, doing laundry, and perhaps a day job.

Or maybe your life is built around interruptions: you respond to email as it comes in, or you drop everything because your child forgot to tell you about something he needed for school.

Many of these chores are out of your control.

©2012 Jackie Garner, Eye of the Beholder. Acrylic on board.
©2012 Jackie Garner, Eye of the Beholder. Acrylic on board, 36 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

Then there are the tasks you wiggle into the small pockets of time you discover: updating Facebook, answering email, or writing a blog post.

I’m getting sleepy just thinking about this. There’s no excitement here! You’re just going through the motions. You’re getting stuff done, but is it the right stuff?

Why You Need to Think Big

When you’re just going through the motions, there’s nothing to look forward to. There’s little reason for a skip in your step or a smile on your lips.

You could spend the next six months working your daily grind or you could shape your future.

You could play it safe or you could challenge yourself and grow as a person and an artist.

You need the motivation that comes with dedicating yourself to a significant project.

Find Your Big Project

Don’t wait for your big project to find you. Make plans now. Take charge!
What’s it going to be?

  • Rent a vacant storefront for an exhibition around the holidays.
  • Collaborate with two other artists on an open studio event.
  • Buy art material that requires you to make larger work.
  • Announce that you will have an e-book on X topic for sale in 5 months. Start writing it!
  • Use crowdfunding at Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to gather support.
  • Lead an art tour of Italy.

What will make you excited to get up in the morning?

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35 thoughts on “Attention: Big Thinking Required”

  1. Hi Alyson. Great to see my elephant painting here. It’s one of the images for my Big Project: I’m writing and illustrating “The Wildlife Artist’s Handbook”, which will be about all aspects of wildlife art. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so now that it’s in progress it’s really motivating and I definitely have that spring in my step. It’s also a steep learning curve, with many benefits I hadn’t originally envisaged. I’d certainly encourage anyone to step up to their Big Project. It isn’t easy to step outside your comfort zone, but the positives far outweigh the scary stuff.

    1. Hi Jacke
      Love your elephant painting and my mum would have adored it too as she was mad about elephants. I’m sure you must be the Jackie Garner who lives down the road from me (I live opposite the Crown Pub at Parkend). I’m just sorry I didn’t manage to get round to your studio during Stroud Valley’s Artspace fortnight.
      Good luck with all your lovely work. It’s inspirational to see someone making a living out of the work they love doing and best of luck with your new book.

    2. Hi Karen,
      Thanks for the comment; I’m very glad you like my painting. My studio’s open by appointment so you’re welcome to come and see the elephant painting (and others) in the flesh. Contact me through my website to arrange a suitable time.

    3. Ellie Giannelli

      I love your elephant! Oh those splendid blues and browns! The texture is marvelous and draws me in immediately. Lovely work. Best of luck with your book project.

    4. Hi Ellie,
      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm for my painting. I loved painting the colours and textures – it was what spoke to me about the elephant so I’m very happy to have passed that on to you too.

  2. This is a great post and came at just the right time for me. I am trying to re-launch my art career and now I realize I wanted to do too many things all at once – TOO inspired?
    Putting all I want to do under a “My Big Project” umbrella suddenly brought everything into focus for me. “My Big Project” is to start an artist’s blog and website by the fall. Now I understand what I really need to be doing in my studio and on-line this summer, despite the many distractions in my life. Thank you Alyson! You are an inspiration and I love your advice.

  3. The big think was my annual review of what my art & my website are about.
    The life bit? a bit of a health scare…but then what can you expect @66??
    The website?? further simplifications & a tad more personalisation…unframed…not exported…no more commissioned art [it relates to the health scare, too much stress]…less emphasis on sales…
    My art? it’s what I do. It’s what I enjoy. It’s what I make. I have a great life. I’m an artist!

  4. With a big project, you will grow. A couple years ago I announced on my website a “painting a day” for 3 months; June to September. Every Sunday I would email my newsletter out with 5 new paintings. (Yes, I took weekends off to triage the house.)
    At the end of the session there were 50 7″ x 11″ watercolors created with 15 sold. The biggest gain was my artistic growth and confidence.
    Go big, make your intentions public. The laundry will wait.

  5. You’re absolutely right – big projects, while tear-out-your-hair-stress-level inducing at times, can really get your motor going and make your other work improve.
    I’m currently helping to get a non-profit printmaking society up and running in Arkansas. It’s a lot of work – and challenging – but it really has helped to amp up all other aspects of my career. I was elected to the position of PR/Marketing on our Executive Council, so I’m having to learn some new things and put into practice some things that I already knew, but that I did on a much smaller scale for my own personal business.
    If anyone is interested, or knows a printmaker in Arkansas, you can find out a little bit more about us at . Or you’re more than welcome to contact me.

  6. My inspirations are first of all fashion and design, so my big project would be to work with a famous fashion designer around a display store. A project like Kusama did with Marc Jacobs! Love that x^__^x

  7. I have two HUGE projects that get me up early every morning and put me to sleep quickly every night:
    1) Offering an intensive 6-wk on-line color course – free webinar is June 13th. Learning all of the technology is mind-boggling some days and then designing the content. I am passionate about teaching artists the color secrets their art teachers never taught them.
    2) Creating 12-15 medium to large paintings for my series “Window Within A Window.” I have 8 completed and I love the intrigue and colors.
    Gardening keeps me grounded – no pun intended! – as well as hiking with my wonder dog and making good food.
    Great challenge Alyson!

  8. Such a good article Alyson and interesting timing. My resolution this year was to finally make time to finish a children’s book I had written and sketched out years ago. It’s funny how fast time goes by and projects so important to us can linger ignored for years. This is “My Big Project” and I have been devoted to it for the past six months. I decided to self-publish using Kickstarter to fund the printing–it is so exciting! I have 19 days to go so please cross your fingers for me and check it out here:
    Good luck to all of you and your special projects! Thanks for all you do Alyson!

  9. My big project this year has been a solo show of embroideries at a new venue. It’s been great to have a big goal to work towards every day to keep my work focused.
    I’ve also been trying to revamp the business side of my art since my life has gone through a ton of changes since the beginning of the year and I need my business to keep up. In line with this goal I have made a long list of large-ish tasks that need to be done. Each week, I pick one or two and focus on doing them to the best of my ability. It was my way of taking my big thinking and breaking it down into manageable chunks that I can tackle each day.

  10. Heather Dakota

    Wow! It’s amazing when the universe speaks to you. I’ve been thinking about leading an art tour or photography workshop in Italy. I don’t know. It’s just an inkling of an idea right now. And here it is listed on your page. Incredible! Thanks for the message!

  11. okay…this was the push i needed!! i have the text completed for my e-book on drawing animal portraits but i’ve pushed off doing the artwork and photographing the images for it for over 6 months now!! i’m going to set a date for completion and goals to help me get it done!! Thanks!!

  12. My big project is one I have taken on in conjunction with the Artist Conspiracy,, completion month in June. Instead of just filling my kiln with the items I normally make that I sell on-line or at shows, I am going to work on developing my dinnerware line that I will offer on a made to order basis. I love making dinnerware but due to limitations in the past on getting my work fired, I have never actively pursued that market outside of my close friends and family. With my new studio and kiln, I now have the ability to control the entire process and I only recently realized that this was a natural step forward for me to make.

  13. I’ve got a project that is going to be epic. It has been in the pipeline for years now, and finally crowd sourcing is the route to make it go global very quickly. I am so excited by it. I have been working on it in my spare time, and can’t wait for the go live date. I need to get it right first time because I could see lots of copycat versions of the idea springing up. You are right of course, you need something to be working towards. Something with a bigger picture.

  14. Hey! The Big Project I’m working on is the Miracle of Mindfulness page and blog, my mindful creations or should I call them collections are in storage and ready to be revealed as I push on this day… Thanks for the good karma!

  15. I feel like I’ve been hibernating and not even taking my own advice about simple, effective marketing online. Even ignoring my fellow Conspiracy members (sorry, I’ll be back soon!). But in the meantime, I’m finishing up a new online course for artists about simple technology, and this summer, what will keep me happy, challenged and smiling all the time is designing my Beach Retreat for Geeks (Beach Geek Retreat Week?) for artists who really don’t wanna be geeks….

  16. permantly sentenced to a wheelchair,thinking BIG is indeed problematic. but the heart,memories and guts can overcome the rigors and lead you to great paths of discovery.follow your plans and grind it out.

  17. Thanks Alyson!
    I have loved reading what you are all working on.
    I’m working on two big photo-based projects this year: Portraits on Portland ( documents a neighbourhood in transition, celebrating the people and places along a 5-block strip of the Old Dartmouth section of Portland Street, Nova Scotia’s first incorporated town. There’s a big push right now to get the portraits finished for the exhibition in September. I used crowdfunding for the first time to raise the money for the exhibition prints and promo materials – what a success! I’ll definitely do that again.
    My second big project is Ribbon to the Future ( I am working on this 2-year project in collaboration with another photographer, Dick Groot. Portraits of people, the architecture and the landscape with recorded conversations will reveal initiatives to create socially and economically sustainable communities in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. Ribbon to the Future will be presented as a dynamic, interactive website in the fall of 2013.
    I have a few other big ideas that are simmering on the very back burner…
    Best of luck to all of you with your big projects.

  18. I’m editing my book on creative block which Will go out to beta readers at the end of this month and which I will initially self-publish as an ebook via amazon, iBooks etc and eventually in print.
    I’m making new art with a reduced colour palette and incorporating found media as well as collage fragments of my own writing and previous works.
    I’m planning a new website with integrated shop and blog; This one’s still incubating but I hope to start on it later in the summer.
    Big enough?

  19. P.S. Good luck with your new plans, Alyson. I’m so grateful for having been able to take part in one of your Art Biz Blast Off groups, I’m still in orbit 🙂

  20. Wonderful post…I am just starting on the 2nd wave of a large painting installation and your post came at a perfect moment. thanks!

  21. Wow, this is so true. I’d been feeling really stuck in a rut with the little things when the chance to work on a big project came in and energized me. It was another teapot that I hadn’t been planning on making, but the first one this year went over well and I was invited to make another for the Fall half of the exhibition. It really sparked my imagination and having a deadline helped a lot too. The big projects this past year have really inspired me while my smaller projects seem to more ebb and flow. It’s really nice to get fully immersed in things sometimes.

  22. Thank you Alyson for another inspiring post and everyone else for sharing their goals.
    I’ve just collapsed into bed after a long day at the office and an evening spent updating Twitter, Facebook and blogs, sending invitations to Private View, emailing collaborators about timber sizes and projector cradles… All those little things that get in the way of the big stuff.
    So tomorrow I’m abandoning all but the most essential things for the exhibition opening next week, which I’ll get finished super-quickly so that I can make a start on one of the biggies. At last.
    Love the elephant Jackie.

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