March 16, 2011 | Alyson Stanfield

Commit to Something Big

When there are no big plans on the horizon – no major deadlines – we flounder and may find it easier to procrastinate.

Without something to work toward, we get tangled up in Facebook, Twitter, and other time-wasters.

Carla Gauthier, What We Worship. Watercolor on paper.
Carla Gauthier, What We Worship. Watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 inches. ©The Artist

I'm a firm believer in deadlines for my clients and for myself. I schedule teleseminars and classes without planning every detail because I know the deadline will drive me to completion.

Big ideas motivate us to take action, and each action builds momentum toward a larger goal.

Seth Godin says: Make Big Plans . . . that's the best way to make big things happen. Write down your plans. Share them with trusted colleagues. Seek out team members and accomplices.

We need the focus that these big plans provide.

Your deadline might be:

  • An exhibition. Don't wait for someone to ask! Go out and seek a venue.
  • An open studio. Add it to your calendar and start telling people about it.
  • A sale. What's your slowest time of the year? Select the dates and schedule a sale. Remember, as always, to give your best patrons first viewing.
  • Launch a newsletter. This is a big step for most artists and businesses. You have a better chance of doing the work after you set the deadline.
  • Start a blog. Ditto.
  • Teaching a new class. You don't have to know exactly what each didactic step will be to announce a new class. Pick the subject and 3 key points you'll convey in the lesson and start telling people about it.

It doesn't matter what your “something big” is. Just make the commitment.

I've helped many artists find their something big and find clarity about their direction at our live workshops and I'd love to help you!

53 comments add a comment
  • Deb Stewart

    I have just committed to something big. I will be shipping five of my pastels to the Abend Gallery in Denver for a Pastel Invitational exhibit. I will be included with nine other very well known artists from the Western states. I’m just amazed this has even come about. I was invited by the gallery after one of their artists saw my work on my website. You just never know.

  • WildC

    I’m in total agreement, Alyson! The big thing is not knowing the details of HOW you will realise your big idea but simply that you WILL!

  • Kesha Bruce

    I just committed to producing an ambitious art event, called 6×6, which will present six, back to back, one week only art exhibitions beginning in September in New York City.
    “Don’t wait for someone to ask!” Exactly.
    More artists should take their careers into their own hands.
    Fortune favors the bold.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Nice, Kesha! Are these exhibits of your work, or are you curating work for others?

    • Great move Kesha-is that a solo show of your work?-or are you connecting with other artists? I’ve been a artist with lots of energy towards outside-nobody can sit and wait-that’s not our business…..
      Great and congrats again……

  • Thanks for this Alyson. It seems like somehow I’ve blinked and it’s March. While I’ve been doing newsletters, fb and sending out postcards, and of course painting, I definitely need to define some goals and make some specific plans. There’s always room for improvement.
    And Deb, your work is beautiful, I wish you much luck with your exhibit at Abend.

  • I’m in the process of growing my business! 1) Moving out of my house into a real studio, getting apprentices to help with studio production, buying new jewelry cases for my booth, talking to more stores and galleries, and creating new jewelry designs! Phew! My head is spinning!

  • Abby

    Well, I committed to something big! I am having my first solo exhibit in May and the Pebble Peace Gallery in Doylestown, PA . I’ve only been making art for less than 5 years, so I definitely couldn’t pass this opportunity up.
    The biggest challenge has been that to exhibit at this gallery I was required to make several large scale pieces (at least 30″ X 40″) and I had never made anything nearly so large. But now after about 6 months of hard work the big ones are done (9 of them!) and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned and have grown as an artist in making them!
    If I didn’t have this show deadline pushing me, I *never* would have even attempted pushing myself this way. So I totally agree, while scary at times, committing to something big has been great for me :)

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Abby: That’s great! Just remember to set a new big deadline soon. Those post-exhibit blahs can be debilitating, so I hear.

    • WildC

      Gosh, I thought that was only me, Alyson! I feel reassured! I’ll definitely note down your idea of scheduling another big deadline for a few months after an exhibition…Hopefully I’ll never get this Post-exhib blues again :)

    • Abby

      Thanks Alyson! I didn’t really think about that, but it totally makes sense! I’ll have to look around for my “next big thing’

  • My big idea is to have a space for Original Impulse. I want to host gatherings, salons, workshops to build more community locally. My idea is that I live in an attached apartment – above or behind or something really cool. I’ve had this big idea since at least 2007 and it is getting clearer!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Cynthia: You SO need this! You own both spaces: the creative studio space and the attached apartment. You need a good kitchen, too. You’re too good of a cook to leave that out. ;)

  • K. Henderson

    In the rare moments that I don’t have a deadline, I commit myself to a big, knock your socks off, time consuming painting.A painting that pushes my abilities. Since I make my living with my paintings, I often have to stick with the status quo. I usually have to stop and start on these “masterpieces” fitting them in to the down time but in the end I have something of which to be most proud.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      I love that, K. Is it hard to make yourself do that – not knowing how you’ll show it or where it will find a home?

  • My intention is that, within the next 3-4 years, I’ll be able to pull together a joint Mongolian-American artists show, with venues in both the United States and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
    At this point, I’m working on making the contacts I need in Mongolia. One of my goals for my trip this year (in August/Sept) is to visit some individual artists and their studios. A new, high end (the President and Prime MInister of the country are on the board of directors) gallery opened recently and I plan to check it out.
    Facebook has been critical for this. I found out about the gallery, Tsagaandarium, through a link a Mongol friend posted and I’ve been commenting on the gallery’s posts to get on their radar. I’ve also got a few Mongol artists as FB friends.
    For those of you thinking “Mongolia? Artists?”, here’s one painter’s website. He’s good. Really good. And there are many more who are just as accomplished. Art and artists are valued and respected in Mongolia. Kind of refreshing, actually.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Interesting, Susan! And I love the fact that you’re connecting through FB.

  • nancy asbell

    Last fall I sent a video of myself singing and playing guitar through social media titled “disABLED artist/musician beats the odds” after severe illness from Lupus and being told that I would not be able to sit unaided in a chair much less hold a guitar and sing again. Miracles need to be shared. This project was created after that shared Utube video and here we are. This is the link to my ‘next big project”. Thank you for your part in this and your invaluable encouragement.
    Celebrate the day!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Nancy: I watched one of your videos. That’s wonderful. Good for you for fighting the odds!

  • One show one artist, 4 venues all at the same time.
    May 20 – June 18, 2011
    Pinot & Palette is a celebration of prospering, terroir, and the cross-pollination of two of Oregon’s renowned art forms: painting and winemaking. With works that explore the beauty of the vine and viticulture, the Oregon landscape, and the romance and industry of Oregon’s wine producers, this multi-venue exhibit will be a celebration of the grape and all that we appreciate about life in the Willamette Valley.

  • Boundaries and deadlines are what give us direction and force us to think creatively. Many times lack of time, direction and money can be turned into a positive, mind-blowing experience with boundaries and deadlines.
    Lack of time: I work in a smaller format for quicker completion. I only have time right now to create journal pages. I don’t know where these pages will lead me but I’m having fun creating and exploring. Will they lead to a show or be inspiration for later larger works?
    New Directions: a) I started a Plein Air group in Costa Rica that meets monthly. B) Four diverse artists (2 in USA; 2 of us in Costa Rica) have recently started a “Visual Dialogue”. Works inspired by the previous artist will get mailed back and forth between these two countries. c) This Saturday I will co-host the first in a series of three monthly Yoga+Creativity one-day workshops. The yoga (taught by another person) will prepare the participants for the creativity part (me). There are three different themes.
    Money: I try to use found materials and what I have in my studio before purchasing more. Hopefully the abundance will arrive through teaching workshops, tours, etc.
    Good luck everyone!!!!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Jan: I look forward to hearing how they all merge into one big, future project.

  • Try for the BIG commitment!
    Small is sometimes BIG too! It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
    I proposed an art project that would get the fragmented arts community in my town working together– ideally.

  • Great idea! I’m committing to two “big things” — developing and refining a new body of artwork (long overdue) and developing and marketing a series of workshops and/or one-on-one training sessions for people who have asked how I create my digital art.
    Of course, I’ve also committed to joining Alyson’s Artist Conspiracy , which is quite a challenge in itself and I’m in the process of trying to figure out a system to integrate the lessons, challenges, etc. as a regular part of my life instead of something I do “when I have time”.
    All good stuff!

  • During slower times I recently started to focus on discovering art competitions to submit my artwork to. Just a few days ago one of my pieces got finally selected, and I now will participate in the first San Francisco Spring Open Studios Preview. This is just another way to multiply your chances to exhibit, publish it in art books, or win even some $$. Usually there are a lot competitions out there, so you can chose what subject matched best with your artwork (abstract, flow, figurative,..). Mostly they charge a small submission fee of about $30-$40, but I think it’s worth to try it once in a while.
    In San Francisco for instance:
    Publications in art books (only online, what makes it easier to submit the same piece(s) for several competitions at the same time):
    Only $40 submission fee, and it comes with a cash prize option.
    This one requires to purchase 2 of their published books what might be pretty expensive considering that one book comes down to Euro 80. But that happens only in case you get picked for publication, and it’s an international publication.
    In my opinion such competitions are a great ‘motivation kicker’. And if you won’t get picked at the first one, the second or third might be the winner, who knows?! :)
    Best of success!

  • I committed to something big for 2011: My 100 Faces in 100 Days Project. Today I painted Face #72 — a two-year-old painted from life. I’ve asked for volunteers to come sit for me for about four hours (they don’t need to be still … they just have to show up and talk to me). I’ve had tons of volunteers and they are all enjoying being a part of the project. Each day I put up a blog post starring that day’s sitter. In May, I have my first exhibit of the project and will be inviting my regular collectors and all my faces and their friends.
    This has just been outstanding for me … and the doorbell ringing each day with a new “face” is the kick in the pants I need to paint, paint, paint.

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  • Vanessa

    Can definitely attest to this post. Planning and committing makes the world of a difference to me. Even with small things, like colour mixing within my artwork. I choose a select pallet and plan my execution from here. But of course even on a grander scale this applies. I find without a plan things can become very overwhelming, stressful and then you simply look back and say “where did the time go”, “I haven’t done anything”…
    My big plan this year is to take part in a local art contest.exhibition which has prizes ranging from $100 – $10,000. To keep me motivated and committed and even to plan each step towards making this successful, I’ve been blogging about each step.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Actually, I’m not really encouraging a plan. I’m encouraging the big idea. You figure out the plan later. It’s the big idea that motivates you to develop the plan.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Realizing that I shouldn’t have used the word “plans” in this post!

  • This is one of those ideas that you’d think everyone would acknowledge and utilize. As a teacher I constantly see students that flounder from lack of planning. They don’t know how to prioritize and budget their time. Setting priorities has to be a companion to the big date.

  • Committing to something big and just saying yes is the way to go!!
    Can you get a group of your students to come to a workshop in Tuscany?…I just said yes without hesitation. I am now working out what I will be teaching (We leave on June 26th)
    Would you like to teach a workshop at R&F, Snowfarm, Castlehill?….yes!
    (dates at my website)
    I think it is about turning down (or off )the voice in your head that says you can;t do it and not overthinking.
    And that goes for the studio also
    Thanks for this post

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Lisa: Sounds like you have a terrific year ahead of you!
      For too long I taught myself to automatically say No. Now I’m doing the reverse. I am really trying to be more open to opportunities, though I must ensure they’re a good fit.
      I just turned down a national promotional campaign that wanted blog space from me. It just wasn’t a good fit for this site and my readers would be wondering what the heck I was up to.

  • Beth West

    I’m studying your book, “I’d Rather Be in the Studio” as well as another great book on marketing art. In the process, I’ve developed the goal of refining my vision as an artist and being able to articulate this in writing. This will enable me to give focus to my larger goal of completing 20 – 25 gallery ready works over the next year or two. I know this is not very fast in terms of completing paintings, but I’m also a home teaching mom of 6 and studying painting several times a week with an awesome painter. As impatient as I get with myself, I have to remind myself not to despise a day of small beginnings!

  • Hello Alyson,
    I wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you for the years of encouragement and advice. My inbox if full of Feedblitz emails of things I need to do. I don’t delete them until they are done.
    One thing I have done recently thanks to you is joined facebook and created a fan page (Zartwerks).
    As to committing to something big I started something on my own a month ago. After 2 years working on a major renovation on the house /gallery/ studio and only working on paid commissions my painting stock/inventory had run dangerously low. In January I committed to a solo show at a very large venue in May so something BIG had to be done. So I decided to challenge myself and paint 100 painting in 100 days.
    It was great to read your article on” Something Big” It has encouraged me to push past the half way point and keep pushing towards the finish.

  • I started reading your blog recently and have come back a lot to browse. I absolutely agree with this idea of committing to something big. It’s really how I get mostly everything done. I committed to starting a small art blog this year and to posting once a week. With two small kids I thought I would never be able to make it happen but, I have. Once I realized that people were actually reading, I feel that my commitment is worth it. I haven’t missed a week since January. Next goal might be to post more than once a week!

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  • Lynne Eve Grossman

    Hi Alyson,
    I’ve read and commented on your blog since way before you wrote your book, but I was using a nickname. I’ve recently committed to coming out of the blog closet and connecting my blog to my professional website. Tonight was my first blog post that connects to it and I owe a lot of that gumption to your words of wisdom.
    A few days prior to that big leap for me, I ordered your book and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. Several days before that I attended a wonderful Networking Day at the Women’s Caucus for Art in my area and thought of you. I’m thinking you’d be a great workshop speaker in our Washington, DC area….
    I’ve thanked you many times, but it’s never too often. Although, I’ve worked at my art professionally and full time for the past 7 1/2 yrs, I’ve only recently been able to make the time for those next steps, due to life, not personal motivation. (You should hear how often I quote you or the discussions here to my husband. He knows you as my artbiz coach. :).
    W/ appreciation,
    Lynne Eve Grossman

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Lynne: This is so awesome. Thanks for revealing yourself and for being here – with one name or the other.

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