A distant view – daily painting

“A distant view” – watercolor sketch on paper

The cold and flu season has left me a sniffling, coughing, Vicks-laden mess, so I’m trying to not exacerbate the situation by inhaling copious quantities of odorless mineral spirits without a window open for ventilation. (It’s cold outside.) So instead, I’m keeping warm, drinking lots of tea and doing some watercolor studies in preparation for larger paintings, to be completed at a later time. But it still fits within my yearly goals, and I’m content with that.

A word about goals and plans. Many of our art friends are making goal lists this time of year, and I see at least two different types of plans. Some goals are highly specific and detailed, often including numbers of types of works to be drawn or painted, or lists of subjects to be tackled. I think that this can work very well for people who enjoy structure and thrive on that – and you are to be congratulated for having thought through your plans in such detail. And there are others, myself included, who work better with a few broad guidelines and plenty of room for variety. I also find that I produce more when I set my goals low and try to exceed them than when I set them too high and then feel internally nagged to do “too much.”

So whether you’re a wonderfully detailed goal-setter or a ‘big umbrella’ goal setter, I encourage you to be thoughtful about your plans and allow room for the unexpected to happen. You may have intended to work on pen and ink drawing – but then you synchronistically meet a pastellist whose work just blows you away – and who is offering a workshop within driving distance. Sometimes these chance meetings can have extraordinarily wonderful consequences, so leave room in your plans for serendipity, without judging yourself for changing mid-stream.

Fixed forecasts may work in the financial sector but artists need to have room to course correct as the muse moves them. Now, I’m not saying you should “change your major” with every passing whim – that’s a good way to end up going in circles. But do allow yourself the freedom to be inspired by new ideas, and to follow those interests where they lead – even if they weren’t on your radar in January.


  1. Katherine
    January 3, 2008

    A very useful reminder Karen that not everybody is the same – thanks! Most importantly people always need to find the way which works best for them.

    I try to have the best of both worlds by having both a broad strategy – which is allowed to change – and then a detailed list based on that – which I’m allowed to dump if something comes along which ‘just happens’. For me I find I work better if I make the first half of the year a bit more concrete and go with the flow a bit more in the second half. I dumped my planned projects for the last three months in 2007 because I was finding my project a month timetable just too exhausting. This year I get two months per project! However, my inbuilt tendencies for total procrastination need a big kick up the proverbial in the cold, grey, damp days of January – hence the initial detail!

    I shall now return to my mammoth “sort-out/clean up my act” which is clearing the decks for 2008!

  2. Claudia
    January 3, 2008

    Karen, you’re so right! I exactly experienced what you described: in 2007, I made a very detailed art plan just to see that I was way to undisciplined ( better say”creative”) to
    follow it! So this year I will do what comes in my mind, freely and without a bad conscience! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and another wonderful painting!
    All the best for 2008!

  3. Brenda
    January 3, 2008

    Very well said!! Another “flaw” of goal setting is focusing on one area of life and forgetting about all the other hats we wear. A mistake I made in 2007! So, for 2008, I made four goals lists for different areas of my life and also kept each one rather broad. We’ll see how well that methodology works for me!!
    I DO hope you are feeling better soon. Hot tea is my rememdy, too, but if you have a sore throat, hot lemonade is MARVELOUS (and it gives you some additional Vit C)

  4. Rob Burkhard
    January 5, 2008

    I recently found your blog and really enjoy your free and expressive impressionist style. You are so right about goals and setting time aside each day to do something you love. Amazing things have happened to me and my art whenin 2005 I started spending more time consitently creating and much less time wasting infront of the TV and computer.

  5. Karen
    January 5, 2008

    Rob, thanks for your kind comments, I’m glad to meet another fellow artist.
    I spent a whole day today watching demos by artist Tom Fong (recently named one of America’s top 20 wc teachers by American Artist magazine) and he said basically the same thing we’re saying – you have to paint a lot, and often to make progress. It’s only paper – make lots of mistakes, take chances, learn constantly. So I think we’re on the right track.

  6. Karen
    January 5, 2008

    Brenda, breadth seems like a good solution so we don’t get cramped by our own best laid plans. An old friend of mine was fond of saying “you can’t see around life’s corners” and that was wise advice. Sometimes we can stay “on plan” but sometimes life brings us new and better opportunities than we had planned, so we need to flow with it – a good analogy for painting I think.

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