Lessons learned from creating 100 sculptures in 100 days.
Artspace studio artist, Kelly Sheppard Murray, shares with us the insights she gained by challenging herself to create a sculpture a day. Visit her at Artspace in Studio 204.
In December of 2016, I decided to take on a project to push my work and to get back to my roots as a sculptor. I had created a series of tree bark relief-like paintings for all of 2016 but wanted to work with a more immediate process. I thought it would be useful to end the year and begin the next year with a change in both production and process. I decided to try to make a sculpture a day for 1 year. I gave myself an “out” at 100 if it was too much of a hardship on my family or other professional responsibilities but I was determined to make it to at least 100.
On March 23rd, I hit 100 and feel pretty good about heading towards the next 100. I would really like to complete the entire year. This process taught me a few things that are worth sharing. These take-aways may provide a little insight into creative habits or be useful reminders to other creatives at a crossroads with their art practice.
Small habits are the best way to make changes. I began reinvigorating my career four years ago by committing to create for 15 minutes each day. Doing a small daily sculpture seemed like a logical method to reinvigorate my sculpture practice. I was inspired by collections of small artwork consisting of multiples and figured that if I kept making pieces each day, I could then build a large collection for various installations while also building lots of new ideas for bigger pieces.
Finding periods of time to play with little expectation or overarching plan should be a “go to” place regularly (for me at least). This is useful if we are trying to push work into a new territory, trying to generate ideas, or working through a creative slump. I begin each piece without drawings or plans but instead grab materials (wire, wire mesh, wood, and encaustic) and begin to work. The immediate back and forth play with the materials allows me to experiment and find solutions, relying on the experience but mostly responding to materials.
Limiting time to create a work of art can be a useful practice from time to time. By limiting production time, we are forced to make assertive decisions and therefore the little bits of doubt that may creep in from time to time don’t have to time to show up because before you know it you have completed the piece. This practice also forces you to get in the creative mindset more quickly. I used to have my most creative moments during the last 5 minutes I had in the studio and only years later did I realize the urgency to create quickly was liberating.
A daily goal is one thing but expectations from other people, perceived or real, can be a motivator to keep going even when it seems tough. I use social media to add a bit of public accountability. Daily posting on Instagram not only creates a sense of expectation for myself but also creates a network of support. People on social media have been curious and encouraging of this daily sculpture practice. As an artist that worked in isolation for a long time, I want to get my art to people and engage with them. Without an audience, the art doesn’t feel fully realized, so social media and my time in Artspace is a wonderful way to connect.
During my first few weeks of this project, I had to face a few creative fears or demons. I kept thinking that I would have “spent” my good ideas – the phrase “jumping the shark” kept popping into my mind. I got a lot of positive feedback online and at Artspace but somehow I kept thinking at any time, I will have spent my creative wad. After years of teaching and reading on creativity I still had to absorb the idea that creativity builds on itself. This daily practice forced me to face my own issues about creativity. Some days I complete the construction process and feel a bit uncertain about the results, but the final process using encaustic transforms the piece and it suddenly feels finished.
I begin with a bit of uncertainty, no plan but with a desire to make something and to explore. In all likelihood I will get something out of the practice and possibly a piece that will work into my installations. However, I know that if the piece is less than stellar, I get another chance tomorrow.
@kellysheppardmurray_art on Instagram