Personal projects are a great, organized way to develop and deploy my skills. They helped to build up a portfolio I could later present for work opportunities, as well as demonstrate style and subject matter that define me as an artist. Here are a few tips on how to create a personal project and follow through.
Focus on a Skill or Technique
Subject is important, but for the developing artist, you’ll want to stretch yourself beyond the familiar. So, while it is helpful that your personal project has a subject you care about to keep you motivated and inspired, it can also benefit you to exercise skills or techniques you hope to get better at.
If you have a fondness for rendering succulents and flowers, try creating a set which uses only watercolor, or detailed crosshatching, or geometric vector art, or that uses highly saturated colors. Creating multiple pieces featuring a specific technique or skill will help to strengthen that creative muscle and expand your skillset.
Set the Scope of Your Project
Personal projects can be private projects, but putting your work out there can help build your confidence as an artist. If you decide to make the project public, choose a dedicated platform to share the works. You can also decide whether to publish as you finish each piece, on a schedule, or when the whole project is complete.
Set a deadline but make sure it’s a reasonable timeframe or it will backfire. It can be discouraging for a project to take much longer than you anticipated, so give yourself the time and space to succeed—remember, it’s a personal project! Don’t forget to factor in any extra studying and research you’ll need to do before you even start creating.
Decide how many pieces you want to create for this project. Again, be reasonable. Stretch yourself but don’t stretch yourself thin. You may want to create 100 pieces in 30 days, but if your track record is closer to 5 pieces a week, choose a goal closer to your proven abilities. 30 pieces in 30 days will see you creating only 2 more pieces a week than you usually would, which is far more doable.
All these and more provide a scope for your project that will help you be disciplined and stay accountable. Just because a project is personal doesn’t mean it can’t also be professional.
Keep a To-Do List
Projects tend to have a lot of moving parts so it’s important to keep a running to-do list. Be as detailed as possible and make a list item for big and small steps.
Brainstorming, drafting, sketching, inking, scanning or taking a photo of the piece, editing the digital version, adding your signature or watermark, saving it at the proper size and in the proper format, saving multiple versions, uploading, adding descriptions and tags—and doing all that for each and every piece.
I’ve had to-do lists run upwards of 50 items. I grouped items by similar task and decided how many items I would tackle each day depending on how easy or difficult they would be. And as the project progressed I would add any tasks that came up.
The scope of a project may seem overwhelming at first but when you break it down, you will stay organized, on track, and motivated.
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