Some Things Are Too Good Not To Share

The following question was put to me by a subscriber in response to my previous post:

How many people never complete their projects because unconsciously they have a fear that there won’t be something else to start on, or they don’t have a sense of direction that will propel them towards something and the sadness connected to completing something is hard to feel. How does one push past this to complete and finish projects?     

I thought the question was too good not to share and so, rather than reply to just a single reader, I figured a better option was to put it out there for everyone to consider.  My answer is based on my experiences as a full-time sculptor (obviously).  However, I was pleasantly surprised by the observations I made about my practices as a career-focused artist.

“…a fear that there won’t be something else to start on…”

For me, and perhaps others, this fear can also mask other thoughts…what if the next project is horrible? What if I can’t recreate the success of the previous project?  What if I’ve already done my best work?  My response to this, to use social media as an example, is to un-friend that part of my personality and block the negative self-talk.

Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned that help to move past the fear of there being nothing else:

  • Keep a notebook handy to jot down any ideas that pop into your head while working on your current project
  • Write down every idea.  Don’t let yourself think about whether it’s good or bad, at this point it’s irrelevant.
  • Focus on what you like about what you’re doing.  That can be the process, the medium you’re working with or even the thoughts that it generates.  This type of positive focus leads to enjoyment in the act of creating without a constant focus on completion.
Version 2

A stack of journals from the past years of writing. My idea book includes quotes, poems, project ideas and even quick sketches.

“…don’t have a sense of direction that will propel them towards something…”

Setting goals and identifying the direction we wish to go is intensely personal.  That being said, the old adage of crawl-walk-run holds true for this one.   What does that look like to me?

  • Set a goal, any goal, it doesn’t matter how big or small (although you’d be surprised how achievable the really big stuff can be).
  • Take one small action that moves you toward that goal.  Enough small movements and you end up somewhere else.  Sometimes, it isn’t where you expected to be, but other times you are exactly where you hoped to arrive.

I find it helps to check in on a daily basis with myself.  Where am I at?  Has my path altered or disappeared completely?  If so, why?  Asking why however is only useful if I actually take the time to honestly search for an answer.  Then prepare myself to make changes based on what I find out.

“…the sadness connected to completing something is hard to feel…”

Similar to goal setting, how we respond to completion is unique to the individual.  I don’t know if others have the same experience that I do upon completion.  Maybe they call it something else or identify with it in a different fashion.  Perhaps there are even those people who don’t feel sadness but rather exultation or celebration.  I know people who have multiple projects on the go at any given time, so I expect their experience is dramatically different from mine.

For me, art imitates life, and so loss or sadness seems natural when the driving force behind creating ends along with the finishing of a project.  I would say that what we feel isn’t the point, recognizing that we feel something is.  Then to determine if that emotion works to our advantage or not and alter our process accordingly.

“How does one push past this to complete and finish projects.?”

Just pushing isn’t enough, while it can be effective it is also exhausting.  I find that it helps if you have some tools to push with:

  • Establish solid routines that will help you achieve your goals.  On a bad day trust that those routines will get you where you wish to be.
  • Be ruthless in protecting yourself, from the negativity in ourselves and other negative people.
  • Remind yourself that it’s ok to alter your goals, or change how you are going to achieve them.

I will often negotiate with myself, ‘When I finish this project then I can begin the next one.’  It is because I am so excited about the next idea that I am able to push myself to complete what’s currently on my work bench.  Admittedly an upcoming show often provides the impetus for completion which takes us back to setting goals, particularly ones with deadlines.

I’ll admit it also helps to be more than a little obsessed.  I am a huge proponent of ‘positive obsession’.  How else do we get things done unless we are obsessed about them?

Version 2

I am fascinated by different font styles and will often draw up my favourite quotes on scraps of paper.


The Best Laid Plans

Well, we missed the ferry this morning.  Not missed exactly, because we were there and the ferry was there, but we were four vehicles (and one trailer) short of fitting.  So, rather than spend an hour waiting for the next ferry and knowing we would miss our connector to Vancouver (which would mean another two-hour wait), we decided to leave the ferry line up, return ‘home’ and try again tomorrow.  It actually worked to my advantage, missing the boat (so to speak), because rather than doing computer work during the drive home I can work from the cottage.   Every glance out the window shows soaring fir trees, lacy cedar trees, robins, orioles, woodpeckers, tiny nuthatches, a single hummingbird and the ever present vultures riding the wind currents overhead.  Not too shabby as far as office spaces go.

I’m busy preparing for my show next week, so that means double checking my list(s), adding items, checking off others, and looking at what needs to be done over the next ten days.  Today I get to to be a graphic designer, creating the layout on information cards available for the duration of the show.  Souvenirs, after a fashion, for those who love what they’ve seen and would like to take a small piece of it home with them.

Sanderson-Introduction-BAC show cards

One of three cards I designed for my upcoming show. This one includes an image of ‘Introduction’.

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‘Stay Busy’, Solid Advice

My husband always says ‘Stay busy, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just stay busy’.  He usually pulls this advice out when I’m obsessing over something that I either have no control over or to which I can’t find a solution.  Sometimes he says it before I even know I’ve begun to obsess.  He also likes to tell me ‘When Candace is busy working on a project, any project, she isn’t worrying about all her projects.’

So while my physical body is back in the studio, my brain is in a million different places.  Somehow getting back to the project I left on my workbench has slipped from its previous top priority level.  This is part of the reason why I don’t have multiple projects on the go, I can be easily distracted (another thing my husband likes to say).  Typically, I work on one thing…obsessively, until it’s completed.  If I bounce to something new, I struggle to get back to the ‘other’ project, and so it sits unfinished until a looming deadline pushes it back onto my workbench.

Rather than obsess about not working on ‘the one I left behind’ I am choosing to act on my husband’s suggestion.  Stay busy.  A new project idea is coming to life on my bench with the cue for additional projects of a similar vein getting steadily longer.

What’s on my bench now is a personal farewell to the old, out of use, dock at the Gabriola ferry terminal.  Last summer it was being demolished, this spring…it’s gone.  Along with it, the Cormorants that used to sun themselves and dry their wings have also disappeared.  Now when I want to see them I’ll need to take our little (really little) dinghy around the island to the cliff face that acts as their home.  Until I get that chance, I’ll stay busy focusing my thoughts on the project in front of me and listing additional ideas in my trusty, ever present journal.

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A tribute to the Ferry Terminal Cormorants has lead me to the start of a mixed media project.


Happy Anniversary!

Four years ago this month I made the choice to pursue a lifelong dream.  To sculpt full time, all day, every day.

Since then I have exchanged high heels and designer clothes for work boots and carhartt overalls. Instead of an office I have a studio that smells of cedar.  I used to spend my days with paperwork, emails and official documents.  Now I work with my hands, loud noisy tools or quiet meditative ones like a chisel and mallet.  I’ve left the office life behind and each day I eagerly reach for my face mask and ear protection.  My focus is now on the project that sits on my workbench.

Version 2

‘Reflection’ having the tenon shaped. Once fitted into a pine base it will never be seen again.

Over the years I have filled multiple journals.   Long hand, messy, poor grammar and with total disregard for spelling I scratch down my thoughts.  Sometimes it’s an idea for a new project or maybe a story about my current sculpture that fills the pages.  Other times it’s line after line of introspection about my journey.  Worries put on paper and doubts purged with black ink.  Where self discovery is made on page three.

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What does it mean, to be in-progress?  Isn’t that the Coles Notes of life?  At its most basic aren’t we all ‘in-progress’?  The human condition is one of being eternally in-progress.

So, if we’re always in-progress, do we get to say we’re done?  As an Artist if progression equates to being ‘in-progress’, to then identify a project as finished and uttering those words ‘I’m done’ is a bit of a misnomer.  I have yet to finish a project that has turned out exactly as planned, as envisioned.  The project isn’t done; the project-maker is.

So, does that mean I haven’t been successful and by extension does that make me, or the project, a failure?  Maybe, at some level.  However, I choose to say that I experience successful-failures because I am, after all, ‘in-progress’.  I evaluate what worked, what didn’t and why.  Determine if I want to try again (in part/as a whole) or go on to the next inspiration.  All the while momentum pushes me along to the next project.

I would hope that my skills progress.  I would hope that my understanding of myself progresses.  But the beauty of being ‘in-progress’ is that there is always tomorrow to take things a little further, to dig a little deeper, or push a little harder.

For me progression isn’t about completion and and all the stuff related to being done.  It’s about the physical act of being ‘in-progress’.