I can see why you would. Because, hell, just coming up with mine has filled me with enthusiasm for what’s coming up and given me some impetus to get started in advance of the ‘official’ start date of 1 January 2011.
But you’ve never done this before, and you’re nervous and kind of confused about how to go about it. Of course you are, best beloved! And questions – you have oh-so-many questions before you start… let’s deal with some of those first, shall we?
Questions you might – but not necessarily – be asking yourself right now:
Q. Is this for me? Am I ready for this?
A. If you’re drawn to it, then, yes! You’re ready for this! Hooray!
Q. Isn’t this kind of presumptuous? I mean, don’t have to be a Real Artist for this kind of thing?
A. No! I’m not a Real Artist, and I did it. So you can too. You have permission.
Q. If I do this thing, am I committed to it? What if I change my mind later and don’t like what I put in it?
A. Beloved, we’re not inscribing it in stone. It’s a guideline – an idea of what’s calling to you right now. A map of territory you’d like to explore. Tomorrow, next week, next month might be different. If it helps, write DRAFT across the top in big red letters. You can change it. It’s okay.
Q. But, but, but… what if I don’t follow through and do what’s on it? I’m sure that would be A Bad Thing.
A. Not bad, no. You might be disappointed, of course, but then again, you might also find out something useful about yourself, your creative work and where you want to go. Bottom line? If you don’t follow through, it doesn’t matter. The sky will not fall. Really. I promise.
There. Feeling happier now? Of course, if you still have burning questions before you start, feel free to ask them in the comments. I’ll always help if I can.
Now, one more thing before we start. And this is an important thing: you have to do this yourself.
And by that I mean, you have to ask all your goblins, monsters, gremlins, internal critics, voices, and assorted other personages that feed your doubts, worries and fears to go and sit somewhere else while you do this thing. Ask them nicely (because they mostly only want to help) if they would please let you have a little time on your own while you do this. They may argue, but be firm. You don’t need them telling you that this is too audacious, or you will never earn a penny at it, or that you have no talent anyway so why not just go get a real job already. (If you need help with this, here’s a good place to start.) Please also send away well-meaning spouses, children and parents. They don’t know the direction your creative soul wants to go in. Only you do.
Okay. Now you’re alone with just your creative self, you can sit down with some paper and a pencil and get started.
You can answer these with bullet points if you like – or write full essay answers if that’s your thing. Do it in mirror writing, or secret code or pictures if you like. Just make sure that when you come back to look at it later you’ll still know what you meant.
Here we go then. Think about and make notes on each question in turn.
Concept: What is my idea? What am I going to explore?
This could be a theme you want to look at, a technique, a medium, or as with mine, an area of development in your skills. It could be planning for an exhibition or show. It’s about the overall focus of why you’re doing this thing – what are you really interested in?
Influence: Who or what is going to be an inspiration for me?
Inspiration comes in all sorts of guises: specific artists or art styles and movements, cultures, nature, man-made environments, colour, literature and music, specific media… you need to think about what you’ve said above. A few years ago, my influence/inspiration answer here would’ve been simply folklore and faery tale, but for now that’s a given in my work, so my influences are more specific to the area of figurative illustration that I want to work on. You might be casting a wider net at this point. That’s fine.
Techniques: How shall I explore my idea?
Depending on whether you’re looking at exploring a theme, or something else, this could have various answers. If you’re working with a theme, it might include specifics of techniques like oil glazes, polymer clay modelling, or machine embroidery. If you’re looking at skills development, it might be how you’re going to approach improving those skills – life classes? Workshops? Or it might be some keywords that help you get clearer on what you’re aiming for: raw, primitive, unrefined, honest, alla prima.
Development: What constitutes a body of samples? What considerations do I need to apply?
This one will be familiar if you’ve ever had to do planning or designing for a project in advance. It includes things like what constraints are you under? If you’re planning on a particular work or for an exhibition, for example, there may be space or quantity restrictions. If not, you have more freedom to decide how you will explore your idea – and how you will document your explorations, if you choose to. Or maybe, like me, it’s about the process not the outcome so much, in which case, you want to think about how that might work.
Contexts: What are the possible outcomes for my idea?
For an exhibition, this might be pre-determined – so many works of such a size. Or, if things are more open, you might find this difficult to decide right now. That’s okay. It’s fine to just include some rough ideas of where you’re going with this at this stage. You can always refine or change later on.
Evaluation: What are my criteria for judging my success?
Ooo, scary right? But remember, this is about what constitutes success to you, not MOMA, the Art Police, your parents, or that teacher who told you that you weren’t artistic like Millicent. You get to decide.
So how are you going to keep yourself on track? What really matters here? Having shown up to be creative regularly? Having produced a series of work on a theme? Having found a gallery to represent you? Having sold your work for £100k? Only you know what’s important to you as a creative person, and yes, dare I say it, an artist. What will make you feel like you’ve achieved something creatively?
Result: Where do I hope this will lead?
And now you get to imagine the future – hooray! If all this came off beautifully (because of course we hope it will, touch wood, crossed fingers, inshallah and propitiations to all relevant deities) what will be at the end of the rainbow for you? A solo exhibition? A collection of work? A recognisable style? Or simply a regular creative practice? It’s up to you. Cool, huh?
And there you have it – your very own creative development plan that you wrote with your own fair hand, best beloved! I hope it makes you as excited about your future plans as mine does me.
And yes, of course I’d love to read it if you want to share it. Can’t wait!