Project Friday: Working With Project Boundaries To Stretch Creatively

October 16, 2015

150303_15_PeopleOrFigureCRBRLeft: A page from my 2015 fake journal. I had hoped that every page would be filled with a gouache painting like this one. But that wasn't quite what happened. Read today's post to see what did happen, and why that was the best possible outcome. (Gouache on Stonehenge gray.)


Sometimes having too many options shut down the creative mind. It’s good to reel yourself in and set some boundaries or guidelines.

In this post I’ve included stills from my 2015 fake journal. I set very clear parameters for this project.

1. I wanted to work in gouache each day.
2. I wanted to work on gray toned Stonehenge. 

That meant I selected a small wire bound book filled with gray stonehenge.

3. I wanted the pages to have a uniform format.

I taped the edges of the page so that there would be the same size rectangle on each page, within which I could work. 

4. I wanted to “typeset” the project labels in rubber-stamps.

I selected which ones I wanted to use and stuck with them.

5. I wanted the project to be small enough that I could do it in limited time every day. 

The small journal size helped me do that.

6. I wanted to participate all 30 days of the project—which was actually begun as a 30-day prompt project for the MCBA Visual Journal Collective. You can read more about this here 

My stubbornness kept me working every day, which is typical of my life.

150219_03_ShoesBrLeft: A page from my 2015 fake journal. Some days during the project eldercare duties took me away from my paints all day. I knew I wouldn't be home in time to paint on this day, so I did a sketch on graph paper while I wanted for my father-in-law to dress. Then that night, I masked off the page as I usually did, and put in a background of rubberstamp ink. Then I stuck down the drawing I'd made earlier in the day. (There is a bit more gray paper on the left side, but it was trimmed off in the scan, that's the side of the page where the holes for the wire binding fall.)  

But there is something else that kept me going, and that was my ability to be flexible. I believe you have to keep your eyes open to the many ways you can still follow the parameters of a project, but deviate in some ways from the specifics, in order to get the project completed, or in order to do it in the way that makes sense to you at the time.

So for me the flexibility came with being open to breaking the rules.

1. If I couldn’t paint in gouache because it as late, there had been an eldercare emergency, or whatever, I just had to do something. 

2. If what I wanted to sketch didn’t quite fit the square format I could accommodate it. Sometimes I would extend quite a bit beyond the borders. Sometimes only an portion of the image would break the boundary. Since I love working with drawings that break out of boxes this made me very happy indeed.

3. Sometimes words are more important to me than images. So I also had a page just of words one day.

4. I didn’t want to take my first idea on a topic, I wanted to really look at the topic.

As to the last, sometimes taking the first idea is a good thing. It’s the uncensored you coming up. But other times taking the first creative response that bubbles up isn’t the best approach because what comes up is trite, or something that you’ve tried before, or done well before. I like to keep pushing.

An example of this for me in the project was my “Put a bird on it,” page. I know that the project organizer put this on the list just for me because it’s no secret I love “Portlandia” and based a previous Collective project on this theme. She was giving me an opportunity to draw birds!

Well, I spent the entire day that day with my friend Linda, wondering what I would sketch. There wasn’t a bird in sight. We went to an antiques mall (she has some treasures she was seeking). I started looking around for ceramic birds that wouldn’t bust the bank if I brought them home for “models.” No luck. Then just as we were getting ready to go home I started seeing all the “bird cages” that were everywhere. Some were used for display, some were on sale. And then I knew immediately what I would do for my “put a bird on it” prompt. I was being flexible. I was being my usual snotty (and gross?) self, and I was staying within the parameters of the square, working on toned paper, and using gouache.


Today’s Project Friday

Take a project off your to do list—one that you have been thinking about for way too long. Decide that you are going to do it starting TODAY.

150304_16_PutABirdOnItCrLeft: My "Put A Bird On It" entry. This is one of my favorites from the whole project. It was not my first idea. It was me thinking outside the box. Read about it in the text of the post. I still wanted to have color so I taped off the square's edges and used rubberstamp ink on one side. This allowed me to tilt the news paper. I think it gives it a pleasing effect.

No more research, no more fooling around with waiting until this or that comes to fruition. You’re going to just dive in and do it. You’re going to pull a book off the shelf that you’ve been saving and use it OR you’re going to cut down some paper you have on hand, and you are going to work on loose sheets you can make a little case for when it’s all done.

Here, I’ll even give you instructions for your case.

Now you are going to spend the next two weeks minimum, but I hope you’ll spend 30 days, doing a project every day, using the same parameters! 

Set some guidelines. Set a size, use a particular paper, use a particular medium (or a couple—I didn’t just us gouache, I used rubber-stamp ink and rubber-stamps).

Decide on all this right now. And then get busy.

Sometime during the project remember to: 

1. Be flexible and allow yourself latitude on the physical boundaries of the project, or the media…

2. Practice not using your first idea. 

3. Let go of perfectionism. Just let it go. Do what you can do in the moment. Throw your whole self in, but remember, wanting to do something perfectly is not an excuse to stop or not start.

And then you know what comes next don’t you!!!

You need to do a self evaluation when you finish your project.

Oh that Roz, with her cunning plans!

    • Julana
    • October 16, 2015

    You are a bad girl. 🙂

    I would like to buy some more gouache to play with. I love seeng what James Gurney does with it. I have the Holbein set–not acryla–black, whte, magenta, cyan, yellow–after watching Danny Gregory in Sketchbook Skool.
    I’m sure you could get 30 days of fun out of those, but I’d like to add a few colors, and wonder how brands mix?

    • Julana
    • October 16, 2015

    Thank you so much for your mixing info. I knew those were the two brands you liked. They have disappeared from the local Blick over the months, to make room for Daniel Smith watercolor, now that they are no longer competing in the art supply market. Blick carries Utrecht, Holbein, and Winsor & Newton gouache locally, if I remember right. I think Blick may have M. Graham on sale online right now. Will check.

    I had to say “wow!” on the Gurney video. When you watch that, you know it’s all in the eyes, how he sees things. He has such a great teaching voice, too. Thought about rdering his DVD. Heaven will include Monterey plein air painting.

    Will read your compendium.

    • Margo
    • October 16, 2015

    I haven’t done a Project Friday challenge for a long time. Maybe you haven’t done one. I do know that I always have a good time when I do them and I also learn a thing or two in the process. Off to choose a book and think of medium. Thanks Roz, your cunning plans usually work on me

  1. Reply

    Margo, you’ve been falling behind. I did one on Sept. 25 and then on Oct. 2 a follow up. Those are the two most recent. And I think they are both great projects! Before that I had a gap, I hadn’t posted one since April 3. That’s because I spent all of May teaching, all summer filming more classes, and all of July and August teaching, so energies were going there to boss the students. But you can check in the category list any time and that will take you to them all. Go check those others out now!!! I want you to get caught up! After you work on this one of course!

    Thanks for reading!

  2. Reply

    Sorry all you have is the blick with the two brands I hate. Don’t know about Utrecht, but I’d mail order if I were you.

    Good luck. Have fun whatever you decide.

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